Film Music 101: Montage

In film music, a montage is when several small audio clips are strung together to imply an abbreviated passage of time or history. One of the first prominent uses of montage in American cinema came in 1941 with Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane.

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© 1941 RKO/Turner Entertainment

Early on, a flashback describes the early years of Kane’s marriage to his first wife. The progression of time (and the deterioration of their marriage) is shown through a montage of different conversations taking place at the breakfast table. The loving couple evolves into a pair who live separate lives and never speak to one another.

Citizen Kane- Breakfast Montage

The score was created by Bernard Herrmann, and in this montage, the music beautifully encapsulates the changing feelings between the couple. The music begins warm and idyllic, then changes into a faster paced, almost irritating melody. With each segment, the music becomes faster and more frenetic, reflecting how the relationship between man and wife is slowly breaking down. Until the final segment comes, and then, the music eases back as you see that the couple is (apparently) no longer on speaking terms.

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