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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Synchretic Analysis and Storyboard Scores: the Musical Rhythm of Filmic Elements

  • Author(s): Dirkes, Jennifer
  • Advisor(s): Lefkowitz, David
  • et al.

What is the relationship between visual action and music? Much film music research explores music’s role in providing emotional subtext, the issues and questions of spotting, and the value of emphasizing hit-points. But what of the ongoing relationship between visual motion (action, editing, physical and camera motions) and music?

According to Michel Chion, the relationship between sound and visuals can create a visual tempo; such “synchresis,” resulting from the alignment or non-alignment of the visual action and musical rhythm, generates added meaning to the film. This paper discusses successive steps in synchretic analysis. Stasticial analysis demonstrates the development of relationships over time, while a Storyboard Score reveals the more intimate details of the implicit or explicit synchretic rhythm.

Case studies in this presentation include Bambi (1942), The Lion King (1994), WALL-E (2008), How To Train Your Dragon (2010), and Psycho (1960). The analyses sometimes go far beyond highlighting specific hit-points and/or projecting emotional subtexts to supporting deeper level narratives, and other times suggest differing goals and purposes for the score. In Bambi the music underscores Bambi’s maturing relationship with and understanding of Nature; in WALL-E it defines a robot’s search for love in the form of dance; and in How To Train Your Dragon it highlights the formation of an evolving understanding between two very different creatures; while the analysis of The Lion King reveals that the score demonstrates the isolated journeys of individual characters as opposed to their relationships to one another or to the larger narrative; and in Psycho, the music emphasizes the shift of focus from Marion to Mother/Norman.

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