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JAWS: The film music is functional

White Shark photographed by Terry Goss
Photo by Terry Goss

That film music is functional may sound logical, but what does it really mean? Film music is functional in the sense that it fulfills or is supposed to fulfill a task that is not inherent in the music, i.e., “non-musical”. For example, the music in a film fulfills the task of reinforcing a certain emotion – in the horror film “Jaws” (Steven Spielberg, 1975), for example, this is exaggerated fear. So, it is always first of all about the intention to achieve something with certain music. Accordingly, film music is not autonomous; it is dependent on the image in the film. In contrast, autonomous music has no extra-musical purpose. It stands on its own as an independent work of art and needs no other task. The music lover will enjoy a piece of music without any reservations. This is not the case with film music – here the music fulfills a specific purpose, a task – precisely a function. That is why we speak here of film music as functional music.