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Show and Tell: Snow (1963)
Introduction English History Performing Arts Art & Design  
image from Snow (1963)
AuthorElizabeth Humphries
TopicNon-diegetic sound in media, sound and narrative
Curriculum linksNC KS3 English

This film strikes me as a brilliant way into teaching non-diegetic sound in media in English and drawing students' attention to the ability of a filmmaker to use a soundtrack as a narrative strand, drawing together potentially disparate images into a cohesive 'story'.

Start the class off by listening to the music without the images and collecting initial ideas from the students about what the film might be about (I don't suppose they'll guess 'railways!'). This could be extended/differentiated by giving different groups of pupils separate parts of the score to analyse before comparing how they had interpreted the differences in pace and style. It might be interesting to draw out the emotions expressed in the music, e.g. Does the music get more lighthearted? Why? Why is more percussion used as the film progresses?

Having listened to the whole thing and put the different parts together, watch the film together as a class (sound and images) with students noting down key images or actions they notice. Ask students to plot the changes in the music on a graph against the changes in images and try to draw some conclusions about how the music adds to an understanding, or changes our understanding of the content. Students should choose a section of the film and write a short paragraph analysing how the soundtrack works alongside the images to produce a narrative structure and influence the audience's response to the film.

The full analysis of Snow (see link on the right hand side of this page) provides some interesting information on how the music was manipulated. As an extension, play a different jazz track behind the action and explore the impact on the film.

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