Film Music 101: Anempathetic sound

Since yesterday I talked about empathetic sound in movies, today I thought it was only fitting to talk about the opposite: anempathetic sound.

As one might guess, anempathetic sound is when the music or sound effects in a movie stand in direct contrast to what is actually happening on the screen. For example, say you’re watching a horror movie and the upcoming victim is going about their day and say they turn on some music and a bright, chipper song is now playing (this would be diegetic music, see the first Film Music 101 post for the definition). Suddenly, the killer/monster strikes! While the victim dies a horrible, gruesome death, the happy song keeps playing on and on, indifferent to the plight of the victim.

Anempathetic sound does not have to occur solely with music however. In Hitchcock’s immortal classic Psycho, the famous shower scene takes place with the sound of running water playing continuously throughout. Even after the character is dead, the sound of water continues to play, also indifferent to the fact that a young woman was just murdered.

Never saw it coming, poor thing….

For more Film Music 101: see here

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