Film Soundtrack Components:

Task 1: Explain these film soundtrack components:


Music is used throughout film and other media in numerous different ways, most of which are laid out in Zofia Lissa’s Ästhetik der Filmmusik (1959: 115-256). [1.]

The 10 Most prominent uses are:

  1. Emphasise on Movement –underlines a specific movement, such as choral synths while flying.
  2. Emphasise on Real Sounds –exaggerates a real life sound, something falling down accompanied by loud bass drum.
  3. Representation of Location –provides a particular stereotype for a cultural or historical origin e.g. lutes and drums for a medieval setting.
  4. Source Music –Diegeticsound within film, which happens within that world e.g. marching band at a parade.
  5. Comment – gives off a particular vibe for the scene.
  6. Expression of Actors Emotions – used to exaggerate character emotions, e.g. music in a minor key when the main character is sad.
  7. Basis for Audiences Emotions – Leads the audience into feeling a certain way, e.g. a build up before a “jump scare”
  8. Symbol –associated with a character, such as when a character is being spoken about but not present, at some point in the narrative becomes intrinsically linked with the character.
  9. Anticipation of Subsequent Action – used as a cue that the mood of the scene is going to change.
  10. Enhancement and demarcation of the films formal structure – music that progresses the films narrative, may show passage of time or that a new section of the film is about to commence.

Robert L Mott laid out nine of the most crucial components of how a sound is perceived, with any major change resulting in a the sound giving off a different notion or a new sound being created entirely. [2.]


Music Components:

  • Pitch:

– Lower frequencies give off notions of power, while midrange frequencies give the sound its energy and higher frequencies tend to imply presence, or how close we are to its origin.

  • Timbre:

– The “Tone” or “Colour” of the sound, which is made up of the unique balance between the fundamental frequency, harmonics and overtones.

  • Loudness:

– The intensity of the sound, becomes meaningful when compared to something else, humans are more sensitive to mid range frequencies, so they will sound louder when combined with a sound of a lower or higher pitch. It is also a good representation of the viewer’s distance from the sound source.

  • Rhythm:

– How the sound relates to Tempo, if music, which notes are accented or exaggerated, if a sound is repeated at regular intervals, we perceive it to be a pattern, and look out for it later on.

Sound Envelope Components:

  • Attack

– How fast of slow the sound builds, with a fast attack creating the sense of immediacy, while a slow attack builds tension.

  • Sustain

– How much energy the sound has until it decays, with a long sustain implying a sense of strength, while a weak one implying the opposite.

  • Decay

– How long before the sound dies away to silence, a sound with a long delay implies it’s in a very reverberative space, possibly indoors, while non would imply it’s in an outdoor environment.

Record and Playback Components:

  • Speed

– By slowing a sound down you increase the sustain, but it also lowers the pitch, this could give the impression something is building in intensity or its in a dreamlike impression.

Sound Effects:

Musical elements need to be backed up with non-musical sounds, which would be added since they wouldn’t be able to be tracked during filming.

This could take the form of something fictional which needs a new sound created for it because one doesn’t exist, which would fall under sound design.

While real life sounds would have to be performed in postproduction along to the created footage, called Foley.

Dialogue and Spoken Word:

Like sound effects, its very rare a movie will use the recorded audio from the live take in the final version, instead, the actor(s) will take it in turns to come into a studio and sync their lines to the video, this process is known as dubbing.

Task 2: Identify examples in the provided film clip of Terminator 2 to illustrate and elaborate on your explanations of Task 1:

1.Emphasise of movement:

01:51 John Connor is walking through the trenches, while patriotic music plays as he passes his men. This consists of pounding drums and orchestral elements, with the tempo of the drumming being the same as a marching military pace.

2.Emphasise on Real Sounds:

00:38: A machines foot crushes a human skull underneath its foot, creating a realistic cracking sound as it breaks followed by a choral synth pad with a slow attack and release. It is loud and sudden, cuts through the atmospheric textures with the pitch matching the proximity the camera is to the subject.

3.Representative of Location:

00:50 the camera shows a machine vehicle running over a mound of human skulls. In the background overwhelming all the other sound effects is an ominous bass tone, pulsating, rising and dropping in volume, reprehensive of the bleak post apocalyptic future.

4.Source Music:

05:53 The Terminator walk’s into a bar with country music playing on the radio, and is about conversation level in volume. This sound can be heard within the films world and is diegetic, as it helps set the scene without interfering with the sound effects and dialogue.


01:05 during the fighting a human solider gets shot and is accompanied with a scream and a minor synth chord stab. Due to the timbre of the chord, it is being used to comment we should feeling of sad and melancholy.

6.Expression of Actors Emotions:

07:57 The Terminator walks out of the bar with his newly acquired clothes, with George Thorogood’s “Bad to the Bone” playing non-diegeticly. Though being a machine and not having emotions, it reflects and comments on the characters emotionless persona.

7./8. Symbol/Basis for Audiences Emotions:

06:30 throughout the film we get the Terminator’s “Motif” every time they enter an otherwise ambiguous scene, which consists of the sound similar to two metal pipes being beating together in a regular rhythmic pattern, and a sustained foreboding bass synth.

9.Anticipation of Subsequent Action:

15:11 During a first person shot of an un seen character as they sneak up on the a police officer, The motif is repeated, associating subsequent violence every time it played.

10.Enhancement or Demarcation of the Films Formal Structure:

09:17 after the prologue and the opening credits have finished the Terminator theme starts playing, building in intensity. This consists of rhythmic drums with singular metal pipe hits ringing out, backed up with choral and orchestral elements, which slowly builds to a crescendo before moving to the next scene.

Sound Effects:

00:42 onwards during the opening battle, there are elements of both real and created sounds, these include the explosions from the bombs (Real) accompanied by the laser fire (Created) vary in pitch and volume depending on their proximity to the camera, (as evidenced at 01:34)

00:50 the sound of skulls cracking and breaking underneath the weight of the machines treads, and machine aircraft noises at 01:43 both of which would use modified existing sounds plus synthesised elements to create the otherworldly futuristic sound which sounds familiar enough to know what it is, but different enough to fit the mood.

Dialogue and Spoken Word:

00:22 Sarah Connor sets the scene by explaining what has happened for the future to end up like this, holding the viewers hand. This is known as Non-Diegetic sound as the characters in this part of the film cannot hear this audio.

The other use of dialogue in the film allows the films characters to interact with each other, and drive the story’s narrative, and needless to say is diegetic since everyone is aware of it.

Task 3: Using the musical elements terms collated in class and the “12 functions of music” as your vocabulary, analyse the audio components’ influence on narrative in the film clip of Terminator 2.

1.Emphasise on Movement:

The pounding drums with a fast attack, giving a sense of immediacy with the tempo of these drums accentuating the movement as it brings to mind an army march.

The lower bass element implies that he demands respect, as he is the leader of the human resistance, and an important character, while the higher pitched elements give the intimacy that we are in a place of great importance.

2.Emphasise of Real Sound:

When the Terminator crushes the human skull it is loud and sudden, therefore it is making a statement that the machine is superior to mankind, while the choral synth’s long sustain and release represents that the soul of humanity is being crushed out of existence. The sustained note continues into the next scene were its builds suspense until it is revealed that its not just one machine.

3.Representative of Location:

The scene consists of an almost siren like bass sound, which pulsates at a fairly slow tempo, giving the impression of a looming threat. It’s sweeping from low to mid range frequencies inferring the machines closing in distance.

4.Source Music:

The song playing on the radio is “Guitars, Cadillac’s” the typical genre of sound to be heard in that environment, and features the lyrics “Another tale about a naïve fool who came to Babylon, and found out that the pie didn’t taste so sweet.”

This is also a foreshadowing comment, relating to the patrons of the bar not getting what they expected when the Terminator walked through the door.


The minor chord stab, due to the tonality, expresses to the audience, that the machines are gaining the upper hand, and should be shocked and appalled at the loss of human life.

If it where a major chord, the tonality would give us the feeling that we should be routing for the machines, since to this point we have seen only a Terminator as a stand alone character.

An example of a major chord progression during a fight scene to emphasise who we should be routing for can be seen in the opening scene of Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade, when Indi is fighting on top of the train, fighting off the bad guys, since he is the hero, the music becomes associated with him.

6.Expression of Actors Emotions:

“Bad to the Bone” features mid tempo pounding drums and guitars, a rock and roll tune with association with that lifestyle now being portrayed by the character. The lyrics “Said ‘leave this one alone’ she could tell right away, that I was bad to the bone” acts as a warning message that he not to be messed with.

7/8/9 Symbol/Expression of Audiences Emotion’s/Anticipation of Subsequent action:

The metal pipe hits represent the machine-like efficiency these killing machines operate at, with the rhythmic pattern acting as a way of taunting their victims, while the lower bass not emphasises that they are powerful. When this sound plays the audience knows the subsequent action is going to get hurt or killed.

10.Enhancement or Demarcation of the Films Formal Structure:

Much like the tempo of the pipe hits in the previous point, the drums in the credits imply the threat is getting closer as they increase in volume each repeat. They also bring on ideas of war and combat, against the backdrop of the terminators face wreathed in flame, we are told that this character we need to look out for in the next scenes, as it is a threat to the hero’s. The Choral and Orchestral elements, add timbre to the credits, implying it’s a big finale before the next section of the film starts.

Sound Effects: [3.]

As a quote from James Cameron, the director of the film, the music had to

“Sound like it was injected with testosterone, it had to be inflated to unworldly possibilities.

On example is the skull being crushed at the start, which is actually just a pistachio nut in a metal plate, but sonically enhanced to sound more intimidating, implying the machines great strength.

Gary Rydestrom, the sound director, also said that he liked adding voice like elements to non-vocal sounds. This change in envelope and modulation works well in the opening scene, as it plays along side the image of all the skeletons in the barren landscape, making it sound like the whispers of the dead.

Dialogue and Spoke Word:

All dialogue in feature films is re-dubbed once the scene is shot, since this makes it crisp and clear, since the audio from the set would be filled with environmental noises and other sounds. By having the re-dubbed sounds, the director can normalise them if they are to quite, modify them to sound unnatural, with the overall goal to make certain parts emphasised for the audiences benefit.





[4.] (Terminator 2 Clip Used)


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