Log in

No account? Create an account

May 20th, 2009

An In-depth Look on Soundtrack Dissonance

Today, I'm going to write about a song, and its accompanying music video. The song is "I'm Not Alone", by Calvin Harris. It'll probably help if you know the video before reading this essay.

I'll let you finish watching that...

The video, as you saw, is about a man who grows up to be a mad scientist, and operates on women to make them dancers, and hopes to animate his lostteddy.

On paper, the concept sounds rather silly. Comical, even. In the video, however, it is sinister, and dark.
Part of this is due to the music. Traditionally, trance is considered to be happy and light, full of dancing. In this video, there is dancing, but the effect is far from happy. It is sinister. This contrasts beautifully with the lightness of the song.

Looking deeper into the song itself, there's a dark undercurrent to it. You have the main melody, which seems light and fluffy, but the backing instruments are decidedly subdued. Harris' voice is perfect for the song, portraying a lonely lyric that brings to mind a maman, alone with only his experiments to keep him company.

The video is a good metaphor for raves. Raves seem like fun, full of dancing and partying. However, bad things happen. Deaths, tainted drugs, dehydration, overhydration, ecstacy, violence. All of these happen at events that on the surface seem like great fun.
Not that I'm saying they're bad.

This leads me to soundtrack dissonance. Done correctly, soundtrack dissonance can create something powerful, as seen in the video. Another fantastic example is in the film Watchmen, where a fight scene was set to "Unforgettable". The scene gained a stronger feeling, one of sadness. A beautiful song set to a disturbing scene can stir powerful emotions. Sadness, regret, terror.

Another form of soundtrack dissonance is setting happy music to terrifying sequences, like the Mickey Mouse March to a massacre. Childhood memories are being affected, leading to thoughts of how things aren't supposed to be like this.

Unfortunately, soundtrack dissonance isn't always handled correctly. When this happens, the scene becomes unintentionally funny, and this is bad.

More people should pay attention to Mr. Harris. He's done it right.