I’ve had a love for film music since high school and hearing the opening suite from The Holiday. The movie wasn’t outstanding, but the music captured me emotionally. Film music works on this non-verbal, often subconscious level to express emotionally narratives of a movie. Most movie goers don’t even notice the music and that’s exactly what the composer wants. Film scores are meant to support the onscreen emotions seamlessly.
As a music therapist, scores also carry many pros when compared to other options of non-verbal music. Classical art music may have multiple, long movements and is often dictated by form (ex. Rondo form is ABACA), rather than a narrative message. Film music, on the other hand, is often shorter in length and is dictated more by the happenings between characters. It retains the orchestrated, often lush textures of symphonic music, but in a more accessible package.
Lately, I’ve been looking to utilize film scores in my work with older adults. My clients have memory loss and dementia and may not have the attention to listen to a 20 minute concerto. Another issue is the cultural ties often precedes one’s opinion of a classical piece. Many of my clients have spent their lives attending the Chicago Symphony orchestra. What pieces can I present that are un-tethered from previous associations?
Below, I’ve shared some starting pieces for exploring film music that can be used for music meditation, movement and music, or discussing emotions expressed within a shorter play time (think less than 3 minutes). While some film scores err on the side of abstraction, I’ve found that scores with a predictable rhythm and repeating motifs are most accessible for the older adults with whom I work. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
Score Title (Movie Title)
- Ice Dance (Edward Scissorhands): Delicate, light and harmonious. Innocent-sounding piece that is very lush.
- Heimr Arnadalr (Frozen): A Capella choir with drawn out harmonies may encourage deeper, longer breaths.
- Theme (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind): This song has a slow waltz rhythm that will be recognizable to anyone with dance experience, but with a more melancholy feel.
- Briony (Atonement): With an opening typewriter that drives the rhythm, this piece has a rushed, tense feeling but may start a discussion about negative emotions such as stress, anger, etc. and how to best deal with them.
- Georgiana (Pride and Prejudice): A more rhythmic piece from this soundtrack, but I must say the entire score is one of my favorites because if its gentle beauty.
- Married Life (Up): The longest piece on this list at just over 4 minutes, but nice transitions between a continuum of emotional sounds with a common waltz motif.
- Sunrise on Lake Pontchartrain (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button): An underlying motif on harp lends a constant rhythm that is interspersed with moments of slow, lush orchestration. Great for slow stretching movements and deep breathing.