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From the Editor: Music and Cinema

By Cory Sekine-Pettite

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a performance by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO), but it wasn’t just any performance. To be clear, this group of talented musicians could bring the most knowledgeable and experienced symphony aficionados to their feet. But on this night, the ASO was playing the music of legendary composer and Academy Award winner John Williams, and Mr. Williams was their conductor!

The event – “An Evening With John Williams, Stephen Spielberg and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra” – showcased the most legendary movie scores in Hollywood history, many of them for Spielberg’s films, such as Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jaws, and Schindler’s List. Mr. Spielberg was on hand to introduce some of the music and to talk about how his films just wouldn’t be the same without the brilliant scores composed by Williams. It was a privilege to be in their company for an evening and to see Mr. Williams in action. At 80 years old, this living legend – who has essentially provided the soundtrack to the lives of multiple generations – is as spry and energetic as any octogenarian I’ve seen.

Photo courtesy of ASO/Jeff Roffman.
Photo courtesy of ASO/Jeff Roffman.

I think the music must keep him young at heart. I certainly feel young again every time I hear “The Imperial March” or any other piece of music from the first three Star Wars movies. And I bet you do too. These movies are a rite of passage for people around the world, and their scores – Williams’ music – stays with you.

This special evening had me thinking about how crucial music is to cinema. Sure, on one level it is obvious that music is needed to help convey emotions and move the story along. But the relationship between the two is much deeper. As Spielberg said at one point during that magical October evening, if movies are lightening then music is the thunder. They’re natural companions, and you just can’t have the same level of enjoyment with one of those components missing. Just try watching one of your favorite movies with the TV muted. You’ll be reaching for your remote within minutes.

As Christine Bunish wrote in our Sept/Oct 2012 feature article on Original Music, music has the power to propel plots and evoke emotion to deliver the impact intended by filmmakers. She explored this idea with four sound design/composers in great detail: Breed Music, Robert Etoll, The Music Factory, and Endless Noise. You can read her article on our website.