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Movies, Moods and Music: How Does Music Influence the Way We Experience a Film?

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Author: Kimberly Hutmacher

Grade Level: 6th to 8th; Type: Social Science

Objective:

This project seeks to determine if similar type movie scenes are accompanied by music with similar characteristics.

Research Questions:

  • What kind of music most often accompanies sad scenes? Action scenes? Scary scenes? Happy scenes?
  • How does music influence the way we experience a film?

Materials:

  • Pen and/or pencil
  • Lab notebook
  • DVD player
  • 10 children's full-length feature films that have musical soundtracks

Experimental Procedure:

  1. Choose three to four types of scenes to analyze. You might choose happy, sad, scary, and action scenes.
  2. Watch the films.
  3. For each type of scene you choose, select at least five examples of that kind of scene from the films that you watch. Each example scene should be at least 20 seconds long.
  4. Try to determine the types of instruments used in each scene: percussion, strings, etc. and note that information.
  5. Listen to each scene again. This time, listen for rising or falling scales and record this information in your notebook. A rising scale refers to the musical pattern do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do. A falling scale refers to the pattern do-ti-la-so-fa-mi-re-do. Note: You do not need to hear the entire pattern for it to be a rising or falling scale. For example, for a rising scale, do-re-mi would be enough to note a rising scale.
  6. Listen to the scenes again. This time, focus on melody. Listen for high pitched sounds (like birds singing) and low-pitched sounds (think of the sound of a very deep voice) and record what you hear for each scene.
  7. Now you'll want to figure out what key the music is in and note it. A minor key usually sounds a bit sad or serious, while a major key usually sounds more upbeat and happy.
  8. Now you'll need to figure out the tempo, or beats per minute (bpm) of each scene. To do this, clap out the beat for 10 seconds and multiply the number of beats you count by six. Record this information in your notebook. Note: You can also use the free music software that I've linked to in the references to calculate the bpm.
  9. Now it's time to analyze your data. Compare and contrast the information you've collected for each scene. What are the similarities and differences? Did anything stand out? How would you describe the music chosen for a sad scene? Happy scene? Scary scene? Action scene? Record your analysis of each.

Terms/ Concepts: melody; tempo; key; pitch; scale; beats per minute (bpm)

References: AnalogX Music Software Download

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