An introduction to Swiss film music


Film music : not a musical genre?

Mathias Spohr - 2019-12-11
An introduction to Swiss film music - Jonas Zellweger's Notes ©Mathias Spohr
Jonas Zellweger's Notes ©Mathias Spohr

Film music is stylistically as diverse as any other music. From pop songs to avant-garde chamber works, every possible type of music has already been employed successfully as music for films. In this sense, “film music” isn’t really a genre at all, but rather a means of utilising music. Of course there is also what one might describe as “typical” film music – orchestral music that sounds like a programme symphony and purports to depict a narrative of some kind, or electronic music that conveys moods and that could perhaps serve only as meditative music, lounge music or ambient music, if it were not otherwise employed in film. And then there is music that has been composed for well-known films and is played and heard quite independently of them. 

Digitalisation has made it much easier to produce and consume audio-visual media today. Laptops and smartphones have made images accessible everywhere, and social-media videos are often watched without any sound. Hundreds of people can look at images or watch films in the same room without disturbing each other. If they’re interested enough, they can also turn on the sound, as long as they have either headphones or neighbours who are happy to hear the same thing. The language used in audio recordings can be conveyed as written text, but music as a rule cannot – not least because new methods of production are increasingly dominant that no longer require music to be written down. Music is thus better than images when it comes to delineating what is either private or communal; it comes across far more clearly as something that can either divide or unite us. This is perhaps what makes the combination of music and images especially exciting.

It is thus natural that such combinations have become correspondingly multifarious in recent years. Music for film and for media has become a vast field of endeavour. Cinema and TV both continue to dwindle in significance, but they remain the most prestigious venues for original film music. The present dossier cannot cover the whole spectrum of film and media music. But it can highlight individual aspects, and hopes thereby to make the reader aware of the musical creativity to be found today on the many-facetted Swiss media landscape.