Honors Program Theses


Honors Program Thesis (UNI Access Only)

First Advisor

Rebecca Burkhardt


Emotions in music; Silent film music; Silent films--Musical accompaniment;


I have long had a passion for writing music, particularly for visual media, because of the deep emotional impact that it can have on viewers. Film music has the capacity to draw viewers in to new experiences and emotions that they might otherwise never have. It is fascinating to me how subtle changes in music can completely change the meaning of a film, and as a composer I am always striving to better understand those subtleties in order to bring out the desired emotions of a film. For this reason, I used my thesis project to explore just how drastically I could alter one short film with my original music.

On November 11, 2013, I presented the creative portion of my honors thesis entitled Listening to Movies: The Emotional Response of an Audience to Music in Correlation with Film. For the presentation, I wrote three contrasting scores to accompany a public domain film (see appendices). I had in mind a general mood but also a specific story and situation for each setting of the film. I spent a great deal of time with the film before writing a single note so that I knew exactly what moments and overarching emotions needed to be highlighted with each score. I gave myself approximately three weeks to write each score but ended up spending an uneven amount of time on them. Some of the music became clear to me quite quickly while other parts of it took much longer to conceive. The process for scoring a film is always unique to each project for me, and this instance was no different. Each of the three scores took on its own life and style as I wrote to match the film and my imagined story as closely as possible.

The full film is 16 minutes long and follows an older woman and her dog waking up and going about their day. It is a silent, black and white film without much of a plot, and I used only the first two minutes and thirty seconds of it for this project. On the evening of my thesis presentation, I conducted and performed my three scores with a chamber orchestra for a live audience. After seeing the film without any music and upon hearing each score, I gave the audience time to provide written feedback regarding their reactions, and asked the following questions:

1. What do you believe to be the genre of this film?
2. What do you believe is about to happen when the clip ends?
3. Give a brief description of the woman in the film and/or her current situation.
4. How did this viewing make you feel?

Year of Submission



School of Music

University Honors Designation

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the designation University Honors

Date Original


Object Description

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