Explain how Steven Spielberg uses appropriate music in Schindler's List to create not only an entertaining product of visual extremes, but also an explanation of human conscience.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The orchestral nature to Williams' scoring of Spielberg's film helps to bring out the immense sense of drama and emotional intensity that is an intrinsic part of the Holocaust.  Williams' score uses orchestral background, choral recitations, as well as the overall scope of vast sound to help illuminate the condition of the Holocaust.  This is seen in the tracks of "Immolation (With Our Lives, We Give Life)"  and "Making the List."  At the same time, Williams does not lose sight of the individual voice that makes the Holocaust so powerful a moment in human history.  In the midst of massive historical change and genocide, there is an individual voice within each narrative of suffering that makes the Holocaust difficult to face and impossible from which to turn.  The use of the clarinet in "Schindler's Workforce" as well as Perlman's violin in multiple tracks that evokes the  "sincerity of [his] street-corner style of lament" is representative of this.  Interestingly enough, this same motif is evident in the use of Kilar's "Exodus" for the original trailer of the film.  There is the use of the orchestra to help convey the large scope of human cruelty and tragedy accompanied by the individual and solitary instrument, in this case again the clarinet, that helps to evoke what it means to suffer in a state of lament.

It is precisely in the large scope of the music combined with the individual frame of reference that helps to add to the cinematic quality, but the thematic purpose of exploring human conscience.  The Holocaust is a study of mass death.  The graves as well as the genocidal forms of death is of the largest of scopes possible.  Yet, in each of the bodies lives someone's father, someone's  mother, someone's child.  The camera only captures a portion of the genocide and within each body, one thinks of the life that person led and the end they had to face with their own eyes.  It is here in which one sees how Schindler himself is shown to have undergone a transformation of human consciences.  The burning of the bodies fill his eyes with ultimate horror.  However, it is the recognition of one particular dead body that causes him to see the Holocaust in a different light.  The girl in the red petticoat is what helps to move Schindler into a different frame of reflection.  It is the recognition of one life lost that causes him to save hundreds.  The music reflects this change in conscience.  From the multitudes, one exists.  From the most personal frame of reference, universal truth can be understood.  The juxtaposition of orchestral arrangement along with the singly and solitary voice of individual instrument configuration helps to bring about this explanation of human conscience.

user6175266 | Student

The Jewish folk songs he uses are amazing. They were sung by jews during the war too. It gives a sense of homlieness to the piece I think. It's as if the film belongs in the 1940s. The black white picture adds to this whole nostalgic feel to the film. Seeing as though Speilberg has only heard about the war via nostalgia, it is all he can refer to