Posted by Streaming Music | Posted in Pop Music | Posted on 30-05-2009
Tags: Music, Pop, Pop Music, pop music vignettes
“ songs go far beyond words in their ability to insert emotion into communication.” Robert Sylwester, A Celebration of Neurons
Filmmakers, If the y knew who brain researcher Robert Sylwester has been, would agree with him. They generally integrate familiar songs into their movies. Pop songs are so successful that movie producers will pay exorbitant sums, in some cases as much as $100,000, to acquire the rights for the song.
Sylwester, in his book A Celebration of Neurons, went on to explain:
“The songs of our adolescent years generally become the beacons of our adult life because they could help us to recall the important developments of our adolescence. we generally listen to this music to relive the memories in the extended reverie of song. The song slows the easy message so that we can savor all the feelings of the experience.”
In a film composer’s hands, pop songs are chosen and linked to those memories in a way that adds emotional texture to the film. Films with pop music scores function on two distinct levels. The 1st level is the application of the song in the film. Every song lyric tells a story and a well placed song’s story will dovetail with the film’s visual.
The second, and deeper, level is the emotional meaning the use of specific songs brings forth within the listener. The songs become metaphors, placing the subject to be taught in the context of the learners prior experiences. When people hear songs they know, and have individual memories of, they immediately are drawn back into those memories, and the experience is enhanced. In essence, pop music helps us relate to the story being told in a deeply individual, highly emotional way.
Three famous films used this technique to achieve success.
American Graffiti (1973), telling the story of a group of early 1960s high schoolers enjoying a final summer before adulthood, has been intentionally designed as a series of pop music vignettes. George Lucas, the film’s director, developed the storyline, and selected the songs to al most at the same time.
Each scene matched the length of the song accompanying it. For example, Bill Haley’s “ Rock and Roll Around The Clock,” played during the occasion credits, session up the film’s innocence of summer theme. The Crests’ “Sixteen Candles” accompanied a young girls sixteenth birthday. “Teen Angel” by Mark Dinning has been played when a character dies in a drag race. The film ends with the Spaniels’ “Goodnight, Well It is Time To Go.”
The Big Chill tells the story of a group of former 1960s radicals turned 1980s yuppies who gather to mourn the passing of an old friend. like American Graffiti, The Big Chill uses pop songs, although in this case, to add commentary to the on-screen occurrences.
Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” accompanied the actors as they hear about their friend’s passing. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by the Rolling Stones is played as an ironic commentary on the friend’s death. As the friends discuss relationships, The Young Rascals “Good Lovin’” is performed. Finally, “Bad Moon Rising’” by Credence Clearwater Revival is played immediately after a former lover proposes that she and her old flame reunite for an evening.
The perfect subconscious music placement occurs in a supermarket betwixt the two former lovers who contemplate rekindling their relationship. Although their desire for each other is palpable, both hold back, only conversing about the shopping task at hand as the store’s Muzak system plays Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers In The Night.”
Forest Gump tells the story of a dimwitted man who experiences a series of life adventures over several decades. Because the film’s extended time frame, the music serves to create the time and place.
Credence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son” sessions up Gump’s Vietnam tour. To state that Forest’s girlfriend has moved to California, California Dreaming” by the Mamas and Papas is used. “San Francisco” by Scott Mackenzie frames Forest’s 1960s visit to San Francisco. When Forest returns home to Alabama, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” is played. The music placements help the films audiences comprehend the divergent locations and eras represented in the film.
American Graffiti, The Big Chill, and Forest Gump were all highly successful films, and their pop song application played a very large part in creating that success. All three films appealed to people at a deeply individual level.
Pop songs in Learning
In Training With A Beat, I discussed at length the application of pop songs in the learning environment. In part, I said:
“Concert hall s, ballrooms, get togethers, and yes, the class room, can be uncomfortable environments. When people hear a song they’ve listened to in the privacy of their home, they relax. Comfortable music emotionally warms the training room, placing learners in a receptive frame of mind for learning. songs with lyrics, especially popular hits of the final 50 years, are extremely useful for this reason. They are old, well worn, welcome friends.”
songs with lyrics furthermore engage learner brains in multiple ways. The words and rhythm of a song are largely processed in the brain’s left hemisphere, where the melody is largely processed by the right hemisphere. By using songs with lyrics, you help your learners engage both hemispheres. In the process, they gain a deeper meaning than is possible with one hemisphere alone.
Song lyrics can, as has been the case in The Big Chill, speak directly to the learning topic.
The a lot of applications are too numerous to state in this one article, but several examples should prove the point:
Career planning – “All Star” by Smash Mouth
Change management – “Bad Day” by Daniel Powter
Communication – “Hello, Goodbye” by the Beatles
Conflict management – “Shut Up” by the Black Eye Peas
Customer service – “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers
Diversity – “Short people ” by Randy Newman
Finance – “Takin’ Care of Business” by Bachman-Turner Overdrive
Project Management – “One Little Slip” by the Bare Naked Ladies
Sexual harassment – “Respect” by Aretha Franklin
Time management – “Right Place, Wrong Time” by Dr. John
Once you’ve decided on an appropriate song, placement is easy Considering the Randy Newman song “Short people ” for example:
Introduction – play the song as the learners enter. Once the song is over call attention to the songs lyrics and ask for comments about the meaning conveyed by those lyrics. Use those comments as a transition to your presentation.
Filler – play the song during breaks to add a subliminal message to your content.
Activity – Divide your learners into groups and instruct them to read and discuss the lyrics. Then lead a general discussion to share each group’s observations.
Conclusion – Conclude your session by stating, “We are all short people in someone ’s eyes.” Then ask the rhetorical question, “If none of us were welcome around here, who would be left to complete our work?” Start the song and thank anyone for attending. Your learners will walk out of the classroom with the song and its lyrics firmly implanted in their brains, and you will have closed with a visually compelling learning point.
Given the large number of pop songs available, the choices are limited only by your imagination and the musical preferences of your learners. You too could have your learners, in the words of the old song by “M”, “talkin’ ‘bout pop music.”