“you sorta listen with your eyes”: How audiences talk about film music

Martin Barker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


What might investigation of audience responses to films reveal about the role that music plays in responses, understandings, and evaluations? Peter Larsen’s excellent Film Music (2005) examines the “paradox” that audiences sense the importance of music to their experience of films-but often can’t recall it. While Larsen’s critical remarks are sharp and apposite, his discussion is limited by a tendency to talk of “the audience” in the singular. That actual audience research doesn’t figure in his account is not surprising, given how little such research has yet been done. This chapter draws on materials from a major audience research project to help formulate provisional findings and proposals for future research. What these suggest is that audiences use “music” (only sometimes distinguished from other sound-sources) for a range of purposes, from emotional heightening to cueing of understanding, knowledge of narrative developments to more complex determinations of cultural appropriateness.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Cinematic Listening
EditorsCarlo Cenciarelli
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9780190853617
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jan 2021

Publication series

NameOxford Handbooks


  • Audience research
  • Film
  • Listening
  • Lord of the rings
  • Music


Dive into the research topics of '“you sorta listen with your eyes”: How audiences talk about film music'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this