ain't baroque! :||
Don't Fix It

Music, a manipulative minx

Music creates a mood. If ever a statement deserved a ’90’s chorus of “Duh!”, that’s the one. But I’ve been thinking of it in the light of manipulation, because:

I was hanging with my dear friend Elizabeth, and we got into a conversation with her mother about our mutual tendency to roll our eyes at blatantly Emotional Scenes – that is to say, scenes where you can feel the movie hitting you over the head with the fact that This Is A Tragic Scene And You Should Be Sad (see the first scene of Star Trek), or conversely, This Is A Romantic Scene And These People Are In Love (Avatar, you were pretty, but I can’t get behind any movie that contains the line “I fell in love with the forest… the people… with you.” Also you are a sack of cliches, but lucky for you that’s not salient right now.)

Anyway, my point is, during our discourse Elizabeth’s mother mentioned how  “you hear the music swell and you know what’s coming.” Indeed! Music creates the context for the scene and informs you of what to expect.

Again: duh. But I came to think about it again this weekend, while playing a video game. Okay, first of all, whoever created Dragon Age: Origins: THANK YOU. Did you make it with me in mind? I really think you did. After all, who else would be thrilled by a minimum of combat and a maximum of dialogue choices and cut scenes?

Of course, it’s the combat, however sparse, to which I now refer: whenever an enemy approaches, my character hunkers down as ominous music is played. It’s simple and short and just a bit of dissonance in a minor key. The purpose of the music is wholly and solely to inform me that I am about to engage in battle. Nothing more, nothing less.

Now, I know movie scores and even video game scores, especially their suite forms, are often praised and played in their own rights. I’m not talking about those right now. I’m talking the little snippets meant only to rile emotion and let you know what’s coming up.


  1. Does such music, with no purpose other than to contextualize and inform, have further value?
  2. Do composers attempt to instill it with said value, or are they tossing something off in the proper key with the proper chord that they know will work?

I leave it open to the forum. What do you think? (Bonus points if you’re a composer of such music, and if so, may I have an interview please?)


About Jenn

Despite being the former digital marketing intern at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Jenn German does not like Mozart. Beethoven could've totally beaten him up. Also she has an arts management graduate degree from American University, but this changes nothing.



  1. Pingback: Music: It’s all in your head « If it ain't Baroque… - August 28, 2012

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