Narrative Film Music Author(s): Claudia Gorbman Source: Yale French Studies, No. 60, Cinema/Sound (1980), pp.

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Claudia Gorbman NarrativeFilm Music

Underlying particular the betweenmusicand thefeature relationships filmare theoretical a and aesthetic thathave intrigued story problems of we wide spectrum scholarsand critics forty for years.The moment recognize to what degree filmmusic shapes our perceptionof a narrative, can no longerconsideritincidental "innocent".Like we or lighting, freeof verbalexplicitness, in musicsetsmoods and tonalities a filmnarrative.Having come to experiencea story,the spectator receivesmuchmore thanthat,situatedby theconnotative of systems . camera placement,editing,lighting .. and music. But music differs fromlighting and other elementsof filmin several important ways. First,we hear it, we don't see it. Hearingis less directthan visual perception;to see something to instantanis the eously identify lightrayswiththeobject thatreflects them;while in hearingwe do not as automatically identify soundwithitssource. a Moreover, hearingrequiresa greater duration the sound stimulus of than vision requires of an image in order to be recognized.Thus hearingis at once more selectiveand lazierthanvision;it "focusses" consciouslyon one or at best two auditory eventsat a time.Now, in film watchinga conventional whose dialogue and visualsare telling a story,we devote our concentration its successiveeventsand the to meanings that are constantly accruingto them. Most featurefilms relegate musicto the viewer'ssensory background, thatgrayarea of secondary perceptionleast susceptibleto rigorousjudgementand most susceptibleto affective manipulation. Consider thissituation.You are listening a Bach fugueon the to radio, pleased thatyourattentiveness enablesyou to pickout someof the many complexities the fugualstructure. of You note the subject (the melodic theme) as each voice successively announces it in a different register; you can also perceive and marvel at certain 183

is the excuse for.a friendwalks into your livingroom and asks your politicalissue. does film.Ultimatelyit is the narrative thatdetermine the between music and the restof the film'ssystem. You returnquickly to the Baroque music station. for example.Yale FrenchStudies of permutations the subject as.themovement still more recognizableform. You are suddenlyfaced withan opinion on a timely lose completely threads thatmagnificent the of either/or proposition: In wherenarrative fugue. organizaing discourse. of effectiveness filmmusic. To judge filmmusicas we judge ' respectedcritics that "pure" musicis to ignoreitsstatusas a partof the collaboration context.the cementof. While you discuss. the stationchangesand yourconversation suddenly Sixtiesblues. music'smost This example raisesa pointupon whichsome of film have not insisted.the music continues. ing the fugue's rhetorical and rearrangement sound which of of that abstract arrangement and and is musicbecause it is nonrepresentational non-narrative. forexample. three of 'Sir ArthurBliss.reof deemed by centuries cultureand dignity. in Grove's Dictionary Music and Musicians.it is played at different fugue. wrote: "In the last resortfilmmusicshouldbe judged solelyas music-that is to say. it. brazenlyimprovised accompanied by some drunkenly. is played or rhythms tempiwhileembeddedin theongoing and in melodic inversionwhile yet other voices play the subject in its of witheach new phrase." 184 . tte-a-tete.Absent-mindedly allow yourhand to playwith you is the radio dial. of not inhabitthe perceptualforeground the narrative is and Let us further suppose thatthe interlocutor attractive you decide to put aside the Bach on the radio. "cheapening"theambienceofyour This strikes you as inappropriate. transforms At the heartof the more musical materialconstantly performance. a film.the interrelations is the film. or on We maysee musicas "meaning".or ignorethewould-beinterlocutor. just as we probablywill choose to and thereby cease followconcentrateon the politicalconversation We forsakeany consideration structures. it by the ear alone. and the raison d'etreof the film's existence we opt to focus attentionon the narrativeand visual realitieson the screenbeforeus. and the questionof its value depends on whether can standup to thistest.

If we listento a Bach fugue.Claudia Gorbman levels in any film. ArtsBooks. it bears specific to elementsin the film. 15-21. . " Nicolas Ruwet. and ways in whichit does so shall be called cinematic centerof interest. pseudo-classical. ou ses effets Seuil."naturalistic". pp. even as our experienceas spectators that taking affirm musicquite "naturally" belongsinmovies. 3Cf.Without as literature old as Lessingon comparative the timeto refer critical to arts.The first historical:music for silentfilms century dramatic of developed as an outgrowth nineteenth in traditions. nerian.rhythmically irregular) withtherhetoric musicaldiscourse(nonrepresenof incommensurate tational.2 systemof a coffeehouse wherepeople discusspoliticsor play chess functionsmore in its culturalcontext. hand a greatdeal about thestyle to Third. music in a filmrefers thefilm-that is.it refersto culturalmusical codes (and elicits enculturated reactions). ed. these latterwill formour primary The Presenceof Music There might something be paradoxicalabout thepresinherently seems to ence of musicin films..musique. New York: Communication 185 . also had thedecidedly It practical et dans sa structure non dans son origine 2"Le sens d'une musique est a chercher poisie (Paris: psychologiques. folk-activates these culturalcodes.The various formalrelationships coexistent musicalcodes. 1975). we may put the problem thus: is not the rhetoricof filmic discourse (representational.3 Further. p. .musicon thislevel refers musicalcodes. the music Wagthatplays while a film'screditsunroll-jazz. 43. narrative musiccommunicated thathas since been restoredto the province dialogue of information taskof drowning and sound effects. generating The Bach fugue playingpleasantlyon the sound to music itself.in Langage.rhythmically regular)?What explainsmusicbeing there at all? We may identify several reasons for the existenceof music in is accompanimentto the silent film.independifferent we to of dently anyotheractivity. Roger Manvell and JohnHuntly.The Techniqueof Film Music (rev. For example. are listening thefunctioning pure of musicaldiscourse. 1972). and can reveal beforeto and subjectof thenarrative come. thesilentfilm."lyrical".

20-21. pp. the silentfilm. of acting. pp. 6Jean Mitry. 1947). Translationmine. p.who wereat thesame timesilent.What was missing the film markthe psychological whichcould internally timeof the dramain relationto the was primary sensationof real time.whatwas missing a beat capable of justifying cinematicrhythm and cadence.the silentfilmwas incapable of makingthe specof tatorexperiencea real feeling duration." was providedby music. Composer Hanns Eisler refinesthispoint in citingthe "magic function" filmmusic: of as to Music was introudced a kindof antidoteagainstthepicture. Composingfor theFilms (London: Denis Dobson. In addition. 75.Admittedly musicin thiscase is little of it nevertheless. 186 ."the out the unromantic noise of themovie-house projectors. This beat. a more formalconsideration.6 Noel Burch also writesabout the function rhythmic of but medition. this "temporalcontent. musicwas introudced to supplythemwiththe lifetheylacked-but to exorcise not fear or help the spectatorabsorb the shock. the temporalrelationsof the shotsand sequences-all thiswas perfectly in was a sortof beat well understood-ratherthanfelt.5 All of these functions may be qualifiedas instancesof musicas betweenspecmediation:betweenfilm and olderdramatic traditions.The factthatthey and livingand nonliving thesame timeis whatconstitutes at their ghostly character. spare the spectatorthe unpleasantness are and even speakingpersons. of tator and circumstances projection. The need was felt involvedin seeingeffigies living. of thatthe rhythm musicmediatedbetweenreal timeas experienced timeadheredto by by the audience and the diegeticor psychological the film: Owing to its unrealistic nature. stressing on Fritz Lang's Mabuse made a much greaterimpression all of us whenwe were like finally able to see itwitha musicalaccompaniment thatprovidedin thedaysof morethansoundbackground.Esthetiqueet psychologiedu cinema (Paris: Klincksieck. 'Hanns Eisler..The timelivedby the characters the of drama. providesa timescale againstwhichthe "rhythms" thedicoupage 4Ibid. silentfilmsappeared very livelinessof the action in the primitive of to unnaturaland ghostly without some form sound corresponding such visual vitality"4: musicseemed to help fleshout theshadowson the screen.In otherwords. II. 118-119.Yale FrenchStudies Fourth.between spectatoras living " JeanMitry maintains being and thecinemaas "ghostly.1965).

p. Eisler recalls the basic social functions music-that of is. The old stagetheater. 100. KurtLondon's comments thewaymusicalrhythm on gives"auditory accentuation and profundity" the overall filmic to rhythm intothe same category Burch'spoints.the camera restsexclusively the cellistforan entiremovementof the cello sonata he plays. on During the concert. It seeks to breatheintothepictures of the lifethatphotography taken away fromthem.Claudia Gorbman become farmore concrete. fall as 8Eisler. Theoryof Film Practice(New York: Praeger. as soon as the curtainwentdown. Music betweenthe acts metthatneed. the spectator pays attentionto it only incidentally.8 has Clearly the majorityof these factorscontinue to prevail.' Finally. two other for factors pre-emptour interest. p. 187 . to one Filmmusicis an established fact degree or another. was confronted need. It is the systematic fabrication the atmosphereforthe eventsof whichit is itself some partand parcel.whichholds together elementsthatotherwise would oppose each other unrelated-the mechanical product and the spectators. we watch the cellistperform. to create a feeling collectivity communality of or (anotherform of "mediation")-to elaborate upon music's social function films. 1973). in conventionalnarrative cinema. in whereinit acts as a cement. but used also and precisely of somethingto be seen. Cinema musicis when thereis universalizedbetween-the-acts music. Second. 59.we tend to concentrate muchon the factof Paul's spectatorial as presenceas on the explicitcontentof the scene (musiciansand music). note. and Neverthelessit is constantly engagedin an existential aestheProof of this film-music tic strugglewith narrativerepresentation.and also the spectators witha similar themselves.Since previous shots have strongly suggestedthatthe concertis seen from Paul's pointof view. But narrative context wins out nonetheless.photography/cinematography encourages special "aesthetic" a mode of contemplating content.in thesound film.Take forexamplea scene in Rohmer'sMa Nuitchez Maud whereinprotagonist to Paul accompaniesa friend a concert.Even thoughthe musicclaimstheforeground. in examining dialecticlies films wherethepure musicalcodes apparentlydominate.In the act of placing its object in a frame. its 7Noel Burch. too.

constantly denyingthe viewer the of immersionin a fictionalcontinuity.to show that althoughfilmmusic undeniably to possesses its own internallogic.well outsidetheconventions of classical narrative. has at least thinnedthe textureof cinematiclanguage to a pointwhere and enjoyedas suchby musical rhetoric once morebe recognized can minimalization necesthe spectator. in 9lnterview Cahiersdu cinemaNo. and then pulls back suddenlyinto a general shot because the orchestrahas enteredforthe movement's closing tutti. Thus. Chronicle. 188 . The Music/Scene Relationship (Nondiegeticmusic) Straub's film an extreme is example.and whenI sense thatthereis a cinematographic languageI try to to destroyit before it is born."Trans. Maureen Turim. I'm trying eliminateall the obstacles betweenthe spectatorand what I'm showingof reality. Chroniclereconfirms factof subordithe nation of musical messages to narrativemessages in the standard featurefilm.The film consists primarily musof ical performances. Straub has said thathis cinema is "freeof language.."9thatcineIn he matic rhetoric would obscurethe filmed reality. As spectator'swill to impose narrative an exception to the rule. it alwaysbears a relationship the film in which it appears. pleasure at so Chronicle requires leasttwoviewings. nonmusical any elements thereto add authenare ticity and meaningto the Bach worksperformed. The camera is motivated little musicalcodes: it frames by but a medium close-up of "Bach" playinga harpsichord cadenza in the FifthBrandenburgConcerto. thattheviewer maylearnto on experiencethe music withoutinsisting cinematic(narrative)discourse. our next task is to consider the between music and the filmic textsin whichit possible interactions "participates".Yale FrenchStudies Jean-MarieStraub's Chronicleof Anna Magdalena Bach further illustrates music-film the dialectic. For this reason. The actorsdeliver their lines in a flat monotone. 223 (August 1970): "I'm trying make films to thathave no language.The drasticdegree of cinematic of sary in this enterpriseattests eloquentlyto the enormity the in a motivations viewing film.

themon selves polysemic. forexample. Siegfried Kracauer.Kracauer's reactions to a drunken movie-house pianist from his childhood.Claudia Gorbman as relationships The restrictednumber of possible film/music limitedlargely primitive. l We may thenraise the issue: isn'tany musicusuallysufficient to accompany a segmentof film?In fact.writesthatcountermeanings" point occurs when music and pictureconvey "different that meet in a montageeffect:"Imagine the close-up of a sleeping of music:it is all but face whichappears to the rhythms nightmarish betweenthese sounds and inevitablethatthe intriguing discrepancy so peaceful a pictureshould puzzle us.the answeris yes. 1965).thenotionofmutual and better. Whatever will have an music is applied to a filmsegmentwill do something. 189 . one of question and answer. recall the Surrealists' delight discovery on everyplane of life where thereissued a "fortuitous encounter" '0SiegriedKracauer. Further. as a rule.the notionsof parallel and counterpoint erroneously assume theimageas autonomous.Eisler comments theinadequacyof thenotionof parallelism: is but. itis debatablethat of be information conveyedby disparatemedia can justifiably called the same or different. 141. implication might help us at least to considertheproblem For withtherespectdue to films anycomplexity. whose inattention the screen resultedin pleasinglyunorthodox to in audio-visualcombinations. p. 70. I IEisler.Kracauer'sveryexamples show how music helps the viewerto definethe images. and nature of This is dictatedby thedivergence themedia in questionand thespecific of each. Theory Film (New York: OxfordUniversity of Press. p."'0 Is there no other way to qualifyfilmmusic whichdoes not lie between these opposites but outside them? If we must summarize in music/diegesis relationships twowordsor less. Either the music "resembles" or it "contradicts" actionor mood of whathappens the on the screen.thisrelation notone ofsimilarity.appearance and essence.affirmation negation. discussed by most scholarsseems curiously to the concepts of parallelismand counterpoint. will effect-just as whatevertwowordsa poet putstogether produce a meaning different fromthat of each word separately. From the aesthetic pointofview.

drunken word-gamesvs.cinematicspace. traditional will score by JohnWilliams). as of harmonies dramaticimportance tension-producing music's capacityto investigate well as general style. Any music will do (something).ifinsteadof orchestrated were to "hit" music a sudden tense dissonanceor Indian drumbeat the charactersin Stagecoach as theywend theirway across Monurevise our mental inventory of ment Valley. In a sequence fairly earlyin the film.And whethera certainmontageof elementsis intendedor not (surrealist the pianistvs.and Jim road in a sortof metonymical image of their bicycledown a country A as own lives' trajectories.and deliberately "wrong" musicto thewrongscenes. we would drastically the of interpretations the drama of the moment. atmosphere. carefully apply the writtenfor particularscenes in his film. pedalingvery littlemore thana trioof speckson theirwinding thatdialecticof fate and freewill thatcharacregularly. from Truffaut's Jules a and point of view.Catherine. sound effects. and theyform experience.Yale FrenchStudies between two unlikelyentities. are dialogue. absolutelyinseparableduringthe viewing of a combinatoire expression. long high-angle shotshowsthe bicyclers road.Jules.To demonstrate use of diegesis.Let us further create rhythm. The Stagecoachexamplealreadysuggests and pauses.but the coincidencein time of effects accordingto the dynamics music and scene creates different folk of and structure the music. a poetic activity.Jean Cocteau wrotethathe actually of on scored some of his films theprinciple whathe called "accidental he synchronization": would take George Auric's music.The musical themethatplays teristically pervades Truffaut's with each other for notes alternating consists of two neighboring 190 . Obviously.and music-track The point is thatimage.we might the tool of interdependence musicand film of and applying differcommutation taking by anysmallsegment film the ent typesof musicto it. embodying films. spectatorialdistance. by selecting shortsegment and Jim. Eisensteinhad pointedto music as one of the elementsin the montagethatcomprisesa film.theircorroboration generatemeanings.

12 Thoughitcan hardly to be called an interesting melody. Indeed. on Let us now perform commutation the bicycling a segment by changingthe musicon the soundtrack. a sensation of mechanicalness. in and. a solo tuba (morehumor). Or we might to change the tempo of the music. to set The regularity themusicalrepetition of emphasizesthe regularity of the characters'pedaling motions. especiallyby contrast itspreviousstatement major. a sadder. a large orchestra (overblown.Romanticexcess). in and perhaps even an optimism previously not suggested Delerue's score. ofcourse.it gives to all the more poignancy themood of itsscene. thereis its relationship a particular of images.this musicwilladd an energy. although and there no question of identity betweenmusicaland diegeticrhythm. allegrostaccato. moreremotefeeling scene.Delerue's delicate woodwind-andits string orchestration counteracts inherent dullness.the music is.each would have correson ponding effects the way we receivethe diegeticinformation.Nevertheless. phrasing).darker.Claudia Gorbman measureson end beforeresolving a cadence. allkgresseto thethree an characters' bicycling. musicturns regularly. would be affected we by narstrangely indeed. made consciousof a perversely manipulative the thereis rator. as well as articulation (accents. Changesin rhythm. I2Allegretto - r i9 191 .The allegretto tempo and the the total lack of harmonicor rhythmic surprises only reinforce dieIt is important notethattherhythms not are to geticpedalingrhythm. later in the filmthe melody does appear in minor. reinforcing detachment conveyedin the highangle shot. one and the same: if each musicaldownbeatcoincidedexactlywith each turnof the pedal shaft each character. Further changes could be broughton the theme in termsof instrumentation: imaginethe difference effect the melodywere in if on performed a solo violin(more pathos).Also.ifwe put the musicinto comesupon the a minormode. First. If played muchfaster. in a not does result the unpleasant way.

"Le Tourbillon" is firstperformedin the film Catherine(and by Albert. Speaking of associations.in turn.in on all its force.a secondary by suitor). and separations-are reinforced a pleasantlyrepetitive by tune. his/her pleasure in recognizing in a new context with"readingthe story"of the film. But a theme is by definition musicalelementthatis repeatedduring course a the of a work. and partlyalso because of the culturalassociationsof this musical of style(historical period.class) thatenterto colorour perception the threesome.In a later scene Catherine sings a song. Such a theme." that subsequentlyfinds itself thesoundtrack background on as music. an escort of accumulated meanings. carriesno such thematic baggage.we need only to commutea well-known piece of classicalmusic-say.sincethefilmgoer it ical warhorse. as such it picks up diegeticassociations. we may compose a piano boogie-woogiefor in the afternoon This injectshumornot inherent the image.Yale FrenchStudies We could replace the entireunitof musicby anothertheme. "Le Tourbillon. Wouldn'tthistune work well as nondiegetic musicforour bicycling theme?Yes. of it partlyby virtueof the ungainly juxtaposition rhythms creates.it is not stillmerely but X plus X. The melodywhichin factaccompaniesthescene complicity occurrence. If this melody were to accompanythe bicycling shots of the three on in protagonists. it bringsout stylistic in theusual processesof culturalinformation goes unrecognized that 192 . forthisis its first On the otherhand. would function such a way as to put theweight it Catherine-to imply some manner of narrativefocus on her or withher. affairs. Moreover.The lyrics in the sungversion-words thatemphasizethecharacter love as a of circular.which. theopeningof Beethoven's FifthSymphony. infusethemselvesinto each new thematic statement. threatensto interfere Silence music on Since commutation focuses our attention the existing and versus the music that mighthave been.would lend uncalled-for to epic grandeur thepoor trioof knowsthismusunsuspecting bicyclers. cyclists. textualeleIf mentX is repeatedlaterin a text.to imagineitseffect thescene.repetitive series of meetings.

filmmakers have indeedtendedto ignoremusitraditionally. p.) Conventional has practice made an anchorof background music.takenfrom soundtrack. completenondiegeA tic silencewould be extremely unlikely in anywhere Jules and Jim.Claudia Gorbman filmviewing.surtout de pas trou. we The effect theabsenceofmusicalsoundmustneverbe underesof timated.But thereis another commutation have not yet considered:silence. to diegetic sound with no music can function effectively make the morepalpable. Muzak-like overlayso oftenthrust the spectator's on consciousness. For nondiegeticsilence. picking up on Maurice Jaubert'scomplaintas early as 1936 that filmmakers call on composersonly to underscore(constantly the ) moods and actionsof scenes and "boucher les troussonores. In this sort of scene whichconventionally demandsbackground music.(WithResnais or Herzog.For if this silence seems oneiric. Difense et illustration la musiquede film(Lyon: Socidtdd'ddide tion.) The spiritof easy collectivity among Truffaut's characters would be alteredif themusic. the lefta void. this depends on what kind of silence is imposed. 1963). the soundtrackis completelywithout sound. Et si trou il y a. 193 . cal silencesin mixing theirsoundtracks. and whyit is so dreamlike. yourisk is and the confronting audience withan image thattheymightfailto "interpret". de recherches documentation et cindmatographiques. let alone the bicyclingsegment. Dream sequences or otherfilmic depictions intensemental of activity sometimesrunto a silentsoundtrack. thesequestionsare more appropriate.we mightask ourseles whose dream or memorywe are watching. 51.Avec de la musique. bouchons-le.and again suggests breadthof the subliminal the power that music exerts duringthe filmexperience. "Pas de trou."'13 What would a musical silence do to the bicyclers'promenade? Interestingly. Remove it froma scene whose emotionalcontent notexplicit. I3Henri Colpi. in theabsence ofthat diegeticspace more immediate." Henri Colpi voiced thiscriticism.such thatit dictateswhatour response to the images oughtto be. (It also emphasizesthatthe characters not speaking. c'est un des cris de terreurdes cineastes. A consistof the characters diegeticmusical silencemight wendingtheir way along the road to the sole sound of pedals and gearscreaking. are wherethere is no music to mitigate thisverbalsilence.

In the openingscene.and pushedinto riversby men.so thatwhen in factthereis no music. No musiccould be as eloquent as the lack of it here. playing as boys' games-depicted as harmless-which involvevariousdegrees of trickery and pettytheft. A similarly somberuse of absentmusicoccursin Fellini'sNights of Cabiria. of thatis. represented. was theFrenchfilmologues the 1950s.Yale FrenchStudies A structural silence occurs where sound previously presentin a filmis laterabsentat structurally corresponding points.untilthe finalsequence is reached.when theyhave graduatedinto"real" crime. and this silence points out a structuralrelation showing.in a way.Again. music leaves the soundtrack. The silence suggestsa loss of frivolity. introducing the two protagonists young boys.The first sequence follows. "1915". the man provesto have deceived her. that the filmhas virtually created Cabiria as a woman to be deceived. Public Enemy (Wellman. and again. no musicplays on the soundtrack. Narrative/Diegesis had exploredthe Although by the 1920s the Russian Formalists basic distinction the between"fable" (the narrated story.The film thus encourages us to expect the (musical) sound as before. suitorshoves Cabiria into the while on the screen an untrustworthy riverand runsoffwithher purse.we are aware of its absence. "1909". 1931) begins with a title shot. the diegesis) and the "subject" (the cinematic treatment the story.she has with her all her life's savings.Its corresponding introductory titleshot.cheery musicin a majorkey. For example. its narrative it of representation). who refined certainconthatpaved the way fora systematic cepts and terminology studyof 194 . accompaniedbybusy. thistimeis not accompaniedby any music. headed by GilbertCohen-Seat. Cabiria and her beloved husband-to-bewalk atop a steep cliffoverlookinga river. An abundantly music-filled movie follows. The nextsequence takes place six years later.robbed. fall fromthe childa hood games of innocencethathad initiated twointotheir the livesas criminals.

Film Language (New York: OxfordUniversity Press. (b) Two adjoining locations supposedlyhundreds feetapartin diegeticspace.First. 211. (c) Sometimesthere of are two actors (e. The primary narration designatesthe principallevel of narration. also Ch.g. Christian of Metz. or a star and a stuntman double) to or successively depict the same diegeticcharacter. diegetic:all thatbelongs.Souriau's wordingshows a more exactingconcern forsome important details. all edited and spliced together.g."'5 the narrated to story. the to world supposed or proposedby the film's fiction. Second.he takescare to furnish examples of both spatial and temporaldiegetization filmic of elements.Gerard Genette definesthe diegesisas "the spationarration. we may summarizeand define "diegesis" as being the narratively impliedspatiotemporal worldof theactionsand characters.Claudia Gorbman filmnarrative. 7. Ex: (a) Two sequencesprojected consecutively represent can two scenes separatedin the diegesisby a long interval (several hoursor yearsof diegetic studiosetscan represent time)." 16Etienne Souriau. "D'un recitbaroque": Figures.. a child and an adult. give us the impression of some "real" world theyare supposedlyextracted from? We seem to 14Gerard Genette. At thispoint. or participatio) extradiegeticelements. Translation mine. metalepsis.to infer logically continuous universe. on amplifies thisdefinition terms of cinema specifically: Diegesis. What in a film makes it possibleforus to infer that charactersand space exist even when theydo not appear on a screen."by inference. II (Paris: Editionsdu Seuil. pp. as opposed to stories-within-the-story Genetteterms which metadiegetic narration. 1969). v. a Frenchfilmologue."114 Etienne temporal universereferred by the primary to in Souriau. as and opposed to narrative instrusions from without (e.ed.'6 Genette's and Souriau's definitions agree thatthe diegesismeans the space-timeuniverseand its inhabitants referred by the princito pal filmicnarration. 4.then. whose importancewill presently become clear. a problem arises in filmstudy:how to pinpointthis narrative implication.Cf. L'Universfilmique (Paris.1953). However. whenthefilm presents only a series of two-dimensional compositions-discreteand discontinuous shots? In other words. Cohen-Seat). 195 . p. 97ff.p. how do the perceived sounds and images. 15Orig: "dans l'intelligibilite (comme ditM. 1974). he includesthephrase"by inference" ("dans l'intelligibilit6").

the diegesis. the Significantly. denotative.both nondiegetic. It is not difficult realize thatthe soundtrack to takes manymore liberties with the diegesis than does the image track.Yale FrenchStudies have psychologicalcapacityto impose continuity filmedimages on and sounds beforeus-a capacityto take Kuleshov's littlesequence composed of a shot of a man's face followedby a shotof a bowl of soup followedby a shot of the man again.Natural sounds or sound effects. The reason forthislies in the ambiguity many sounds when presented out of the contextof theirsound source. was considered forced and dated. tend to remaindiegetic(unless theyaccompanyalso nonof diegetic images). visions.In the silents.and the like. onlyelementof filmic discoursethatappears extensively in nondiegeticas well as diegeticcontexts. infer. of visual metaphors commonly appeared.is music. structural. is all the more violently perturbed nondiegetic by images.whichcommented a montage on depicting townsfolkspreading gossip.connotative196 .and oftenfreely crosses the boundaryline in between.In addition introto dreams. On theotherhand. From three fragments a supposed reality. In the sound film. to a shot in Fritz Lang's Fury: a nondiegeticinsertof cacklinghens. "metadiegetic" images-those supposedly in naratedor "imagined"by a character thefilm-persist. Such was the reaction as early as 1936. and to say thatthe man standsnear the table and is lookingat thefood (even beforejumping we to the connotative level on which perceivehimexpressing hunger). use of visualmetathe phor strikes as artificial.fantasies. Voice-over commentariesand verballynarratedflashbacks. punctuate many filmnarratives. however.Once we understand that the flexibility musicenjoys withrespectto the filmdiegesis. Filmmakershave departed fromstrictly diegeticrepresentation almost since the beginning filmitself. dramatic.we kindsof functions can have: it begin to recognizehow manydifferent temporal. all narrative us representation presents thesubjectfrom whichwe derive the fable. a whole flashback is duced by a character(who thusbecomes a secondarynarrator) a common elementof filmdiscourse. of we re-construct. us sincetherealistic integrity thediegesis. of seemingly enhanced by the lifelike presenceof soundsand dialogue. spatial.

and a host of others the of since 1930 participatein a strongGallic tradition exploiting in diegeticambiguity inherent film music. Renoir. or inferred. thefilmic space ofthe cafe.Claudia Gorbman levels both in the diachronic flowof a film and at variousinterpretive simultaneously. On whichnarrative X level do we read this music? It is certainly not diegetic. deliberately loves to use componentsof his filmic discourse.Resnais. Beginning earlyas La Strada. In a certainsense. while X and his best friendY sit in a bleak cafe discussingtheirirretrievable joys.And Vigo.for blursthe linebetweendiegeticand nondiegetic example. Fellini. and the metadiegetic (pertaining to narrationby a secondarynarrator)-may we speak also of metawe diegeticfilm music?A hypotheticl instance:earlyin a film witness the greatromanceof protagonist whichends tragically the X. Clair. As one ofitsmostdeeplyentrenched of conventions. 197 . Diegeticmusic a. Y bringsup the name of Xs lost love. Gremillon.While most viewerswill agree on whethera musicissuesfrom diegeticsourceor not. a particularinstanceof film a caveat-itself withrichconsequences-is in orderhere. Definitions Diegetic music: music that (apparently)issues from a source withinthe narrative. Years later.a fundamental 17 structuring principle hisfilms. This strikesa chord: a change comes over Xs face. 28. and music swells onto the soundtrack.the Hollywood musicalalso plays on the tensionsthat creates. If Genette has distinguished leastthreelevelsofnarration-the at diegetic(arisingfromthe primary narration).and he particularly music to serve thispurpose. extradiegetic the (narrativeintrusion upon the diegesis)." Film Quarterly 2 (Winter1974-75):17-25. during War. Carne.Fellini as to elevated this distinction the statusof a dialectic.forthe forty-piece orchestra in thatplays is nowhereto be seen. melodythathad played earlyin the the filmon the night had mether. we mayhear it as bothextradiegetic-for its 17See my articleon Nights Cabiria: "Music as Salvation:Notes on Felliniand of Rota. the musically diegetic/nondiegetic ambiguity Duvivier.

45.we may agree thata metadiegetic readingdependson justificationby narrative contextand on otherspecific cinematic conventions.Yale FrenchStudies lack of a narrative source-and metadiegetic-sincethescene's conof versationseems to trigger memory the romanceand the song X's that went with it. filmmusic as Curiously. Soundtrack: thisthoughtless Hopkinson and Blake. forexampleMark Evans.be it diegetic or nondiegeticmusic.If it is alwaysa bit presumptuousto assume as truth thata diegeticuniverseexists somewhere beyond the bounds of screen and soundtrack. 1975). theycontend. Even Manvell and Huntleyperpetuate cf. as such.capable of expression. and to make statements based on those assumptions-about a character's psychological motivations. distinction: The Techniqueof Film Music. music" demands rigorous Although the question of "point-of-view analysis. the issue is not its and truth/falsity value-for music is not representational. will be feltin associationwith diegeticevents. p."realistic". effect of What we mayindeed remark about thespecialexpressive diegeticmusicis its capacityto createirony. 198 . or diegetic. roles of diegetic music b. to Note where this speculationleads us: to the veryfrontiers that in separate thegivenfromtheinferred readinga film.he "takes over" part of the film's narrationand we are privileged read his musicalthoughts. wordlessly. by In reading music as metadiegeticor not.18 We need only thinkof countless nightclubscenes where countlesscouples declare theirlove to soft music: sometimesa (diegetic) orchestraor jukebox plays it. Affective The mood of any music on the soundtrack. a more "natural"way in The Musicof theMovies(New York: 18See. at cannot lie-but ratherits connectionto a secondarynarrator all. sometimes it plays nondiegetically the soundtrack-with about the on same expressivevalue.divorcedfromthe tasksof articulating moods and dramatictensions. criticsoftenmake the errorof classifying eithernondiegeticand therefore. theorderof narrative or eventsin diegetic thatcertain music to time-it is one step morepresumptuous suggest heard in a filmis being thought a diegeticcharacter.

Lazzari puts the second movementof Beethoven's FifthSymphony the on record player. mentaryon her lover's death. has broughtprotagonist Cabiria.The unfortunate telegramarrives. Nights Cabiria. Fellini paces the action to matchexactlythemovement thesymphony.sayingthather fiance has just been killed.Thereare. the gay music "unaware" of its ironiccomcontinuesto revel on the soundtrack. repeats the year 1949 199 . Now imagine the scene conceived differently. "his" creativeeffrontery strikesus withgreaterforcein the second case-even puzzlement.the heroine sits at home chattingwith a neighbor. a prostitute. having inspected the champagne and its vintage.While theywaitfortheservant bring to dinner. The most closely synchronized music-scene coordination is what we shall call "orchestration". thepointof a great of At crescendoand modulation. or until Lazzari removes it fromthe turntable. This practice in fact impliesa departureof diegeticmusic fromits naturalistic independence and a movement toward action-imitating the music. rhythm mood of the diegeticmusicthat"coincidentally" playswitha scene has been made to match the scene's mood and pace withan uncannyconsistency. Imagine for instance that the heroine is enjoying herself at a party.and a nondiegetic rendition thejitterbug of accompaniestheclose-up.makes its disparity events acceptable. Even thoughwe know that the narratorhas been equally responsible for the music/image ironyin the partyscene.thenarration withthe filmed motivates.Suddenlya message arrivesforher. In of Lazzari. In the dominantfilmmaking and tradition. Instead of being at a party. his home to forthe night.The spectacular interplay continues: duringa quiet. of roleswe might morereadily expectof nondiegetic course.Claudia Gorbman than nondiegeticmusic. pensive momentin the Beethoven.naturalizesthe music.Now this seems a shocking exercise in sheer style and narrativeselfconsciousness. By takingmusic meant as extranarrative commentand rendering diegeticin the first it example. For the rest of the durationof the piece.Lazzari. servant a wheelsin a majestictrayloaded withfood in silverserving dishes. degrees of this improbable fusion of diegetic music with action. As a close-upshowsus the note.a richactor. people dance and shout to a lively jitterbug.

the "feel".Yale FrenchStudies nostalgically. the A degreeof stylization achievedbymanipulating characters' is action so that they submitto musical divisionof time ratherthan in film. A The on saloon piano plays "HesitationBlues" faintly thesoundtrack.than extradiegetic music.19 c. for example. typically cuttingto new quadrantsof space.cinematic Diegeticmusic space "naturally" and fleshesout film mixing.The characters thenarrative become objects we conventionally accept as subjects. In Wellman'sPublicEnemy. As the camera eye searchesout unfolds. temporal continuity It is all to easy to overlook the fact that in the contextof a and foremost sound. a boys open thesaloon door and themusicbecomeslouder. of 200 . space levels further determine quality.diegeticmusic functions Here we are in a realmfarfromthe concernsof pure musicalcodes.sound space. ifdirected themusicto do so at thattimeand no as by other. the sound source. highly organizeddisposition time-to be the oppositeof spontanof have been created.diegeticmusic-as well as of space withall dialogue and sound effects. Tom Powers and Matt Doyle stand outside the Red Oaks Club.After cut to the inside the camera tracksby theRed Oaks' adolescentclientele and comes to rest on Putty-Nosewho is playingthis song at the '9This example is taken frommy articleon Nights Cabiria. Contributing a to realism. whom dramaticor realistic time. We sense thatthe characters and theydo not inspireus to identify withthem.unquestionably withthe music: when theirmovementsand speech coincide strictly for we can consider musical rhythm-an abstract. Music can also createdepthin space.the music employed definitedeparturefrompsychological narrative intrusion. as first narrativefilm. course-can articulate the more directional precision. but which bears greatlyon notions of cinematicspace.mathematical. of framed/lived the in a givenfilm. even though acts ironicallyas a much stronger diegetic. Diegeticmusic. and variablesin recording. Offscreen motivatescamera movementand/or sound. volume space. eous.In films withstereosound. "real" time.

The Blue Angel bases a whole scene on the power of the soundembartrackto describephysicalvolumes. for what he described as a "bracket syntagma"of musicians in the recording a televisionstudioduring openingcreditsequence is as unity the single by actuallya "scene. as however. 1974). The famedbreakfast-table at wifesitting progressively forexample. showingKane and his first 20Christian Metz. continuous in sion from soft to loud means a continuousmovementforward cinematicspace. diegetic time. (This verypointwas of contiguity the discreteshots analysisof Adieu Philiplost at the beginning Metz's syntagmatic of pine. 150. somewhat time. Often at rassed." held together one temporal continuoustune the musiciansare playing.Professor Rath. it mayhave a variety temporal The example fromPublic Enemy shows how diegeticmusicplaying and spatial our continuously strongly reinforces sense of thetemporal in a sequence."in Film Language (New York: OxfordUniversity Press. "Outline of the AutonomousSegments JacquesRozier's film in Adieu Philippine." 201 . it provides depth cues: since loud means "near" and softmeans "far" a progres(with corresponding levels of reverberation).Under no circumstances.it providesabsolutetemporal tinuous shots. The musichas of course played continuously the cut and has grownlouderuntilthemediumcloseupofPutty-Nose at the piano. sequence.a new piece of music is heard on the soundtrack.20 use musicto bridgegaps of Montage sequences often extradiegetic sequence in CitizenKane. towardthe sound source.minor two doors through which characters"happen" to enterby eitherof the sleazilyplayedmusicfrom girlie escape sounds of laughter and/or of show. p." Second. The diegeticmusicin thisscene has a double function.the last fewmoments the creditsequence may be seen as a new and of different recordingsession-since.can we read the film'sbeginning a discontinuous"bracketsyntagma. Actually. whichmay Since a piece of musichas itsown temporalstructure. is meetingLola Lola backstage forthe first momentsthatadd ironicpunctuation Rath's halting to words. precisely.Claudia Gorbman across barroom piano. continuity twospatially to disconFirst. The expressivefunctions diegeticmusichere are motivated by its spatial functions. of film or may not coincide withthe temporalstructure a narrative in of functions thenarration. acting as a seamless "auditorymatch.

often narratively progressionfromone viewpointto another.the of deserving cinematicmusical codes are deployedin ways crucially the analyst'sattention. for example.subjectiveinstance(as the woman walks the London streets an havingstabbed the man to death. Tynyanov. Conclusion cinematic musicalcodes and emphasizIn privileging specifically this narration. But forthe filmgoer on whose attentionis fixedon a storyrepresented the screen. in of types continuity We might coursepersist enumerating of other structural. In a key segmentof playing Hitchcock's Blackmail (1929).a nonas and so on. filmmusic acts on and is perconditions. of ing some functions musicin the contextof a filmic It musiccriticism. view. What oughtto be clear is the synergetic qualityof musicin films.Yale FrenchStudies signaling each otheras theyearspass.among all levels of the narrepresentational of is ration. is simply to the essay attempts shift balance of film similar thoseused for to musicby criteria to not sufficient judge film judging autonomous music.dramatic. so on. tissue. seems Change the score on the soundtrack. or it can assure a continuous.speaking 202 . accordingto a film's and the natureof its auditors/spectators. that music can promote: thematic.has a theme-andshot music-as well as equallysymmetrical compositionsvariations bridgeand demarcatethe temporaldiscontinuities to simultaneously in the diegesis. and on the soundtrack increasof alteredversion the and inglyorchestrated harmonicaly/acoustically originaldiegeticpiano themeis heard).and the image-track of literary works. wrote: "The transformed. a continuously (as musical theme leads the spectatorfrom"objective" narration a to male suitor plays the piano to the woman protagonist) a guiltridden.rhythmic. One area thatinvitesextensiveexploration the function in music withrespectto pointof view: forit can markshifts pointof "illogical". visually greaterdistancesfrom the emotional distancethatgrowsbetweenthem. In each case music funtions connecting providerof relations. Clearly. screening ceived on different levels.

We have suggestedthe importance the notionof mediation of in understanding presenceand functions film the of music.via extratextual culturaldeterminations also through and textualrepetition and in conjunctionwiththe rest of the film'ssoundtrack and variation.betweenpointsin diegetic space and time (transitional functions).The correlation of withtheothersis itsfunction each factor withrelation thesystem.Claudia Gorbman work representsa systemof correlatedfactors. mood. Finally.the connotative values whichmusiccarries.shading.expression. tween narratingagencies (objective/subjective between narrators). in The questionremainshow to present cogenttheoretical arguments thisfield:formood-the mostobviousand oft-mentioned function of filmmusic-originates in the complexof all connotative elementsin the filmicsystem.The statusof music as non-verbal and non-denotative allowsit to crossall varieties of "borders": betweenlevels of narration be(diegetic/nondiegetic)." to A study of the functions music in narrativecinema necessarily of entails a study of its relationswith other elementsin the textual system.Neverthelessit will be through close analysisof individualfilms thatwe mayarriveat understanding musicworks how in creating connotativemeanings at the most global level of the fiction. visuals. viewingtimeand psychological time.a difficult without point to interrogate recourse to much more exhaustivephenomenologicaldescription. What is mood? Certainly. largelydetermineatmosphere. 203 .

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