Can one song convey more than one meaning?

During this course I made friends with a fellow course mate, Ashley. It feels like we have crossed the finished line together.

It was Ashley who introduced me to the the fantastic data base of music, Incompetech. There are thousands of songs on there, each one individual and unique and without knowing we both used the same song, Ashley in her assignment and myself in a personal project video.

It was an interesting discovery, to see how the same song can be used to convey completely different emotions.

My Video


Ashley’s video

Things they had in common were

  • Both used to convey a melancholy mood. The main melody (harpsichord) highlights a specific part.
  • In my video the main melody sounds when the life ring and ‘danger’ sign are shown. Conveying that something terrible happened at this point. In Ashley’s it begins when the mug of tea is knocked over.

Things that were different.

  • In my video the song is the main focus, there is no diegetic sound or narration. The song essentially tells the story.
  • Ashley’s featured at the end to illustrate the moment when Ahad tells his father he has failed his exams, to convey the pain and create a contrast of the party atmosphere and the darkness inside that he is feeling.

Whilst they both focused on sadness and loss they were each used in a different way to convey a different story. With that in mind I decided to find other videos the song had been used in and research the emotions it provokes.

Here the song has been used to highlight it’s medieval melody. It is the background to the world of Skyrim which we are shown around. Interesting to see where the harpsichord melody is used, after a slow pause showing a Skyrim character, the melody begins again and we are on a journey through an underground canal.

It sets the tone for this video by Dragonfly Productions as we soar over a landscape where the story takes place. It seems it always used for dark powerful moments. I wonder how it could be interpreted with a different theme that isn’t melancholy.

Jordan Turner Vegas shoot from Travis H. Lane on Vimeo.

It would appear that using an especially somber song out of context doesn’t always work.  In this video it is used in a video of a  modelling shoot. While the photography is successful I don’t feel the two match well. The music is dark and haunting whereas the shoot is light and doesn’t feature anything dark or upsetting at all. They clash throughout, like two opposite poles of a magnet.

So therefore it would appear that whilst there are many stories that can be told with the same song in a variety of genres, sometimes a song is so specifically made for a certain genre that is clashes when used for any other purpose. Even if you were to make an optimistic video of say a girl blowing out birthday candles, to play this music over it would give a very different feeling to the happy birthday. Perhaps the girl is mourning her childhood, maybe it is the film makers way of warning the viewer that all is not as it seems.

Through the analysis of these songs and the way in which they have been chosen and used, I have come to the conclusion that this song in particular is powerful in that it conveys variations of a dark mood, that one mood can have connotations of sadness, fear, death, worry, but it generally is on the dark side of things. This shows how important it is to choose the right song. If you choose the wrong song it may end up conveying the opposite meaning, the story and music will not work harmoniously, it could ruin a sequence yet choosing wisely it could make that sequence.  It’s essential to spend a little time working through the selection of songs. The music is like a main actor and just as a bad actor can spoil a movie so too can the choice of music. Overall it highlights what an essential part the music plays.

I decided to experiment with something conducive to the course, similar to the Mosjukhin experiment, using one clip what emotion could be conveyed with the music.I created a new file in iMovie and grabbed some of my video clips. It was clear which worked and which didn’t. I realised that the song could be used not just for darkness but it also worked very well with landscape shots and animals, such as the red kite flying over the landscape. It captures  a primeval, raw connection with the earth.

Below is the video I made. Please comment what you feel from it. I had to change the file size hence the lower quality. 

I felt of all the clips the strongest was the snow leopard in the Zoo. I can really feel her sadness. It wasn’t the best enclosure I had seen and this reflects it. It will be interesting to see what anyone else sees.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s