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Empathetic sound  
[Anempathetic sound]

Empathetic sound - music or sound effects whose mood matches the mood of the action  

Sound can directly express its participation in the feeling of the scene, by taking on the scene's rhythm, tone and phrasing.  

In a film's diegetic narrative the soundscape is anthropocentric. Sound effects in the environment reflects the overall mood of the scene - sometimes it even shows the characters inner feelings.  

In Jonathan Demme´s Silence of the lambs when Judie Foster visits Lecter in the dungeon the ambience are made of animal screams and noises. The room tone is a lunatic kind of screaming processed, slowed down and played in reverse.  

In Demme´s Philadelphia a bus with ugly brakes comments the scene when Tom Hanks tries to talk Denzel Washington into taking the case. The bus is never seen but it constantly hangs in and fills in the gap in the conversation with ugly squeals.  

Anempathetic sound  
[Empathetic sound]

Anempathetic sound - usually diegetic music - that seems to exhibit conspicuous indifference to what is going on in the film's plot, creating a strong sense of the tragic. For example, a radio continues o to play a happy tune even as the character who first turned it on ha died  

Anempathetic effects can occur with sound effects - in a very violent scene after the death of a character some sonic process continues like the noise of a machine, the hum of a fan, a shower running as if nothing had happened. (In Antonioni´s The passenger - the electric fan, in Hitchcock's Psycho - the running shower)  

.. a scene with indifferent music has the effect not of freezing the emotion but rather of intensifying it on a cosmic background ..  

.. Anempathic music conjures up the mechanical texture of films tapestry of emotions and senses ... What does anempathetic music do if not to unveil this reality of cinema, its robotic face? ..  

(Edited excerpts: Audiovision page 8-9, 221-222 and Ron Bochar in E Weis: Sync Tanks, Cineaste 1995)  

Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen  is available at Internet book stores as  Amazon books   Highly recommended


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