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Film Music / Study 8

Do viewers differ significantly in their aesthetic ratings of music while watching a movie and listening to the score separately and is the best film score necessarily the best music?

Roy Prendergast writes that people like a score within the context of a film but not outside of it (Prendergast, 1954). In addition, Leonard Maltin believes "[f]ilm music was never meant to stand on its own" (Maltin, 1994).

And Karlin states that "musical independence cannot really be considered one of the most important gauges for evaluating a film score" (Karlin, 1994). Since the score for Star Wars was one of the top-selling of all time, do we then infer that the score is one of the best of all time? An observational study could compare the top selling soundtracks with the most successful movies.

Researchers could approach the question of aesthetics with a between-subject design involving eight groups and two movies (A and B). One group would watch movie A and rate the music on likability scales. Questions such as "Would you listen to the music on your own?" and "Would you buy the soundtrack?" could be used to infer liking.

Then, in a seemingly unrelated experiment a few days later, the same group should be exposed to the soundtrack without the visuals. Experimenters should present a second group with the soundtrack before having them view movie A. Group three should listen to soundtrack B after watching movie A, and group four should listen to soundtrack B before watching movie A.

The same is done for groups five through eight using movie B as the central movie. The different groups are necessary to account for order effects as well as familiarity effects.

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