"I think what sound brought of value to the cinema was to complete the realism of the image on the screen. It made everyone in the audience deaf mutes." -Alfred Hitchcock
Would Psycho be the terrifying movie it is without the soundtrack? There are countless theses and probably thousands of undergraduate dissertations written on the subject of using music to set the scene.
However, if you want to get a real life example of deploying music to set the scene then you need go no further than the In Flanders Fields Museum in Ieper (Ypres). This is a stunning and incredibly moving museum that takes you through the horrors of the Great War on the Western Front and in particular around the Ypres Salient.
By itself it would be difficult not to be moved by the museum, the sheer sense of futile loss the hundreds of thousands of lives sacrificed for no real purpose.
However, throughout your visit to the museum there is a constant background music that manages to get into your head and burrow into both your brain and your heart.
I thought I might just have been me imagining it, but part way round they had a fault with the sound system and the music stopped for about 5 minutes. During that time I felt I didn’t have such an emotional attachment to the artefacts – that’s all they became, just artefacts. However, within a minute or so of the music starting back up again that sense of foreboding, fear and hopelessness is back.
Perhaps I was just imagining it, but by the time I left the museum – nearly 3 hours after entering – I was emotionally drained, and at the end of the day that’s probably exactly how you should feel after reading about the horrors of the Western Front.