Why Music in Television Matters

By Amit Mallick

Sound, voice, and music are integral to most films as it accentuates the film viewing experiences. Even the earliest silent films were often shown with live musical accompaniments. Sound enhances the imaginary world. It can provide depth, establish character and environment hence it may introduce a new scene or clue to the viewers all the important information. A composer thus not only able to spice up the visual experience and gives the viewers an emotional roller-coaster ride but also can enthrall and accelerate the show.

Amit Mallick
Music Director at Gtv, Part-time Faculty at the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh Cinema and Television institute and National Institute of Mass Communication

As a media of communication, television has the widest spread range as far as viewership is concerned. Versatile audio-visual contents like news, drama, music, educational program, fiction, and non-fiction have made the television unique in its field. Although the arrival of the new media such as the internet has established a threat to television on the basis of viewer’s freedom of choice and availability yet it still reigns till date.
Music serves some powerful and unavoidable purposes to all the visuals as well as television. Here are some of those aesthetical contributions:

1.  “Music can create a more convincing atmosphere of time and space”
There is a variety of ways of achieving an atmosphere of time and space, or musically speaking, “colour.” In a visual, music is overwhelmingly colouristic in its intention and effect. This is always true as a composer attempts to create an atmosphere of time and place. The colour is associative, for example-bagpipes call up images of Scotland, the oboe easily suggests a pastoral scene, mutedbrass connotes something sinister, rock music may imply a youthful theme, Vatiali song brings the image of a river, a special type of flute and rhythm creates the ambiance of a hilly land. A particular type of Raga can create the mood of a particular time of a day, e.g. Raga Bhairav creates the atmosphere of the morning.

2. “Music can be used to underline or create psychological refinements– the unspoken thoughts of a character or the unseen implications of a situation”
Frequently, music can imply a psychological element far better than a mere dialogue may imply. This use of music is perhaps most effective when it is planned well in advance when the visual is in the scripting stage. Music can play upon the emotions of the spectator. Sometimes an aural image may imply the contrary of the things that are seen on screen. The mental state or unspoken thoughts of a character can be powerfully created with the use of situational music.

3. “Music can serve as a kind of neutral background filler”
American music composer and teacher Aaron Copland has said of background music: “This is really the kind of music one isn’t supposed to hear, the sort that helps to fill the empty spots between pauses in a conversation.” This kind of music is mostly used in the visuals. In this state, music is used not to establish or manipulate the visual, but just to add a layer to fill in the blanks.

4. “Music can help build a sense of continuity in a visual”
Music can tie together a visual medium, which is, continually in danger of falling apart. A visual editor is probably most conscious of this particular attribute of music in films. In a montage, particularly, music can serve an almost indispensable function: it can hold the montage together with some sort of unifying musical idea. A particular music can create the continuity of a particular character or situation.

5. “Music can provide the underpinning for the theatrical buildup of a scene and then round it off with a sense of finality”
Music has a way of bypassing the human’s normal, rational defense mechanisms. When used properly, music can help build the drama in a scene to a far greater degree of intensity than any of the other cinematic arts. The best way of expressing a character’s rising emotion and final act is using a rise up music with its tempo, amplitude, frequency and final silence.

01
Monothematic
In this method, only one melody is being used throughout the entire visual. But to create a different type of mood, that particular melody is played on different instruments, tempo, and styles. For television programs, this is the most suitable form of music. It creates the identity and branding of a program. The audience can easily reconcile with the program and channel through the music. A television channel can be very easily identified and branded if it uses monothematic music form in its channel ID, news, promotional and computer graphics.

02
Leitmotif
Music composers often use leitmotifs to help build a sense of continuity. A leitmotif is a recurring musical idea (a melody, chord sequence, rhythm or a combination of these), which is associated with a particular idea, character or place. Leitmotifs are manipulated to match the action and mood of a scene, a method mostly used in drama serials and reality shows. Here, particular melodies are used as the background score for a particular character, mood, and situation.

03
Developmental Score
In this type of background music form, no particular melody or theme is used, but melodies are created in different moods for the necessity of the scene or sequence. This form is used vastly in the television drama serials in sub-continent.

From the perspective of Bangladesh, around 28 television channels are currently running on air. Music is a very powerful associate to establish a strong and expressive visual and also the most neglected part of all art forms here. The most shocking thing is the reckless uses of stock music. Instrumentals composed by renowned composers and musicians are being used as the background score of almost every television program. Firstly, this is unethical because of intellectual content piracy; secondly, these music scores do not suit with the visuals every time. Creating original music scores can enhance the quality and communication of that visual. Shockingly, there is no rule and regulation against this unethical use of pirated music. Within the last decade, the music industry of Bangladesh has been severely damaged by this brazen act, which compromised the quality of the visuals as well. It is an utmost necessity now to make the rules that no visual or programs with pirated contents will be on air on any television channel. Without that, we will be in the deeper peril and the quality of our television program will slump even further.

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