We have all been in a situation where we are watching a dramatic or suspenseful scene in a movie or TV drama; the music is used t enhance the drama that is playing out o the screen even if most of the time, we aren’t really aware of the music at all. Directors and composers do this so discreetly that we often don’t realize it…until it’s too late…
A lot of music in TV and film can be seen as a fourth dimension that activates our emotions and manipulates us. Directors and composers do this very subtly but very effectively, the difference of this is crystal clear when you either remove or change the music.
If you don’t believe me, here’s a clip from a movie with the background music taken away! See any difference? None of the films or TV shows that we watch would have the same effect on us without music, just imagine Jaws without the “dum-dum, dum-dum, dum-dum,” the suspense just wouldn’t build. If you STILL don’t believe me, here’s JAWS with and without it’s iconic music.
Music has been used in film and TV since almost the beginning of motion pictures, originally used to keep the audience from talking and to dull the sound of the projector. It adds to the emotional quality in film and TV and lets viewers know how they should be feeling during a certain scene. Here’s an example of how the emotion of the scene changes based off of the music!Music can connect people and hits us like no other language can. We need its beauty to bring resolution and meaning to our actions. In film, music controls our emotions and manipulates our feelings; fast and loud music arouses us while slow and soft music calms us. It unquestionably affects our emotions; we listen to music that reflects our mood (when we’re happy we may listen to upbeat music and when we’re sad we may listen to slower, moving songs).
The Music (Wo)man
Alexandra Patsavas is an American music supervisor who has worked on over sixty films and TV series (The Twilight Saga, The O.C., Grey’s Anatomy,and Gossip Girl). She has been nominated three times for the “Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media” Grammy Award, her first being for the compilation of Grey’s Anatomy Original Soundtrack, Vol. 2. Her work was made up of approaching bands and artists about recording covers and requesting licensing permission to include songs on TV shows, such as Grey’s Anatomy. So basically her job, when working with Grey’s Anatomy, is basically to figure out which songs are going to make us sob uncontrollably and ruin our lives forever.
Patsavas and other music scoring professionals potentially have the ability to make or break a song or artist; I personally can’t listen to several songs without thinking of the heartbreak I went through watching it on Grey’s Anatomy. Here’s a link of artists who got their start on Grey’s Anatomy!
Grey’s Anatomy basically made The Fray, so they should really be the biggest fans of the show EVER. “How to Save a Life,” arguably their most famous song to date, is stuck in my memory as the song that Dr. Shepherd, Dr. Burke, and Dr. Webber all performed surgeries to, Callie almost died to, and Derek DID die to. At this point, all Grey’s Anatomy fans should know that once you hear that iconic piano start to fade into the scene, you’d better grab some tissues because this scene is NOT going to be pretty.
I don’t think I will ever be able to listen to “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol again, I mean you don’t just watch Dr. Izzie Stevens sob over the corpse of Denny Douquette her dying boyfriend/heart patient/fiance/illegal lover in a prom dress and just move on from it. How could you not think about the shock, the anguish, the confusion, the rage towards creator Shonda Rhimes for the completely unrealistic and traumatic yet absolutely brilliant love story?
Grey’s Anatomy played a big role in popularizing “Breathe (2 AM)” by Anna Nalick (PSA if you’re watching Grey’s and you hear this song: RUN). It has been shown in several different episodes, but my heart rate is STILL dangerously high from “As We Know It,” where Meredith is holding a homemade bomb still inside of a patient! Damn you, Shonda, damn you Alexandra. You two gave me such a false sense of security as Meredith managed to hand off the grenade to the bomb squad and she watched as he walked away. We all started to breathe again, we were all happy with an episode ending on a good note for once, but then BOOM.
The (Completely Unnecessary) Musical Episode
While we are talking about music and its effect on television, we need to talk about the train wreck that was Grey’s Anatomy Season 7 Episode 18: “Song Beneath the Song,” or “The Episode Where Callie Almost Dies And Everyone is Really Emotional So They All Just Start Singing and Crying.”
Basically if Glee and E.R. got together, this episode of Grey’s Anatomy would be their baby. Picture this: there’s blood, there’s medical melodies, and everyone is operating on Dr. Callie Torres (who is played by Sara Ramirez who won a Tony award for her role in Spamalot) while simultaneously singing The Fray’s “How to Save a Life (no one saw THAT one coming).” And although this may sound like a bad skit on SNL, it was an actual episode on Grey’s Anatomy. “I have been wanting to do it since we made to pilot basically,” writer Shonda Rhimes says. “We needed it to make sense for our show. Plus, I had to convince the network, which took me seven years.” And after watching said episode several times, I can say I can clearly see why the network wouldn’t buy it for seven years.
Okay so following a car crash at the end of the previous episode, Arizona wakes up to see Callie’s body smashed through the windshield and lying on the car.
Fast forward to Seattle Grace Mercy West Hospital, everyone needs all hands on deck for Callie’s surgery, with the exception of Mark who is the father of Callie’s baby who is also at a complete risk for fatality right now, and Arizona who is an absolute wreck because her and Callie got into a car accident that nearly killed them both immediately after she proposed. The entire episode is shown through the perspective of Callie who is watching herself from an out of body/third party position. And at this point everyone thought, “What better way to ensure this critical surgery goes well than to sing 2002 pop-rock songs.”
Since music has, overall, played a big part in the show, the concept for a musical episode worked. While some songs were far more appropriate than others, they each moved the story along in one way or another. Now don’t confuse this for me thinking that this episode was necessary or even good; on the contrary it seemed absolutely ridiculous! I mean during surgery, the whole cast sang “How to Save a Life” by the Fray while operating…The song seemed perfect for the particular scene, I mean granted the song is more about saving a friend from suicide rather than saving a patient on an operating table, but still!
Music in Movies Should be Seen Rather than Heard
…the music in Grey’s Anatomy, as well as any media, makes it all worth it! We can see the effect of the music! The feelings that we, are viewers, get through either big musical numbers or little piano keys is a key component in the experience. Music manipulates us by making us feel happy, sad, empowered, or hopeless without us even knowing! In moving the story lines along, music should be seen, not heard.