Essay On Music In Film From 1970s Or Earlier
Battleship Potemkin is one of the most famous films in the history of cinema. The film was directed by the stalwart director, Sergei Eisenstein, and it has gone on to be immortalized in the hearts of the avid audience all over the world. One of the most promising things about this iconic film is the composition of music that was incorporated in the film. The music has its own significance and elevates the effect of the film in the minds of the audience. The language of music is portrayed in its aesthetic quintessence in the course of the film by Eisenstein.
Music becomes all the more important in this scenario as this film was a silent one, being made in the year 1925. Thus, music got the scope to be at its expressive best in unison with the montage of sequences that were the signature ones of the auteur. The name of the music composer of the film in context was Edmund Meisel.
This man was a genius of his own kind having made an instrument called Geräuschmaschine that was capable of reproducing all sorts of sounds. This instrument was used by the composer for the purpose of the music of the film in context. The instrument was utilized to obtain the noises of ship engines and wind. This noise-music played a key role in the music conception of the film.
The composer took only twelve days to compose the score of the film by Eisenstein. Meisel went on to analyze the montage of some well-known silent films of the era, and gauged the emotional climax as well as the mood. Thus, he went on to create the music of the film after an extensive research on the area of work.
The ‘Men and Maggots’ section is the opening drama of the film. The music that is used in this part of the film goes on to create relaxation and tension by altering the tempo as well as the instrumentation. The percussion plays a very important role in the musical composition.
The audience can feel the internal pulse that transforms quite abruptly from one sequence of music to the other. The music composer went on to assign various musical themes so that he could establish different moods. This section portrays the anger of the individual as well as that of the collective mass as the crew expresses the immense discomfort regarding the rotten food. As the audience sees the doctor and the close-up of the maggots, the musical phrase combines the grotesque theme of the doctor and the maggots.
During the drama on the quarter deck, the opening trumpet call goes on to shift between the diegetic and the non-diegetic sounds. The relationship of the music with the visual shown on the screen is quite casual as the music gets formed by as many as four notes arpeggio GBDF.
Apart from this, the syncopated notes of the trumpet along with the offbeat rhythm make captain Golivok come across as a circus character. One has to comprehend the fact that the sound of the timpani is utilized to be symbolic of power in this scenario. Silence is used very aesthetically by the composer. It creates a sense of space just before the mutiny.
One of the most famous sequences of the film in context is the Odessa steps sequence. The sequence has left an immortal mark in the mind of every spectator. However, this part of the film by Eisenstein could have never reached such a paramount position, if it was not accompanied by the musical composition of Meisel.
The entire scene is executed by an oppressive martial ostinato that is played by the percussion with excellence. One has to understand that the music language that was used in this portion was quite modern for the time. While the tonal center of this piece gets represented by the ostinato, the brass and strings give rise to a non-tonal melody that is supplemented by predominant cells that are used in a descendent scale to synchronize with the steps of the army that gets reflected as a machinery of killing the innocent people.
Apart from using the tri-tone, the composer also uses the static interval to show the movement of the people. Sounds of drums underscore the attack from the battleship Potemkin. This makes the effect on the minds of the audience very powerful. Apart from this, there are reminiscences with Shostakovch’s 11th symphony’s fourth movement. Thus, Meisel shows how he is at his aesthetic best in composing the music of this memorable sequence of the film.
The sequence of meeting the squadron also has musical supplement. For the very first time in the film, the music goes on to change to a polyphonic texture that has a number of cells repeated just like a fake canon. As the flag goes down, the composer makes the music get slower and more static in nature. The marching theme of the previous part of the film gets transformed into more lyrical one here. From the engines shot, the music becomes faster.
The music creates expectation by transforming the tempo. The music goes on to stop with a coda, and leaves a mark in the minds of the bewitched audience. The victory hymn resonates in the hearts of the gazillion viewers making them inspired with the message of the film.
Thus, musical composition plays one of the most important roles in the making of the iconic work of cinema- Battleship Potemkin. The mention of a few sections of the composition can make a person understand the immense effect the entire composition of the music had on the aura and effect of the film by Eisenstein.