Why Does Background Score Matter
Can you fathom, what a masterpiece like Piku might have been, without the mesmerizing sarod rendition in the background? It added yet another feather of ‘best background score’ to Piku’s already adorned hat. Would Bajirao Mastani be able to exude genuine Maharashtrian regality and grandeur without the traditional Marathi verses, riffs and instruments permeating the atmosphere of the movie? Without RD Burman’s unforgettable guitar-and-whistle harmony and impeccable background score, Sholay would have seemed an otherwise ludicrous potboiler.
Not long back, background score was treated as a vestige of the silent era, when music, not dialogues, said it all. But background score alone, even today, can set the tone for the whole movie. The haunting piano rendition of Om Shanti Om is synonymous to the movie itself. It is as instantly recognizable as the leading stars of the movie.
We now shed some light on why a good background score is so imperative to any movie.
· In cinema, visual input relies heavily on auditory input. A distinct background score, as mentioned above, lends an identity to a movie. An effective background score establishes the genre of the movie for the audience. For instance, the critically acclaimed background score of Haider pretty much defines the dark crime-drama genre of the movie.
· Remember the ominous score in the background that ushered the entry of Gabbar Singh in Sholay? The score gave a thematic (in this case, villainous) identity to Gabbar. Also known as leitmotif, a constantly recurring, musical theme, when specific to a character, situation or place, lends the factor a stronger presence.
· A strong background score elicits emotional response from the audience. It is devoid of any lyrics or narration, but is capable of dilating our pupils, making our hearts race, evoking tears in our eyes or even forcing a smile across our faces. So effective is the presence of background score in a movie that it can activate our cerebellum and nerves to elicit an appropriate emotional response. Background scores in thriller and horror genres are known to contribute to the audience’s sweaty palms and rising pulse.
· It enhances the feelings that a character or situation intends to portray. A really funny score in the background can enhance the hilariousness of a situation. A solemn melody augments a melancholic situation. On the other hand, a gravely heavy scene in a movie, when punctuated by musical interludes, can allow the audience a breather. The music helps a softer landing of an intense scene on the viewers’ sensibilities.
· Background score can alter and define the perception of time. A long sequence can drag along endlessly if not accompanied by a musical score. An invigorating score involving a chugging train in the background can psychologically usurp the perception of a long train-ride scene in a movie. The phenomenon has been effectively utilized in the iconic climax of Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. Without the instrumental version of the title track in the background, Simran would seem to be running forever to grip Raj’s outstretched arm!
Also, the sound of the chugging train in the scene gave the audience a perception of how fast the train could have been moving. It triggered off a sense of urgency within the audience, thus, generating a nail-biting response to an otherwise predictable climax. The tempo of a background score is a key element in determining the pace of a scene.
· Background score can also imply and alter the perception of space. A grand orchestra in the background, for instance, can imply a magnificent palace. When the very same musical ensemble is toned down to one or two instruments, the scale of the castle might feel more of an intimate setting. Such scores, have been cleverly used to define situations portraying contrasts of virtual and actual space. A strong background score with appropriate camera angles can make a small space appear expansive and vice-versa.
· Background scores are symbolic of socio-cultural, geographical and time period references. We come across an exemplary usage of accurate background score, reminiscent of the time period in Jodhaa Akbar. The award-winning score from AR Rahman effectively portrays the grandeur and culture of the Mughal period. Inserts of folk music remind the audience of Jodhaa’s Rajasthani background. The music effortlessly transports the audience back to 16th century India.
· A background score, especially in thrillers, can be used to manipulate the audience. It can generate an aura of deception and suspense by creating contradictions. A protagonist might actually be the antagonist in a movie. An effective background score, can eliminate any element of doubt in the viewer’s mind until the revelation. Yet another award-winning score, that of Gupt, successfully exalts the innocence of Kajol’s character, who is revealed to be the conspirer as the movie ends.
Above all, background score binds scenes and montages together. It plays an inherent role in contributing to the totality of a movie. It influences a movie and its viewers at physical, emotional and psychological levels. It adds depth and an extra dimension for a successful cinematic experience.
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