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Incidental music

Music Sound

Incidental music

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Incidental music is music in a play, television program, radio program or some other form not primarily musical. The term is less frequently applied to film music, with such music being referred to instead as the "film score" or "soundtrack".

Incidental music is often "background" music, and adds atmosphere to the action. It may also include pieces which will provide the main interest for the audience, for example overtures, or music played during scene changes. It may also be required in plays which have musicians performing on-stage.

The use of incidental music dates back at least as far as Greek drama. A number of classical composers have written incidental music for various plays, with the more famous examples including Ludwig van Beethoven's music for Egmont, Felix Mendelssohn's music for A Midsummer Night's Dream and Edvard Grieg's music for Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt. Parts of all of these are often performed in concerts outside the context of the play.

More recently, incidental music has been written for computer games by the likes of Michael Giacchino (the Medal of Honor series), Richard Jacques (Headhunter), Jack Wall (Myst III) and James Hannigan (Catwoman). One of the best known incidental music composers for British television is Howard Goodall, who wrote music for The Gathering Storm, Blackadder and Red Dwarf as well as the film, Bean.

One of the best known American composers of incidental music in cinema is John Williams. Without his music there would be a much different feel to movies such as Star Wars (for which he composed the scores to all 6 films), Indiana Jones (all 3), Harry Potter (first 3 films), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Jurassic Park (first 2), Superman: The Movie, and many more.

Additional Links

The Foresters Web Opera - Score by Sir Arthur Sullivan for a play by Lord Alfred Tennyson, with additional music arranged by persons unknown. Available online in an extremely complete state, down to the shortest trumpet fanfare, and thus an extremely useful example of Victorian incidental music.

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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

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