Mahurin Honors College Capstone Experience/Thesis Projects



Document Type



To portray the radical importance of music in stimulating emotion within cinema, to appeal to an audience’s selective attention to sounds, and to detail the process of creating an original film score, I have scored WKU student Tori Mills’ short film Come Up for Air. Film music is traditionally defined as any music that accompanies a film, though today it more specifically refers to music intended to advance the film’s narrative. Music has played an increasingly important role in transmitting emotion to film audiences, feeding the psychological connection between spectator and on-screen action. To achieve this emotional connection, a film composer is faced with compositional choices with regard to harmony, rhythm, and instrumentation choices, as well as with technical options ranging from virtual instrument manipulation to live orchestral recording. In composing the original score for Come Up for Air, I used virtual instrumentation coupled with specific harmonic and rhythmic choices to convey the protagonist’s shifting mood from frustration to understanding, and from youthful hope to defeat, thus facilitating empathy in the audience toward the main character. To test my success in enhancing an audience’s emotional connection to a film through music, I have surveyed students in two sections of a Music Appreciation class. Each class watched the film both with and without my original score. While the survey results were inconclusive with regard to the emotional impact of the music on the audience, they do show, along with the director’s approval, that my attempt to serve the narrative was successful.

Advisor(s) or Committee Chair

Dr. Matthew Herman, Dr. Ted Hovet, Mrs. Siera Bramscheiber


Film and Media Studies | Music | Psychology