Near my work there is an historical organ that every Friday at lunch they have someone come in and play. It fills the sound of the building as the music plays on. One of the neatest songs that they will play is the song from the end of Star Wars Episode IV. Whenever I hear that song it just brings a smile to my face. I think about the great moment at the end of the movie where Han, Luke, and Chewbacca are all getting their awards. The triumphant feeling of having just blown up the Death Star. The music from the score just fills me with all the emotions from that moment in the movie, which is exactly what a good score is supposed to do.
A good score creates music that implants itself into your brain to help you recall the emotions of that moment. The great thing about these scores is also that you do not need to hear much usually to have your brain trigger the memory. It is amazing how a sequence of notes can bring such a flood of emotion.
In general there are things in life that bring up various memory recall. Smells will remind us of people or places that we know and the things that we have done there. The music from a movie provides that same opportunity. When we are watching a movie we are not consciously paying attention to the music necessarily. We are, hopefully, paying attention to the story playing out before us. If this story truly engrosses us then it will create an emotional resonance with us. This is not just true with movies, but with TV shows and video games as well. Anytime there is music alongside an emotional experience then we become attached to that music. Then when we hear it again outside of the context we can easily be taken back to that one moment. When I hear Mass Effect music I just go back to playing the game and when I hear music that was in Bioshock I am just reminded of what they did with that franchise and music!
Now the emotional recall is obviously a big part of how we react to musical scores, but the other part is pure nostalgia. When I hear music from Star Wars, Zelda, Mario, and so much more it just reminds me of all those moments from when I was young. You obviously get nostalgia from watching things that you grew up with, but the nostalgia from the music and scores of various media bring us back to that moment in time. I will break down in to a giddy child when I hear the music from my childhood memories. Play the 8-bit music of video games and cannot help but smile. It is amazing the memories that these various media create in us and how just simple music can help us recall it.
I Know This?
So there is another part of this and that is when we know it, but do not know it right away. At my movie theatre they usually play movie scores before the movie. One of the great things is when you recognize a song, but cannot remember exactly where it came from. Sometimes you can think about what emotions the song might be bringing to mind to help figure it out. Of course we cannot just leave such moments, we need to name what it is we are hearing. The music from The Matrix I will sometimes have trouble recalling, while David can usually name it right away, but we can definitely still recognize it. This can sometimes happen with more complicated music, but then there are the other moments.
The other moments I am referring to is where you can hear only like three notes or similarly small section of a song to instantly be transported away. Harry Potter is a great example of this, partly due to there being eight movies that came out and them all starting with the same basic notes. You hear those start notes and you are instantly transported to the world of Hogwarts and magic. Another great example is actually the theme song to Doctor Who. It has changed over the years, but they are all iterations of a familiar theme. It is great because hearing those notes you just get excited and someone can start singing it and if you know it you will join in. These are great because it is something you will probably hear people humming at moments as they are remember the moments from the show or movie.
Part of what is great about the emotional resonance of musical scores is that it is a shared experience. Music ties us together to things that we experienced at different moments. When people hear certain songs they will practically squeal with glee because it makes them so happy to have it being heard or played by other people. There is something great about knowing that other people share our loves. I love being able to listen to the score from movies, TV, and video games. I think Final Fantasy games have some of my favorite music ever and it always reminds me of playing those games. It is such a fun time listening to those songs again. It is amazing the impact music has on our experiences and our memories of those experiences.