Influence of film music on the perspective assumed within a narrative

Chris Walton, The College of Wooster


Since the inception of film, music has traditionally played an essential role in the cinematic experience. Nonetheless, there is a dearth of formal research concerning the influence that music actually wields in the realm of film. The purpose of this investigation was to determine whether or not film music is capable of influencing which characters within a narrative the audience identifies as the protagonists. In small groups a total of seventy participants viewed a visual excerpt depicting a pack of lions attacking a buffalo that was presented with "sad" music, "happy" music, or no music. It was hypothesized that participants in the "sad" condition would identify the buffalo as the protagonists while the participants in the "happy" condition would identify the lions as the protagonists. Results indicate that music influenced the perception of and identification with protagonists in the narrative in both expected and unexpected ways.