It can tell us what the mood is in a scene, giving us cues to tell us what we should be feeling - some composers can use this to their advantage. Or it can be a memorable theme that, once heard, we always associate with that particular film or television show.
Below I've listed ten of my favourite instrumental pieces of music, five from films and five from television shows:
Music: Back to the Future Theme By: Alan Silvestri From: Back to the Future (1985)
Why: If it isn't obviously...not only did I grow up with the Back to the Future films, but this piece of music sounds so exciting! It's like a musical adventure. This is just an extract from the the full overture.
Music: Monday By: Jon Brion From: I Heart Huckabees (2004)
Why: It's just so unusual, much like the surreal film it is the theme too. Cheerful and yet quirky. I especially love the notes at the end.
Music: Unstoppable By: E.S. Posthumus From: Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows (2011)
Why: Okay, so its from the trailer, not technically the film - but the music is still a brilliantly chosen piece for the action filled trailer. E.S. Posthumus' cinematic style music has become rather popular with people in the media for use as soundtracks, and their music can be heard in many other films and TV shows too.
Music: No Man's Land By: John Williams From: War Horse (2011)
Why: The music is from one of the most spectacular and sad scenes in the film - Joey running through the trenches. Admittedly, in this case, I find the music is better with the incredible visuals - but the fact the music and visuals made such an impact on me is perhaps tribute to how good they are.
Music: He's a Pirate By: Hans Zimmer From: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
Why: There is lots of good music in Pirates of the Caribbean, but this piece has a particular feel-good rip-roaring quality that calls you to adventure on the high seas.
Music: I am The Doctor By: Murray Gold From: Doctor Who Series 5
Why: Well, as well as being a big fan of Doctor Who, I am also a big fan of the new music Murray Gold has composed for all the new series. This piece is one of my favourites. A combination of string instruments and drums, with a wonderful, almost ticking riff towards the end.
Music: Name Unknown/Action Theme By: Murray Gold From: The Sarah Jane Adventures
Why: This is another good action theme, composed by the same man who created music for Doctor Who. This theme has a particularly fast pace, which seems to step up and up with each drum beat.
Music: The Chase Theme Tune By: Paul Ferrer From: The Chase
Why: You may be surprised to see this theme in here, as usually lists of film and TV music don't include gameshows. However I've included it and the reason its here, strangely, is because it reminds me of the action theme from The Sarah Jane Adventures. The theme is also rather big and exciting, to say its for an afternoon gameshow, and though not quite film or TV drama standard, I think its great.
Music: Jeeves and Wooster theme By: Anne Dudley From: Jeeves and Wooster
Why: A charming jazzy piece that goes very well with the 30's style and comedy of the show. With some nice little bits of humming vocals.
Music: Dirk Gently Theme By: Daniel Pemberton From: Dirk Gently
Why: With a quick pace, it is excellent mixture of action and quirkiness, with twangy piano-like notes and a conventional drum beat underneath.