The Soundtrack of Time:
Investigating the Role of Music and Sound in
Narrative Creation within Historical
Cover images: promotional material of 11.22.63 (https://www.hulu.com/112263), Boardwalk Empire (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0979432/), Mad Men (
https://www.amazon.com/Mad-Men-Season-Jon-Hamm/dp/B000YABIQ6), Peaky Blinders
(http://www.immersiononline.net/television/Peaky-Blinders-third-season-review), The Crown (https://www.instacinefilos.com.br/) and The Handmaid’s Tale (https://www.hulu.com/press/show/the-handmaids-tale/)
The Soundtrack of the Time:
Investigating the Role of Music and Sound in Narrative Creation
within Historical Television Series
Robin Akkermans 10561080
25th of August, 2018
First Supervisor: Dhr. Dr. J.A. Teurlings Second Supervisor: Dhr. Dr. J.W. Kooijman Master Television and Cross-Media Culture University of Amsterdam
1. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK...9
1.1 The Types of Music Application...9
1.2 The Functions of Music...12
1.3 Emotive Evocation through Music...14
2. CORPUS AND METHODOLOGY...16
2.1 Corpus Introduction...16
2.1.1 Music in Chronical Time: Series...17
2.1.2 Music as an Anachronism: Series...17
2.1.3 Music in the Traditional Way: Series...18
3. MUSIC IN CHRONICAL TIME...20
Introduction...20 3.1 11.22.63...20 3.1.1 11.22.63: Scene 1...20 3.1.2 11.22.63: Scene 2...21 3.1.3 11.22.63: Scene 3...22 3.1.4 11.22.63: Scene 4...23 3.1.5 11.22.63 Conclusion...24 3.2 Boardwalk Empire...24
3.2.1 Boardwalk Empire: Scene 1...25
3.2.2 Boardwalk Empire: Scene 2...26
3.2.3 Boardwalk Empire: Scene 3...27
3.2.4 Boardwalk Empire: Scene 4...28
3.2.5 Boardwalk Empire: Conclusion...29
3.3 Mad Men...30
3.3.1 Mad Men: Scene 1...30
3.3.2 Mad Men: Scene 2...31
3.3.3 Mad Men: Scene 3...32
3.3.4 Mad Men: Scene 4...33
3.3.5 Mad Men: Conclusion...34
4. MUSIC AS AN ANACHRONISM...36
4.1 The Handmaid’s Tale...36
4.1.1 The Handmaid’s Tale: Scene 1...36
4.1.2 The Handmaid’s Tale: Scene 2...38
4.1.3 The Handmaid’s Tale: Scene 3...39
4.1.4 The Handmaid’s Tale: Scene 4...40
4.1.5 The Handmaid’s Tale: Conclusion...41
4.2 Peaky Blinders...42
4.2.1 Peaky Blinders: Scene 1...42
4.2.2 Peaky Blinders: Scene 3...43
4.2.3 Peaky Blinders: Scene 3...45
4.2.4 Peaky Blinders: Scene 4...47
4.2.5 Peaky Blinders: Conclusion...49
5. MUSIC IN THE ‘TRADITIONAL’ WAY...51
5.1 The Crown...51
5.1.1 The Crown: Scene 1...51
5.2.1 The Crown: Scene 2...52
5.1.3 The Crown: Scene 3...54
5.1.4 The Crown: Scene 4...54
Queen Sound has glided around the hall mostly ignored even as she served us up her delights, while we continue to applaud King Sight on his throne. If we notice her, consciously, it is often only because of some problem or defect (Chion, VIII).
Often, music is thought of as less important than image when it comes to movies and series. Music is commonly seen as a background element that fills empty spaces to enliven the movie. But music plays a much more important role than acting as a mere background element. Music can introduce elements, create continuity, and intensify feelings for both characters and viewers (Gorbman, Chion, Goldsmith).
Music has been mostly researched in relation to movies (cf. the literature review in chapter 1). In the field of television research, however, music has been relatively neglected. Notable exceptions are James Deaville’s Music in Television: Channels of Listening (2011), which focusses on the construction of meaning through music in television programs, Ron Rodman’s Tuning in: American Narrative Television Music (2010), which gives an historic overview of how TV had deployed music, as well as a number of articles by Kevin Donnely (2002, 2005). Ron Rodman, in his history of television’s musical use, argues that:
The effort to make TV programs unique and successful led to some innovative technological and artistic practices in the last two decades of the twentieth century. The use of music in television was one of these innovations, and in some TV shows music functioned in different ways than the traditional denotative and connotative models of early narrative television. (Rodman 261)
Rodman mentions a number of such innovative uses of music in television, like for example rarefaction, where music is used in a very limited way, or even not used at all, or proliferation, where the music draws out dialogue or diegetic sounds (262).
Rodman’s observations about the changing role of music in TV during the 1980s are compatible with those of John Caldwell in his 1995 book entitled Televisuality: Style, Crisis, and Authority in America. Caldwell argues that television studies have mostly overlooked the aesthetic changes television underwent during the 1980s. In his opinion, television has developed into more than a mere box with talking heads; rather, it has developed into a stylistic medium with unambiguous artistic choices. Caldwell introduces the term televisuality
as a broad concept which (not solely) focusses on stylistic and aesthetic elements of television, but on the changing industrial landscape as well, as this is the basis of televisions changing style. With the rise of competition in television, a distinctive style was the most important aspect to grab and hold the attention of television viewers – an industrial practice first pioneered by MTV.
Caldwell mentions two such stylistic innovations from the 1980s: the cinematic and the videographic. Television programs such as the news were from a stylistical point of view continuously presented as if they were music clips (Caldwell 6). The use of relatively short and flashy, often extravagant, cinematic and videographic stylistic techniques created high-quality television productions and spectacle, and brought the television companies financial success and gain (10,11). While Caldwell focusses upon the visual stylistic dimensions of television, I will expand Caldwell’s concept of televisuality by emphasizing the stylistic role and meaning of music (and sound) in television, thus staying close to Rodman’s approach in the chapter quoted above.
Both Caldwell and Rodman discuss major developments in television in the last two decades of the twentieth century. In the meantime, however, much has changed in the televisual landscape. With the introduction of new industrial technologies in the 1980s and 1990s, there was a major increase in interest in television programs. With, first, the cable and satellite, and, second, the home videorecorder, there was no need any more for people to leave their homes for entertainment (Thompson, Bordwell 662). As interest in television programs rapidly increased, the quality of these programs began to change as well, with shifts in styles and content. With these new technologies, the business models of television producers started to change as well. Companies such as HBO could program more “risky” material as they did provide cable programming, thus avoiding the stricter regulation of over-the-air TV; later, Netflix adopted this subscription model with their online viewing options.
What is striking about the new batch of quality television series, is that the tendencies noted by Rodman have become even more pronounced. It is my argument in this thesis that the era of quality television has heralded innovative ways of using music (and sound) to give audio visual products a distinctive touch. Through a close analysis of a number of contemporary quality TV series, I will show that music and sound are creatively used in them, and the larger part of this thesis is an attempt at describing these creative uses of music and sound. The analysis will particularly focus on the relationship between music and historical time, since - as I hope to show - it is precisely in the creative use of music vis-à-vis the time
analysed a number of historical series, as well as one series set in the future (see chapter 2). As the analysis will show, these quality series use music in either a synchronical or anachronistic manner, which is part of their distinctiveness.
Many of the series with notable use of sound and music are based on historic events, as the different timeframes allow for creative and conscious use of either historical or contemporary soundscapes – hence the focus on this thesis on what could be broadly called “historical quality television”. With the above in mind, my main research question is: what is the role of sound and music in creating historical narratives? In order to answer this question, I will investigate the following six television series: 11.22.63 (2016), Boardwalk Empire (2010-2014), Mad Men (2007-2015), Peaky Blinders (2013-present), The Handmaid’s Tale (2017-present) and The Crown (2016-present). The research is divided into three chapters (three to five). Chapter three is entitled “Music in Chronical Time”, and will discuss the series which only use music that belongs to the era the series is set in. In this chapter, the series 11.22.63, Boardwalk Empire and Mad Men will be analyzed. Chapter four is entitled “Music as an Anachronism”, and will discuss the series in which the music is deliberately chosen to not fit the portrayed timeframe. Here, the music of The Handmaid’s Tale and Peaky Blinders creates often a juxtaposition to the shown images.
A notable exception to the totality of the series mentioned above is the high-budget TV series The Crown. In this series, which is well received by viewing audience, no pre-existing music has been used, but music has been specifically composed instead. Therefore, The Crown will be the case study discussed in chapter five “Music in the ‘Traditional’ Way”.
As music and sound are often intertwined, the thesis will explain both concepts in chapter one, as well as their complex interrelations. The difference, and its diverse uses, play a prominent role in how music and sound are creatively used by contemporary television makers, as well as the effect they have on the storyline. Another crucial distinction is that between diegetic and non-diegetic music, and I will analyse their application in both constructing a narrative and creating affect within contemporary “historical” television series.
1. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
In this chapter, I will discuss the theoretical framework of my thesis. First the types of music application will be elaborated on, followed by the functions of music as the music application does not explain how music functions. The last paragraph will look at the emotion evocation through music. In terms of terminology, “sound” and “music” will be prevalent concepts in this thesis. These terms can be intertwined but are two different elements within itself. In this thesis, “music” will be defined as follows: songs, music, and melodies that are presented in and outside of the storyworld of the series. This can either be music from the radio, people singing a song, or music that is used as a background element. The term “sound” will be used as every other hearable aspect such as movements, speech, moving objects but also noises. As these are two key terms within my essay it is worth notifying these definitions. Music and sound are constructed by various components and have different roles they function in. All these aspects are very important for the construction of narratives in movies and series. It is important to stress that most literature on music is studied in its relationship to film. This is not necessarily a problem, since film and television often make use of music in a similar fashion, but it explains why the literature in this chapter is mostly film-based. Throughout the years, the role of music in movies has changed drastically. With the silent movies, music was used to hide the sounds of the projectors and to give an extra dimension to the movie (French n.pag). At the beginning of the music score, “Mickey-Mousing” was used extensively: precisely matching the music to the visuals. After the silent movies, in which music was provided by means of a live orchestra playing along with the picture, a lot of rock’n’roll, jazz, “source music” (music from radio’s, concerts, jukeboxes, and other) and found scores (soundtracks of already recorded music) were applied. These forms of music are still in use in present-day movies and series.
1.1 The Types of Music Application
Music is in contrast to other filmic elements in multiple essential ways (Gorbman 183). Firstly, the physical experience of hearing is not as explicit as the visual perception; visuals provide immediate identification of what is seen, whereas in hearing it is not always possible to identify its origin (i.e. the visual of seeing something falling versus the sound of something
music in second place in terms of experience (187). However, music is continuously involved in an existential and aesthetical endeavour with narrative presentation, or in the words of Claudia Gorbman: “Image, sound effects, dialogue, and music-track are absolutely inseparable during the viewing experience” (190). Music is used to different effects; for instance, it can resemble or differ the emotions or activities in the movie (189). The effects of resemblance or contradiction of onscreen developments by the use of music can be found in the series that I will use in this thesis.
The music that is used in movies can be divided into diegetic and non-diegetic music, or the distinction between “source music” and “score” (or “underscoring”) (Heldt 48). These definitions are already in use for a long time, yet they are the most recent in a long listing of terms that are used to make this differentiation. The terms of diegetic and non-diegetic can also be called the “what” and the “way” or the “story” and the “discourse” (49, 50). Géreard Genette uses “diegesis” instead of story, and “narrating” (narration) for “the producing narrative action” (ibid.). According to Gennette, diegesis and narration are both part of diegetic and non-diegetic levels. But even though his terms look similar to those used by Gorbman and Heldt, a difference is seen as: “Story” inherits the implication of a sequence of events, while “diegesis” is implied on a story world which fits our understanding of stories in its own world (Heldt 50).
Some of the problems that arise within the distinction between diegetic and non-diegetic can be found in the basic characteristics of film music (Heldt 56). Some sounds, for example, a kiss, will never be as loud on screen as in real life, so music is created to “construct” this sound . The same goes for music that is sung by the actors in the movie or series. Oftentimes, this singing fades into the background music and is repeated throughout the movie (ibid.). This can be observed, as we will later see, in Boardwalk Empire and The Crown. By doing so, the distinction between diegetic and non-diegetic becomes more difficult, as it crosses a border and is not only diegetic but non-diegetic as well (59).
Music can play a very important role in a movie, but the absence of music should never be underestimated (Gorbman 193). A diegetic musical silence highlights diegetic space in a direct and clear way. Moreover, it stresses that the characters in the movie are silent. For non-diegetic silence, the soundtrack is entirely without music. This can most often be seen in filmic representations with strong emotional and psychological implications (ibid.). Non-diegetic silence has been observed in the corpus of this thesis as well and will be elaborated
upon in chapter five. Another type of silence, albeit not represented in the analyzed series, is structural silence. Structural silence occurs “where sound previously present in a film is later absent at structurally corresponding points (194)”. It happens at moments when we expect the sound to be as before, so it makes us aware of its absence.
Diegetic music is able to create more “natural” effects in films than non-diegetic music. Gorbman states: “By taking music meant as extra narrative comment and rendering it diegetic, the narration motivates, naturalizes the music, makes its disparity with the filmed events acceptable (199)”. But diegetic music can also have other effects. For instance, it can create depth or continuity (201). Imagine entering a room where you can already hear the music coming out of. When entering the room, the music becomes louder, thus creating depth. Between multiple shots, the music can create continuity by making it look like a natural overflow. In filmic montages the extradiegetic music is often used to link gaps of diegetic time (ibid.). Music can, of course, promote other types of continuity like thematic, dramatic, rhythmic, structural, etc. In all these types, music continuously links, throughout the narrative, different scenes and emotions (202).
The usefulness of the concepts of diegetic and non-diegetic music, such as discussed in detail in Claudia Gorbman’s study entitled Unheard Melodies, has been the topic of much debate (Winters 224, 225). Whereas David Neumeyer (2009) has proposed for a more contained conceptual use of diegesis, Winters advocates for a more fluid application of the terminology, stating that: “To assume that music functions primarily as a narrating voice in a narratological sense, rather than as an indicator and occupier of narrative space, is perhaps to misunderstand the broader nature of cinematic diegesis” (ibid.). Winters view has received restricted acceptance among film scholars; most researchers believe that the distinction between diegetic and non-diegetic is realistic. To mention just one example: “If the characters do not appear to hear it, …, music cannot be part of their world” (Winters 228); hence it must be non-diegetic.
The use of music creates illusions and allows the audience to separate the fictional from the real world. It is an indicator that what we are watching is not real. By accepting this, the presence of music feels natural (Winters 229). When thinking of a film, the music is often recalled as well, as it is presented in the same diegetic world (230). In a way, the music can be seen as “an extra character” (231).
1.2 The Functions of Music
The abovementioned discussion signifies the identification of musical application, but does not provide much insight in the functioning of music. The function of sound in pictures is considerable yet often inconspicuous. Even though audiences will notice an especially aggressive image edit, sound splices are inaudible (Chion 6). “Sound perception and visual perception have their own average pace by nature; basically, the ear analyses, processes, and synthesizes faster than the eye“ (10). Sound is invisible and is used to support the image track (7). Through tone, rhythm, and phrasing, music can strongly influence the ambiance and emotional expression in filmic scenes, although it can also produce an indifference to the situation (8). This indifference does not suspend the emotions but it rather enhances them. This is often used in The Handmaid’s Tale, to create a contrast between the feelings of the characters and how they show themselves. Music that is used to mimic the feelings of the scene can be called “empathetic music” whereas music as a juxtaposition is called by Michel Chion as anempathetic (ibid.). This anempathetic effect is most frequently constructed with music, but at times it can also be created with other sounds, such as noise (9). This noise can be anything on which the focus is placed. There is also the possibility that the music is neither empathetic, nor anempathetic. In these cases, the music has a transparent function or carries an abstract context.
Evidently, sound can have considerable influence on what Michel Chion calls the “perception of time in the image” (13). He argues that sound can temporalize scenes and images in several manners. Firstly, sound allows for the perception of time as precise and concrete, or, alternatively, as vague and general. Secondly, sound can create temporal links within shots where shot A does not seem to fit with shot B (ibid.). Thirdly, sound dramatizes or vectorizes shots and scenes towards a goal (14). These three different ways in how music can be used, show that music is more than a background aspect and is very relevant in the flow of the story and how it plays with the images that are portrayed. Observations on these types of music application within the corpus of this thesis shall be discussed at length in chapters three and five.
When dealing with cinematographic sounds, one has to consider spoken language, sound effects, and music (Wingstedt, Brändström, Berg 194). All of these auditory modes have their own individual impact, in particular when these modes closely interact. As Walter Murch remarks: “Despite all appearances, we do not see and hear a film, we hear/see it (194)”. Movie music tends to be often consumed rather unconsciously by its audience, and helps in
making sense of a told story (ibid.). Music is able to create natural meaning and non-natural meaning (Goldsmith 285). The music that is positioned in the foreground of a film has a connection to the mise-en-scene and is meant to be heard directly (ibid.). This music is able to carry a non-natural meaning if it can be interpreted from an image without the use of any guidance. According to Dominique Nasta, the main functions of music are illustrative (not imitative) and implicative (used as an interlude, to highlight emotions or as credit music) (Nasta in Goldsmith 285). The illustrative function can be further distinguished in three subfunctions: decorative (for filling), connective (create narrative continuity) and emblematic (symbolizes a different idea) (ibid.). Thus, music helps the viewer, both literally and figuratively; what we see is partly shaped by what we hear, and vice versa. (Wingstedt, Brändström, Berg 194). Conceptual resonance is a phenomenon between music and visuals, where “the sound makes us see the image differently, and then this new image makes us hear the sound differently, which in turn makes us see something else in the image and so on. As an audience, however, our conscious attention is usually on the visuals” (ibid.).
The musical narrative roles or functions in films can be categorized into six classes (Wingstedt, Brändström, Berg 195):
1. The emotive function: the music serves to evoke affective qualities, experienced by audience either explicitly or implicitly. The music can be linked to characters in the films, or it represents relationships and events, or it announces changes in the plot (ibid.).
2. The informative function: here the music offers information and “explains” events. The music helps to explain factors such as social status, cultural settings, and time periods (ibid.).
3. The descriptive function: here the music is actively describing something, in contrast to the informative function is doing this passively. Usually, it represents tangible, physical circumstances, such as a setting, a display or a movement (ibid.).
4. The guiding function: here the music turns directly to the audience. This has a prominent function in video games in order to perform a specific action (ibid.)
5. The temporal function: “foregrounds the time dimension of music. Especially important is music’s ability to provide continuity (immediate, longer or overall) as well as how music can contribute and define structure and form” (ibid.).
The typical filmic narrative is strongly defined by social and cultural conventions. Wingstedt, Brändström, and Berg point out: “The interplay of the music with visuals, dialogue, sound effects etc., provides conditions for the music to actively and concretely contribute to the narrative” (197).
In some movies, the concept of a leitmotif is of great use, in the sense of a recurring musical motif linked to an object, character, place, etc. The significance of a musical theme as a leitmotif depends on its clear, persistent use in linking the musical subject and its visual equivalent (Wingstedt, Brändström, Berg 198).
The common use of popular music in movies has significantly altered the interplay between music and visuals. David Shumway argues that rock soundtracks are meant to be heard and experienced, whereas traditional film music aims to “cue an emotional response in the viewer without calling attention to itself” (36). He also states: “Recent soundtracks, consisting mainly of previously recorded material, are put together on the assumption that the audience will recognize the artist, the song, or, at a minimum, a familiar style (37)”. However, music can also be used explicitly on the foreground, thereby replacing the visuals as the main focus of attention. Music can be used in contrast with a “boring” image to put more attention to the music, and to represent for instance the main narrative theme (ibid.). This can be seen very clear in the introduction of Peaky Blinders, where the music creates the ambiance of the episode with images that do not mean much on their own.
1.3 Emotive Evocation through Music
Evidently, music is paramount in transmitting emotions. The so called “basic emotion model” holds that all emotions derive from a restricted amount of universal, intuitive emotions, including fear, anger, disgust, sadness, and happiness (Eerola, Vuoskoski 19). In music research, some emotions in the emotion model have been changed due to the fact that some emotions, like disgust, are rarely found in music and therefore changed to, for example, tenderness or peacefulness (ibid.). Because the basic emotion model appears not to work accurately in music, a new model has been proposed: the Geneva Emotion Music Scale (GEMS) model. According to Zentner, Grandjean and Scherer, this model includes nine emotional variables: wonder, transcendence, tenderness, nostalgia, peacefulness, energy, joyful activation, tension and sadness (506). When testing film music without showing any images, anger appears to be indistinguishable from fear and sadness, while tenderness
mistaken for happiness and sadness (Eerola, Vuoskoski 28). Sadness in itself is often regarded as an unpleasant, undesirable emotion, this in contrast to sad music, which is usually considered as beautiful and full of emotions. In this respect, sadness in music is rarely considered to be unpleasant (35). The abovementioned interplay with music and visuals in the evocation of emotion will be analyzed in this thesis as well.
2. CORPUS AND METHODOLOGY
This chapter will discuss the corpus on which the analysis of this thesis will be based, as well as the methodologies that were applied during the process. First, the television series within the corpus will be individually introduced. After this, I will expand on methodological considerations regarding this thesis.
2.1 Corpus Introduction
In order to understand the music-aesthetic strategies of contemporary television makers, I analyze the creative deployment of music in contemporary television series, and how this deployment contributes to the narrative. As indicated in the introduction, the emphasis is on historical television series, because of the interplay between “old” and modern music. The music used in historical television series can generally be divided into two different categories: (1) chronical music, that is, music that is from the same period in which the series is set, and (2) music as an anachronism, or the use of music that is from another era and is thus juxtaposed to the time in which the series is set. I have selected six different series to look at the use of music. All series differ strongly from each other, be it in the ways they are produced, their narratives, or their successive cinematic genres.
Boardwalk Empire, 11.22.63 and Mad Men fit the first category. They all use the music from the timeframe the story is set in. The music that is used, is important in the creation of the narrative as it is often used in the story world of the characters (Heldt 50). This music is often playing in cars, jukeboxes, radio stations, etc.
The Handmaids Tale, and Peaky Blinders fit the second category. In these series, the music is used as an anachronism and is in great contrast with the timeframe the series is set in and/or the context in which the music is applied. In these series, the music is mostly non-diegetic (Heldt 56). The music that can be heard in the non-diegetic world is often created by the characters themselves.
Finally, The Crown fits neither of the abovementioned categories and will be discussed separately. This series does not use music from the presented timeframe or music as an anachronism; instead, it uses almost only music that is directly composed for the series, and thus is used “in a classical way”. It deliberately lacks an association with a particular timeframe. Generally, the music in The Crown is non-diegetic. In some cases the music
application diverges and becomes diegetic, for instance when a choir is singing. When the music is used diegetic, it gives the indication that it belongs to the timeframe of the series.
2.1.1 Music in Chronical Time: Series
In the series 11.22.63, a teacher, Jake, tries to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy by traveling back in time through a loophole. The time portal leads him to October 21st, 1960.
The closer he gets to preventing the murder, the more “time” will do to stop him from altering the past. In his attempt to prevent John F. Kennedy’s assassination, he gets obstructed by the presence of Lee Harvey Oswald and the fact that he starts to fall in love with the past itself. In the years prior to the attack, Jake gets emotionally involved with many people – the more emotionally involved he gets, the more difficult it becomes to return to the present time or to prevent the attack.
Set primarily in the same timeframe as 11.22.63 is the drama series Mad Men. The series revolves around the ad executive Donald Draper, who works for the fictional “Sterling Cooper” advertising agency in New York. Throughout the series, the viewer is introduced to mainly his work environment and the people that are close to him. The changing moods and social mores of the United States through the 1960’s are depicted. Oftentimes, the beliefs of the 1960’s are contrasted with present ideas and opinions. Music is repeatedly used to make the cultural perceptions of a white upper-class environment of the 1960’s strongly notable to the viewer.
The crime drama series Boardwalk Empire is set in Atlantic City, New Jersey, during the Prohibition Period of the 1920’s and 1930’s. Enoch “Nucky” Thompson is a prominent political figure with a clandestine business centering around the trade of alcohol. The series focuses on Nucky and the people he interacts with both in his personal and political life, including politicians, government agents, and mobsters. As the federal government becomes suspicious of Nucky and his illegal practices, they start to investigate his lifestyle and his role as a county political figure. The atmosphere of the “Roaring Twenties” is largely captured by making use of primarily Charleston Jazz.
2.1.2 Music as an Anachronism: Series
Peaky Blinders portrays the 1920’s gangster culture in Birmingham. The series focuses on the Shelby family, with its leader Thomas Shelby. During the episodes, the Peaky Blinders gang grows in power with the use of multiple tricks and schemes. Starting at the bottom of the
social environment in 1920’s Birmingham due to the Shelby’s gypsy background, Thomas’s professional aspirations lead the family to ever greater political and economic gain. The gang comes to the attention of chief inspector Campbell. He is ordered by Winston Churchill to “clean up” the city from communists, the Irish Republican Army, criminals and gangs. The repeated use of selective songs contributes to a strong thematic environment.
The series Handmaid’s Tale is not set in a past timeframe but it is set in the future. Still, it plays with perceptions and visual representations reminiscent of historical timeframes. Therefore, the series can be seen as partially historical. In the near future, fertility rates collapse as a result of environmental pollution and diseases. In the eyes of the fundamentalist Christian government, this collapse is a sign of God. This government is formed after a civil war and established “Gilead”, in what was the former United States. In this new society, there is a reorganization of social classes, in which women are seen as the lesser race. The few remaining fertile women in Gilead are conscripted as “Handmaids”, according to an extremist interpretation of a Biblical account. Handmaids are assigned to the homes of the ruling elite, in order to bear children for their masters. In the series, music serves to create a contrast between the ideas of the characters and the rules of Gilead.
2.1.3 Music in the Traditional Way: Series
The historical drama series The Crown is a biographical story that is based on the reign of Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain. The series covers Elizabeth’s younger years to her reign and the difficulties she has to face. The first season starts with her wedding to Philip, Duke of Edinburg in 1947 and leads us through the years of her reign. The series portrays important events within Queen Elizabeth’s life and her relatives but also parliament. In the first season, Prime Minister Churchill plays an important role as he influences the reign of the Queen. The music in The Crown is used to emphasize the emotions of its characters and the feelings of the overall scenes.
By doing a comparative analysis between these series my aim was to gain insight into the question how music application is creatively deployed by the makers, and how it influences the viewer’s narrative perception: is it used to create a certain tension or feeling or is it used to create both? Is it used to create a certain feeling of nostalgia and therefore used to place it in the timeframe of the series? Interestingly enough, in most of the series the lyrics of the songs
play a very important role as well. They are used to give information not directly communicated by the characters, such as the character’s emotions or what will happen in the (near) future. All of these aspects, that are connected to the music and sound, are involved in creating a specific narrative.
Throughout each series, the same type of music is often used to create the same kind of effect. To look at the types of music and their purpose within narrative building, I have selected four different moments within the first season of each series. Concretely, this means that I watched the entire first season of all 6 series, and selected for each series four key scenes that display the creative use of music and sound in that particular series. These four “signature scenes” have been selected on the basis of their either being a song or a scene that is exemplary of the use of music within said series, or their deviation of the general musical pattern of the series. The reasons for doing so is that both exemplary and exceptional use of music entail creative choices by the makers: exemplary use of music points to stylistic continuity, whereas exceptional use of music is often used to indicate dramatic moments in the narrative. The selected 24 scenes were subjected to a musico-aesthetic analysis, combined with a lyric analysis, and their interactions with sound. In each of the signature scenes discussed in this thesis, aspects regarding musical genre, providence of music, its application, and the lyrics were taken into account.
3. MUSIC IN CHRONICAL TIME
This chapter will focus on series that use “historical songs”, i.e. only songs from the era the series is set in. I will take a closer look at four scenes from 11.22.63, Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire. For both Mad Men and 11.22.63, the songs will be from the 1960’s. The music in Boardwalk Empire is from the roaring twenties. By looking at these series I wills show what music can do for certain moments and what type of feeling it can create. The lyrics, the genre and the meaning of the song are all important for what they can do to a scene. As will become clear, the series have a lot in common in their use of music, and why they use it. Often, the purpose of music is to give a deeper meaning to the scene or to create a contrast. Music can be heard on different levels and with different purposes. Sound can be placed in three categories: Figure, Ground, and Field (Van Leeuwen 23):
Figure: the most important sound, to which the listener (or viewer) must react;
Ground: still a part of the viewers social world, but less important. They are only limited involved;
Field: sound which does not exist in the viewers social but in their physical world. For example, the sounds of people and cars in a street.
Speech, lyrics, and music fit in one of these categories. The placement and successive effects of the aforementioned within said categories will be further elaborated upon in chapters three to five.
The series 11.22.63 uses songs from the 1960’s to create a chronical timeframe of the time it is set in. The music is used to tell how the characters feel, but also to introduce the viewer to the timeframe. By looking to the scenes in episodes one, four, six and eight, the role of the music in this series will be made clear.
3.1.1 11.22.63: Scene 1
In the scene in episode one, Jake arrives in 1960 through the Rabbit Hole and as he looks around the 1960 song “Stay” by Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs starts to play. The song’s lyrics explain to the viewer what Jake should do: “Stay, just a little bit longer. Please, tell me you’re going to”. Jake almost immediately returns back to the future, but whenever he comes back, the song starts to play. This tells the viewer, and also Jake, what he is supposed to do. The song is playing from a car that passes by and only gives Jake a “hint” of what he should do.
In this scene, the music is used to introduce the viewer to the timeframe and the overall feeling of the series. The song also gives an indication for the observant viewer that Jake will play an important role in that timeframe. While the music can be categorized as “Ground”, as it is important to some degree to portray a certain timeframe, the lyrics are in the category “Figure”, as they are the most prominent in this scene and give a glimpse of what will happen next (Van Leeuwen 23). In the next scene, the lyrics play an important part as well.
3.1.2 11.22.63: Scene 2
In the scene from episode four, Sadie arrives inside of the bungalow where Jake invited her to come. On the record player, the song “Nothing Can Change This Love” by Sam Cooke is playing. Even though the viewer already knows by now that Jake is in love with Sadie, the song is a confirmation. When Jake stops the assassination of John F. Kennedy, he has to return to the future. But the song tells the viewer that he will always love Sadie:
If I go a million miles away,
I’d write a letter each and every single day. ‘Cause honey, nothin’,
Nothin’ can ever change this love I have for you… If you wanted to leave me and roam,
When you get back I’d just say welcome home.
These lyrics can be seen as a prediction of what will happen. When Jake will go back to the future, and thus a million miles away, they will always remember each other. The music is first heard on the record player in the cabin but slowly fades into the background music; it
starts diegetic but it changes into non-diegetic. The music is now used prominently together with the speech of the characters.
In Hollywood films, music is often used as a background aspect and screen dialogue. But as discussed by Ilaria Moschini (194), the prominent use of music in series has created the so-called “MTV-inspired television series”. These series modify the classical sound perspective because the lyrics of a song are seen as the prominent sound or, at least, they have the same importance as the screen dialogues. Because the audience hears the lyrics clearly, it enables them to associate the lyrics with the images they are viewing. This is clearly portrayed in the scenes of 11.22.63. Here the lyrics of the music give the viewer the opportunity to interpret the meaning of the scene without it being said by the characters. The musical parts are not “interruptions in the narrative”, they rather are working “in an almost operatic dialogue with the action”, and thereby are an enrichment of the storytelling (Fiske 255). The speech and lyrics of this scene can both fit Van Leeuwen’s category “Figure”, whereas the music fits the category “Ground”. The lyrics of the music accompany the speech of the characters and even amplify their speech at many moments. Here, the lyrics play a very prominent role.
In this scene, music is used in the same way as in the first scene. It can be heard by both the viewer and the characters. This indicates that the music tries to tell the character something, which is sometimes already known by the viewer. Still, the music and the lyrics give the viewer information that they did not know before. The viewer knows that Jake and Sadie love each other, but the music “tells” that they will be apart eventually. In these scenes, the music serves to portray the timeframe of the series, but also tells a story on a more informative level than directly told by the characters (Wingstedt, Brändström, Berg 195).
3.1.3 11.22.63: Scene 3
As in episode four, the lyrics and speech play the most important role of the scene accompanied with the visuals in episode six. In the scene of the sixth episode, Bill feels as if Jake only uses him for unimportant jobs, and that his presence is not appreciated. When Jake comes home he finds Bill in the apartment of Lee Harvey Oswald, the man they were supposed to spy on. Jake confronts Bill and they start to have an argument. During this argument the song “You Only Want Me When You’re Lonely” by Jim Boyd is heard (by the viewer only):
When you’re lonely You only want me then (…)
But someday you’ll find, you late in time. You’ll need my love
You’ll call my home but I won’t be there
The lyrics play an important role as they tell that Jake is losing Bill and that he will be gone soon. Even though music is oftentimes less direct than the visual perception (Gorbman 183), they still are prominent in this scene. They portray an upcoming event what already starts to happen: Jake will lose Bill. In this scene, the music has an implicative function, as it emphasizes how Bill feels (285). The lyrics are used to accompany and to enhance the feelings Bill is showing towards Jake. Thus, the song carries an emotional function, as the emotions of the lyrics can be linked to a character but also forebode a future implication of the plot (Wingstedt, Brändström, Berg 195).
In contrast to the scene of episode four, the song in episode six is only heard by the viewer. The song already gives the viewer information, where the characters are not aware of. Jake believes that Bill will still help him, even though the viewer already knows that this will not happen. Using music diegetic or non-diegetic gives different information to the viewer. When it is used diegetic, the characters are aware of the information as well, and it is often information that is relevant for that specific moment. Non-diegetic music is only heard by the viewer and therefore the characters are not aware of it; this music often gives information that is applicable on a later moment in the series as well.
3.1.4 11.22.63: Scene 4
In the scene of episode eight Jake goes back to the future. Here he visits the school in Jodie where Sadie and he used to work. Even though Sadie is already an elderly woman, she still works at the school. For her longtime work, the school has organized a special night for Sadie. Jake visits this evening even though he knows she will not remember him because time has been reset again. When he sees Sadie he properly introduces himself and asks her to dance. As he asks her, the song “Nothing Can Change This Love” by Sam Cooke starts to play, again. For both the characters and the viewers this is a nostalgic song. For Sadie, the song reminds her of her younger days. The song reminds Jake of the time he was with Sadie, and the viewer is reminded of this happy time as well; the viewer is aware of the role that the
music has played for them. For the characters and the viewers, it is nostalgia in its most simple form: it is an emotional state and the consciousness of “longing for one’s own past “ (Shumway 39). During the song, Sadie and Jake start to talk. Sadie says: “I swear I do know you” on which Jake responds: “from another lifetime”. The song tells the viewer that Jake is still in love with Sadie, even though she is not the same woman anymore as when they first met. By hearing the song and seeing Jake, Sadie seems to still remember him. Oftentimes, the interplay of the music with visuals, dialogue, sound effects etc., provides conditions for the music to actively and concretely contribute to the narrative (Wingstedt, Brändström, Berg 197). However, as the viewer is already introduced to the song and what it meant to the characters, the song plays a part on its own. Even when the screen has turned black, the song keeps on playing. This gives the viewer the opportunity to fill in their own idea of how the story has ended.
The song can be seen as the representation of true love between Sadie and Jack as it reminds them of the good times they had. Earlier the song was used to communicate the mood of the 1960’s. Now, the music is used to create nostalgia as it clearly shows it is used in the present; the sound quality sounds a bit older in contrast to the surroundings of the characters, suggesting it is something from the past.
3.1.5 11.22.63 Conclusion
In the series 11.22.63, the music is used to set the storyline in a certain timeframe. The lyrics of the music play the most important part, as they present to the viewer an overview of the information that is not explicitly said by the characters. When the music is diegetic, it gives information on the scene it is applied to. If the music is non-diegetic and can only be heard by the viewer, the lyrics often provide information on events that will happen in the (near) future. The lyrics of the songs frequently give extra information to the viewer or highlight important aspects of the scene. In the scene from episode four, the music is used to emphasize both the intense love between Jake and Sadie, and the notion that their love will not last forever. In the scene from the last episode, the music is used in a nostalgic way for both the characters and the viewer. Here the music is not only used to link to previous events but also to carry out emotions that were present earlier on in the series. By using this music, these emotions will return to the viewer indicating a certain feeling to the scene. In the series 11.22.63, the use of lyrics, and the way they are used are important in the transfer of information.
3.2 Boardwalk Empire
The series Boardwalk Empire takes place in Atlantic City during the prohibition. Nucky Thompson imports and exports liquor by trespassing the rules and authorities. The music in the series is at first used to portray the timeframe in which the story is set, but soon the viewer realizes that the music has a deeper meaning. This meaning has a strong effect on the scenes of episodes one, three, five and seven. The series is set in the 1920’s and uses oftentimes very lively music which is mostly Charleston Jazz.
3.2.1 Boardwalk Empire: Scene 1
In the scene of episode one, the viewer hears a band playing as Nucky walks up the pier. The song sounds cheerful and has a roaring 1920’s vibe. As the camera turns, a band is seen walking on the boulevard, followed by a group of men carrying a coffin with a big liquor bottle on top of it saying: rest in peace. Even though the coffin seems to predict a sad event, everybody is partying on the sound of the music. It is the night before the start of the prohibition and people are drinking and collecting as much liquor as they can. For some, the illegalization of liquor is seen as a good thing, others are celebrating as if it is the last night of their lives. The song is actually a mix of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”, “Livery Stable Blues”, “Taps” and “Tiger Rag”, which seems to be a strange composition as these songs are not usually mixed with other songs. The music can be seen as a contradiction to the image on screen, but even though the music is made more up-tempo, it does not lose its meaning. “Taps” are used in (military) funerals and during memorials, to the remembrance of the dead (Villanueva n.pag). “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” is an extremely popular American patriotic song (Tierney n.pag). These songs have an informative role, as they show that the characters truly see this day as the funeral of liquor, but will try to fight for it as well. The music of the song fits the category “Figure”, because the music is the most prominent aspect of the scene. The speech of the characters on the boulevard can be placed in the category “Field” because it only accompanies the visuals without any further meaning to what is said (Van Leeuwen 23). As Nucky walks into a club the band’s music from outside fades into the music that is played in the club. The music of the band is not only used to get the viewer into the setting of the 1920’s timeframe, it is also used to create a smooth flow into the next location. Here, the music has a connective role (Goldsmith 285) and can be categorized as “Ground” as it still has a clear function, but less important than the speech of the characters (Van Leeuwen 23).
The music of the band outside can also be seen as a bitter commentary on racist practices in the 1920’s. The faces of the band members in both the street and the club are painted in black. The painted faces are part of the minstrel show, a common performance in the 1920’s to mock the African Americans (Kamienski n.pag). By playing jazzy and blues tunes, and painting their faces black, they are referring to African Americans. In a way, the portrayal of this performance on the evening of the prohibition can be seen as if they are not taking it seriously; they are mocking the prohibition as well. Without the music, this idea would not be as striking as it is now. The visuals determine how we hear the music and vice-versa (Wingstedt, Brändström, Berg 194). The band and its music, but also the music in the club and the flapper girls, all make us look and listen differently to the scene and what it portrays. It is a commentary on previous practices; viewed from our current timeframe, the combination of music and image can be considered as a meta-commentary on that time. Even though it fits the timeframe of the series, the combination of music and images makes the viewer think about some of the absurd things that happened in the presented timeframe. This combination of music and image can also be seen in Mad Men, which I will discuss later.
It is very clear that the series uses music that not only fits the timeframe but has a deeper meaning as well. The different songs may not be directly recognized by the viewer, but they all have their own intensity and use of meaning. With these songs, the scene emphasizes that the day of the prohibition will be remembered. Because of the intensity of the songs, the scene will intensify as well. Even though the scene does not use songs that contain lyrics, the combination of the sound with the images portrays the intentions and emotions of scenes.
3.2.2 Boardwalk Empire: Scene 2
In the scene from episode three, Margaret goes into the changing room to put on her new working dress, and the music starts to play. The song sounds like a happy yet simple saloon song that is played on the piano and trumpet. As Margaret is trying on the clothes it all seems a bit clumsy and silly due to the music; it has a sort of Charlie Chaplin feeling. She gets stuck in the clothes, she sniffs under her armpit to see if she smells, but when she finally has them on, she looks lovely. The music fits her movements perfectly and thus it looks a bit like “Mickey-Mousing”: matching the music to the image (French n.pag). Slowly the camera tilts and the scene shifts from the fitting room to a small party. At the party, Nucky is pouring himself a drink when behind him a performer starts to sing:
I've been to college, I'm full of knowledge
I'm right at home with brainy men and them, my wisdom I show But when there’s clever girls around I get up and go
Those educated babies are a bore
I'm gonna say what I said many times before: Oh, the dumber they come, the better I like 'em 'Cause the dumb ones know how to make love
Lyrics can convey thoughts (or assumptions) of multiple characters as they can each react to certain lines. The song can thus create new interpersonal meanings (Moschini 199). The first two lines can be connected to Margaret, who is very smart but underestimated: “I may look simple but I want you to know, I’ve been to college, I’m full of knowledge”. Even though the lyrics come after the images of her, they still can be linked to her as they follow her movements. Here, the lyrics have a connective function between the two scenes but they also portray the connection between the characters (Goldsmith 285). After the first lines, the camera switches to the (dumb) girls in the room and the chorus starts “the dumber they come the better I like ‘em, ‘cause the dumb ones know how to make love”. Now, the music carries the descriptive function as it describes what the viewer is seeing (Wingstedt, Brändström, Berg 195). The song tries to let the viewer see and hear how the characters are intended to be interpreted. While the chorus starts, Nucky leaves the room as his thoughts slowly become in contrast with the ideas of the song. In contradiction to the line: “but when there’s clever girls around I get up and go”, he actually leaves the room when there are dumb girls around. He first liked his girlfriend, who is also in the room, because she indeed gave him sexual pleasure, but now he slowly starts to like the clever girls more, namely: Margaret. At this point, the song has got a rhetorical function, as it portrays the contradiction between the ideas of the character and the lyrics of the song (ibid.). At first, the change in Nucky’s thoughts seems to be a minor aspect, but as the series continues these aspects change into reality: Nucky leaves his girlfriend for Margaret as she is more intelligent. In this rather short song, the lyrics had multiple functions: connective, descriptive and rhetorical. Music, it appears, can have multiple meanings in a scene to portray the role of the characters and what this implies for the series’ narrative.
In contrast to the previous scene, the song in episode three uses lyrics to give certain information. These lyrics show to the viewer what is seen and thought by the characters as they (almost) do not speak during the scene. Strikingly, the lyrics can not only be connected
to one character, but to multiple. In this way, the lyrics change with the character and so does the story. In this song, the lyrics play an important role as they tell a lot about the situation in only a short time. As the lyrics can be placed on multiple characters, the intensity and the meaning of the lyrics change with the character.
3.2.3 Boardwalk Empire: Scene 3
In the scene from the fifth episode, important Irish men are hosting a party for Saint Patrick Day. A lot of liquor is present and so are the people who distribute it (despite the prohibition). The party is interrupted by the police. While the men are escorted outside, a group of women starts to sing: “Stand up for prohibition, ye patriots of the land. All ye who love your country against the drink should stand … proclaim that drink must go”. At this moment, Margaret, who is part of the women group, sings directly to Nucky in order to let him know that he has to change. Here, the lyrics have a descriptive function (Wingstedt, Brändström, Berg 195). The music slowly fades into the song “Carrickfergus” by Loudon Wainwright II. This is one of the few songs that does not fit the timeframe of the series. Although the song is sung earlier by the men during the St. Patricks Day party, at this point the newer version is used. Because the music is in contrast to the timeframe, the hard times of the portrayed characters are even more emphasized. Music can be used in contrast with a “boring”, or in this case a simple image to put more attention to the music (Shumway 37). Because it is also in great contrast with the images and has a lot of focus on the lyrics, the sound dramatizes the shots, leading them towards a goal (Chion 14).
The song indicates that the characters do not have the possibilities to turn their lives for the better at this point: either the alcohol got the best of them, they are getting older, they are in need of drugs to feel better or they do not know if they stand for the right thing anymore. During these images, the viewer hears the lyrics: “My childhood days, bring back sad reflections. Of happy times, spent so long ago”. The viewer sees Margaret lying in bed with her children, believing everything was once better. But when she answers the knocking on the door and sees Nucky, the song stops: the best was not in her past, but yet to come. Here the lyrics have a descriptive function and can therefore also be placed in the category of “Figure” (Van Leeuwen 23). The focus lies on the lyrics as there is almost no other sound to hear.
Like the music in the scene from episode three, the lyrics of the song can be linked to multiple characters. In this song, the lyrics are an aspect of information that is said directly by the characters, or what is portrayed during the song. In some of these cases, it is the first time
this information is given, others are shown throughout the episodes. Because this information is given in combination with a song that does not fit the timeframe (and is therefore rather striking) the intensity of the scene is enhanced. By using the lyrics with sad or interesting aspects of characters, both the feelings of the scene and the importance of the given information are intensified.
3.2.4 Boardwalk Empire: Scene 4
In the scene from episode seven, Jimmy meets a fellow veteran, Richard Harrow. Harrow used to be a sniper but, due to a bullet wound, he now has to wear a mask to cover his disfigured face. Together they make a deal to help each other. When Jimmy meets the mobster who disfigured the face of his girlfriend Pearl, he starts to have a conversation with him about the consequences. During this conversation, there is only the sound of the character’s speech. A non-diegetic silence with only the sound of the characters should never be underestimated as it can make the scene more pressing or tangible (Gorbman 193). As Jimmy walks out of the restaurant, the mobster is shot with one bullet beneath his eye, the signature of Harrow. The moment the camera focuses on Harrow, the organ music of the movie Jekyll and Hyde comes up. The music sounds like an indifference to the situation. Yet instead of freezing the emotions, this only intensifies them (Chion 8) The music is used for dramatic continuity (Gorbman 202) but it also has an emblematic function as it symbolizes a different idea (Goldsmith 285); the music and his mask stand for both sides of Harrow: the shy, awkward and even a little clumsy man; and the one-shot killer who keeps calm in these circumstances. The music continues while the image cuts to a movie theatre screen portraying the movie Jekyll and Hyde: “For the first time in his life Jekyll had wakened to a sense of his baser nature”. The image then changes to an overview of the theatre and back to the screen whilst the music is still playing: “Think of what it would mean! To yield to every evil impulse – yet leave the soul untouched!”. These texts could be seen as the interplay between Jimmy Darmody and Richard Harrow. Where Jimmy constructs the plan of the assassination and Harrow is the executioner, so that Jimmy will never have any dirt on his hands. As Jimmy has done his part, he leaves and Harrow takes over. The music coming up at the moment that Harrow shot the mobster is the indicator that Jekyll (Jimmy) turned into Hyde (Harrow). The music on this level has an informative function as it expresses rather than describes the situation to the viewer. From the moment the music starts, there is no more speech or sound from the characters. The music is at that moment the most important aspect of the scene and
In this scene, there is no use of any lyrics, but the music tells its own story. As the music is from a movie that is well-known, it “carries” that story with it and places it on other characters as well. The music in combination with the characters and the storyline in this scene, creates the idea of a split personality, like in the referred to movie. By using well-known music, series can use its emotions and story to apply it to their own storylines.
3.2.5 Boardwalk Empire: Conclusion
In Boardwalk Empire, a lot of the used music has a deeper or double meaning. By using music that already has its own story, this story is absorbed in the series as well. What becomes clear in the first scene, is that the music gives a kind of meta-commentary on the events that take place in the series. As the series uses information and aspects of the timeframe it is set in, the meta-commentary does not directly state something about these events, but does this more in a nuanced way. Just like in 11.22.63, the music in this series can be linked to multiple characters in one song, the only difference is that in Boardwalk Empire not only the lyrics can be linked to multiple characters, but the music of the song as well.
3.3 Mad Men
In the portrayal of its timeframe, the series Mad Men only uses music from the 1960’s. The music is used to portray the emotional state of the characters, but is also used to illustrate the time-related ideas and perceptions of the 1960’s. By looking closer at the four scenes from episodes two, three, nine and thirteen, the role of music will be shown.
3.3.1 Mad Men: Scene 1
In the scene from episode two, Peggy, Don Draper’s secretary, sits at her desk and while she is typing the sound of the typing machine turns into a song by The Andrews Sisters. The song “I Can Dream, Can’t I”, is based on a love story that will never happen, but the song’s character still dreams about it. While the song starts, we see Peggy looking around the room and she sees that almost every man is staring at her while they pass by. As the lyrics say: the men that are looking at her, will never be with her but still think and fantasize about it.
I can see
No matter how near you’ll be You'll never belong to me But I can dream, can't I?
Can't I pretend that I'm locked in the bend of your embrace? For dreams are just like wine
And I am drunk with mine
In this scene, the lyrics of the song have a descriptive function (Wingstedt, Brändström, Berg 195) as they really tell the viewer what the ideas of the men are. Still, the song sounds loving while the men do not see her as a future wife but only as an object of lust. The music of the song is a juxtaposition of the thoughts of the men and thus has an anempathetic function. This function intensifies the emotions of the scene (Chion 8). Peggy opens her drawer and reaches for the postcard that was sent by Pete, another colleague. At this point, the music is not about the men anymore, but how Peggy feels; she wants to be with Pete, but she knows he is married and will never be with her. Here, the song has a rather informative function as it rather explains Peggy’s thoughts to the viewer than describing it. The music here really portrays the ideas of both the men and Peggy and show that the lyrics can be interpreted in different ways for each individual (Moschini 199).
Like in Boardwalk Empire and 11.22.63, the lyrics can be linked to multiple characters: the office men and Peggy. When the lyrics are sung from the perspective of the men, it is in contrast to how they feel as they only see her as an object of lust rather than someone they love. However, when the lyrics are from Peggy’s point of view, they are in sync with her thoughts. This scene makes clear that the lyrics of a song can be interpreted in different sorts of ways looking from various perspectives.
3.3.2 Mad Men: Scene 2
In the scene from the third episode, Betty and Don are hosting a birthday party for their children. During the party, Don decides to grab his movie camera and to film the children playing. The scene switches between images of Don filming and a point of view through the lens. When the viewer is shown what Don sees through the lens, the only thing the viewer hears is the sound of the camera and opera music, “The Marriage of Figaro Act 1” by Mozart, that is slowly swelling in volume. When the viewer sees Don filming, the opera music can also be heard but then as a background element of the children’s laughing and parents talking. These images and sounds keep on switching. It seems as if in Don’s filmic world, it is quiet, peaceful and almost perfect without the noise of the real world. Only hearing the opera music and the sound of the movie recorder in contrast to the sounds of “the real world” almost have
silence, as we hear when we look through the lens, functions effectively to make the diegetic space more immediate, more palpable. It strengthens the idea that Don feels as if he is somewhere else as it emphasizes that Don is not speaking (Gorbman 193). The music can be placed in the category “Ground” when it is in combination with the laughter and speech as it is not the most important aspect at that moment. The moment the viewer sees the images through the lens, this is the moment that the music is the most important and really adds a meaning to it. In this situation, the music is placed in “Figure” (Van Leeuwen 23).
This scene does not use any lyrics that tell a story. Here, the music is rather used to create a feeling of segregation between the character and the real world. Only hearing the music in combination with the images creates a type of isolation, it gives the viewer the feeling as if they are in a sort of bubble. Even though this is only a small fragment of the scene, it portrays the way how Don feels almost all the time. Because it is such an everyday activity and environment, it does not seem like something outstanding but rather as normal. Here the combination of music and images creates a certain feeling rather than it gives information.
3.3.3 Mad Men: Scene 3
In the scene from the ninth episode, Betty gets a more prominent role. As she visits her weekly appointment with her psychiatrist, the latter tells her she is angry at her mother, and she lashes out to him. She feels as if he never listens, but now he provokes her by talking foul about her mother. Her mother hated that Betty became a model and called her a whore for doing so. But now Betty got an opportunity to start modeling again and becoming the Coca-Cola girl. Don does not think it is a good idea and even when she gets the job he is not very excited. Don gets a job offer at the firm where Betty is modeling, but when he refuses this, Betty gets fired again. She does not know Don has anything to do with it and tells him she did not want to model after all. Don tells her she does not need to have a job “you’re sweet and kind, with so much love like an angel”. But the next day when Betty hears the pigeons of the neighbor again, she loses it. While Betty is standing in the kitchen, the song “My Special Angel” by Bobby Helms is playing on the radio. When Betty is standing in the garden the music becomes more prominent as it swells in volume. She starts to shoot at the pigeons and the music plays on:
You are my special angel Sent from up above
The Lord smiled down on me And sent an angel to love (to love) You are my special angel
Right from paradise I know you're an angel Heaven is in your eyes
At first, the music only had a background function and could be placed in the category Field”, but when she is seen in the garden it is in the category “Figure” (Van Leeuwen 23). This is also the moment it shifts from diegetic to non-diegetic.
Just like Don said earlier, the song sings about a woman who looks like an angel and thus presents Betty as the angel. But music can either resemble or contradict the activity or feelings that are portrayed on screen (Gorbman 189). In this scene, the music is a contradiction of the images which emphasizes them even more. Even though Betty resembles the lyrics in the way she looks, the lyrics and the music are in great contrast to what Betty is doing. However, the lyrics of the song also tell another story. The lyrics tell the viewer how she feels about Don: he was like an angel guarding over her. But now she feels betrayed and there is no more heaven in his eyes. She now knows he was the one who tried to sabotage her and now heaven turned into hell. By using these juxtapositions, it gives the scene a sense of bittersweet polysemy. The music has again an anempathetic effect and therefore emphasizes what we see (Chion 8). She tries to shoot the pigeons with a gun, while the song sings about a special angel that is sent from up above. However, Betty feels trapped and feels as if she is not in heaven but in hell and beliefs the pigeons deserve the same thing instead of being free. Because of the contrast between the song and the images of Betty, her movements become even more prominent and abstract, and give a feeling as if she is going crazy. The music has a rhetorical function as it comments the events the viewer sees, but does this with music that is in contradiction to them (Wingstedt, Brändström, Berg 195). Tenderness in music is often linked to sadness and therefore can be used easily in a contradiction between image and sound (Eerola, Vuoskoski 28).
As most of the previous scenes have shown, the lyrics can oftentimes be linked to multiple characters. But in contrast to these scenes, this scene shows that the lyrics do not necessarily have to be linked to different characters, but can be linked to different events as well. The lyrics create an ambiguity by using a juxtaposition in the lyrics to the events that