John Player Special Project

"The emotion generated by music is governed by the tension and resolution established by the music of which the audience is unaware"


This essay aims to analyse the music I wrote for the five minutes long cue of the TV drama ‘Thieftakers’. It has given me the opportunity to practise how music interacts and deals with the dialogue, background noise and sound effects in films. Furthermore it has been a good study to see how music controls and conducts emotions over the audience.

Analysing the context of the sound of the film is quite important before beginning to score. Therefore my initial task was to listen to the dialogue, background sound and sound effects many times. This also helped me to understand and develop the primary idea of the film in defining the musical concept.

Clarity of the dialogue of the film can often be achieved by cutting the unnecessary bass frequencies and boosting certain frequencies of human voice range. Therefore I edited the dialogue and background sounds throughout the film.

The first section in which the bad-guys rehearse the robbery is marked under four titles as below;

1st Section (Rehearsing)

Dial & banter ........(2hr11'01''04fr)

Rehearsing starts.....(2hr11'19''14fr)

Chris jumps............(2hr11'56''08fr)

Paul’s guilt.............(2hr11'09''02fr)

In order to highlight the focus points and emotions of the narrative, these detailed titles are needed. Dial & banter section was shot in an industrial park and consists of a lot of dialogues to be considered. In this section, I intended to keep the the music simple and avoid masking the dialogue by panning the instruments off the centre. Moreover, the instruments and their colours have been carefully chosen to associate the industrial landscape with the music. Use of reverb and delay processing helped me to create a space in the mix in order to reflect this scene.

Rehearsal of the robbery begins with a crescendo movement highlighting the tension. Similar highlights and hit points recur in titles Chris Jumps, Wait, Leave It and Hold On. These movements provide dramatic uplift to enhance the mood of the scenes. As Annabel J. Cohen suggests in her book 'Music As A Source Of Emotion In Film" “when music is combined with other media music readily finds an object. Music directs the attention to an object and ascribes its meaning to the object. Attention is required for concern. Music directs such attention”.

The combination of both the percussion and synthesizer parts suit the scene well and create an atmosphere of excitement. The short motif on the strings is the signature motif for the thief. The music slowly reaches a climax as Chris jumps from the forklift feeling proud to complete the action on time. Then there comes a dramatic shift when Paul begins to feel guilty about betraying his team. This is reflected by the transition of the music from action to revealing the emotion. The use of strings contributes to emphasise these changes.

The transition between 1st and 2nd sections is achieved by a subtle change in music with high strings. Therefore the continuity is realised without interrupting the flow.

2nd Section (Later that night)

Night ................(2hr12'10''04fr)


Vauxhall Astra.....(2hr13'00''03fr)

Robbery begins....(2hr13'23''02fr)


Can he see us......(2hr14'34''18fr)

Leave it..............(2hr14'40''14fr)

In the 2nd section, the film continues with a night scene with camera movements of panning and cross-dissolve. Music mirrors the scene by vertical movements on strings indicating the critical mood of the upcoming robbery. As the camera visually points out where the police are waiting , the music echoes this visual focus of attention by a dynamic climax. The bass clarinet accompanies the silence of the night and the anxious suspense without masking the dialogue.

In the following title the music directs the attention to the appearance of the Vauxhall Astra. I used the leitmotif technique on strings to characterise the concept of the rehearsal and action of the robbery. The rhythm accompanies the scene gently.

As the thieves get prepared for the robbery (Robbery begins), music continues building the tension underscoring the drama. The new textures and motifs are introduced as a response to the changing scenes and increase the awareness of the audience against the tension of the robbery. At this point the music is totally in charge of directing the emotions and contributes to the sense of reality of the narrative. After a short break (Wait), Paul gets out of the car and the music returns more dissonant indicating that the police are watching the thieves. (Can he see us). Then the music gradually builds the tension until the thieves decide to quit and run away (Leave it).

3rd Section (Chase)

They are running................(2hr14'52''04fr)

Police siren.......................(2hr15'06"06fr)


Cut him off........................(2hr15'34"10fr)

Narrow road......................(2hr15'37"05fr)

Hold On............................(2hr15'44"05fr)

Car breaks the glass...........(2hr15'55"09fr)

The violin trills leads to the 3rd section with a crescendo. This section is based on police chasing with the music getting faster and louder. Blending the ethnic percussion into the score worked well and dominates the cue. Irregular beats, 5/8, 7/8 and 9/8 are used consecutively to match rapidly changing scenes. The dissonant mood of the 3rd section is supported with strings and brass parts while various motifs are introduced and developed in order to enhance the tension. The dynamic changes and accents are very important ingredients to keep the action flowing. At 2hr15'44"05fr (Hold on) the cue gets intense which is mirrored by chromatic key shifting in the music towards the end. The film ends with the accented brass and tremolo on the viola highlighting the the thief’s car violently smashing the glass shop front.

With this assignment I studied underscoring techniques (non-diegetic music) in which the score functions as a background music. I have tried to compose music around the dialogue and sound effects without interrupting the flow of the film. The production is done with Logic Pro 8 and an Apple computer. The score consists of over one hundred channels of software samples, synth and audio tracks. It is essential to have a good sound library and a powerful computer to be able to achieve high quality production. This will speed up the production process and help to the composer to save time.



Kassabian, A (2001) Hearing Film (New York: Routledge)

Donnelley K, J (2001) Film Music (Edinburg: Edinburg University Press)

Davis, R (1999) Complete Guide to Film Scoring (Boston: Berklee Press)

Adler, S (1989) The Study Of orchestration (USA,W.W. Norton & Company)

Hannan, B (2203) Australian Guide to Careers in Music, (UNSW Press, 2003)

Parmaggiore, M & Wallis, “Film: a Critical Introduction” (London: Laurence King Publishing 2005)


Cohen J A (2001). "Music as a source of emotion in film." (Oxford: Oxford University Press)

Cohen J A (2001). Cohen j A Cohen J A (1993) "Associationism and musical soundtrack phenomena." (Malaysia: Harwood Academic Publisher)

Brownrigg M, “Film Music and Film Genre” (University Of Stirling)

Web Sources (all accessed on 11/03/2009)

Zofia, L & Tagg, P Function of film music

Thief Takers Episode Guides

Shifting Styles and Expulsion from the Narrative (Echo Hournal)


The music written in 90's style of TV music.