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 - 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)
Sound on Screen is available
at Internet book stores as Amazon
books Highly recommended
Michel Chion Links:
- Claudia Gorbman writes about Michel Chion
- by Nicola Phillips Faculty of Music, University of Cambridge
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