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Film Music / Study 19
Does Mickey Mousing lead viewers to predict action, and if so, does it take away from the emotionality of the scene?
Mickey Mousing, or the simultaneous mimicking of the action with the music, is often used in cartoons. It appears to be comical when used in dramatic situations. What about it makes it appear comical? Is it more difficult for the viewer to push the music out of consciousness if the music is literally a part of the action?
How can it be deemed less realistic than a score in general? Buchanan says the main problem with Mickey Mousing is that "[e]ach dramatic situation is easily 'predicted' by the viewer unfortunate enough to hear this type of soundtrack, and the dramatic impact is thereby dulled" (Buchanan, 1974).
One way researchers may wish to approach these questions is by showing a scene with differing levels of Mickey Mousing. Experimenters should make one version of a scene with music that duplicates the action (e.g. a chase scene with music timed so that each beat matches the footsteps of the runners), one version with music unrelated to the action (e.g. a chase scene with lento and adagio music), and an intermediate version with music that is similar to the action (e.g. a chase scene with allegro and presto music).
Viewers may interpret music that has nothing to do with the action as a conscious choice on the part of filmmakers, perhaps mirroring a subtext (i.e. there is no way out for the person being chased). Music can convey the "emotional rather than the physical character of the scene" (Prendergast, 1954). For example, in Force of Evil, David Raksin composed slow music for a final scene where the protagonist is running.
It is not until this point in the movie that the character has "[found] any sort of quietude. Raksin reflects this psychological point in his slow music for this sequence" (Prendergast, 1954). Would incongruous music be more effective than music that mimics the scene, but less effective than music that complements the scene?