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Stephen Mayo | Context Creates The Crescendo

Context Creates The Crescendo

March 12, 2023

I love listening to the soundtracks of epic movies.  Rich orchestral scores full of complexity, nuance and power are truly magnificent. Hans Zimmer and James Horner are two of my favorite film score composers.

A full-length film may last two hours, but there are usually a few signature theme songs that reverberate at the most epic moments.  And that's the tune everyone remembers and continues humming for days.  But those dramatic moments don't materialize out of nowhere. 

If you listen to the soundtrack all the way through, you'll notice that the theme starts very early. It might be soft and subtle, just a few chords here, a few chords there.  At first it's just a hint of the main tune, then bit by bit it gathers depth and richness. The theme builds slowly and gradually over the course of the film, so that when the climax arrives, the viewer is ready and primed.

The composer is creating a context.  They're preparing the viewer for what to expect. They're priming the listener for certain sounds and tunes, so the big moment is not a surprise; it's a welcome peak experience.

Even if you're not a music composer, you are still a communicator and you still have an audience.  Every time you communicate with another person, the context you set is a huge factor in how your message lands:

Pay attention to the context you set.  And you'll create the space for dramatic moments of connection.


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