The functions of music in film
These lessons explore the use and characteristics of music within seven identifiable functions in film.
5 - 6 lessons
How music is used in film to enhance a scene.
These lessons explore the use and characteristics of music within seven identifiable functions in film:
- Mood and atmosphere
- Dramatic effect
- Sense of locale
- Character emotion or identification
- Pace and action
- 4.7 demonstrates an understanding of musical concepts through listening, observing, responding, discriminating, analysing, discussing and recording musical ideas.
- 4.8 demonstrates an understanding of musical concepts through aural identification and discussion of the features of a range of repertoire
- 5.7 demonstrates an understanding of musical concepts through the analysis, comparison, and critical discussion of music from different stylistic, social, cultural and historical contexts
- 5.8 demonstrates an understanding of musical concepts through aural identification, discrimination, memorisation and notation in the music selected for study
Students will engage in visual and aural activities that explore the characteristics of music in film. They will compare functions based on a critical analysis of similarities and differences present in the concepts of music. Stage 5 students will be expected to go into greater detail regarding the concepts of music and associated terminology.
Cross-curriculum content and key competencies
- Information and communication technology
- Aboriginal and Indigenous (in suggested film scenes)
- Difference and diversity (in suggested film scenes)
All activities require students to demonstrate their learning and are all assessment for learning activities.
Teaching and learning activities
- brainstorm the types of scenes that music can enhance
- observe the presentation - functions of music in film
- An accompanying Sway guide (PDF 4.71MB) can be downloaded to support teaching the presentation above.
- consider the possible use of duration, pitch and dynamics in each function (in a basic sense for Stage 4, more detailed for Stage 5). Students could draw up a table like the one below and fill in what they expect will happen
- discuss as a class
- watch scenes to ascertain whether they were correct.
|Function||Performing media (instruments/voices||Pitch High/low notes? Major/minor?||Duration Fast/slow tempo? Long/short notes?||Dynamics (volume)|
|Mood/atmosphere||Student data here||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Credits||Student data here||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Dramatic effect||Student data here||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Sense of locale||Student data here||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Character emotion/identification||Student data here||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Pace and action||Student data here||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Foreshadowing||Student data here||n/a||n/a||n/a|
- Try and use Italian terms when discussing tempo:
- Lento - very slow
- Andante - at a walking pace
- Moderato - at a moderate speed
- Allegro - fast and lively
- Presto - very fast
- Try and use Italian terms when discussing dynamics:
- pianissimo - very soft
- piano - soft
- mezzo piano - moderately soft
- mezzo forte - moderately loud
- forte - loud
- fortissimo - very loud
- focusing on one function at a time, watch several scenes related to that function. Look for similarities and differences in the use of musical concepts by working in pairs to complete a table. Some suggested film scenes can be found in the accompanying document Suggested film scenes (PDF 4.27MB)
- what conclusions can be drawn from this analysis? Information relating to the different functions and their musical characteristics can be found in the accompanying document Music in film (PDF 4.28MB).
Literacy and numeracy
- learn and use metalanguage associated with the concepts of music.
- explore duration, pitch and dynamics in greater depth
- add texture, tone colour and expressive techniques, with associated terminology
- research their own film scene to match each function, based on conclusions drawn from the similarities and differences activity.
Life skills outcomes
- LS.5 a student experiments in organising musical sounds.
- create a simplified version of the table provided above
- employ a tick box type of table for the similarities and differences activity.
Formative feedback: students will contribute to class discussion
Summative feedback: this information can form the basis of an exam where students identify the functions of music in selected scenes and justify their opinions using the concepts of music
Reference list and resources
- Music 7-10 Syllabus copyright NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) for and on behalf of the Crown in right of the State of New South Wales, 2003.
- Functions of music in film Sway
- Accompanying Sway guide (PDF 4.71MB)
- Music in film (PDF 4.28MB)
- Suggested film scenes (PDF 4.27MB).