TV soundscapes

Lately, I’ve been getting interested in the world of background television music e.g. the score that often plays behind the scene and emphasizes the emotion of the moment. I’ve found myself in particular drawn into the music for the police drama “Law & Order: SVU.” During one show, I noticed a music segment that reminded me of a piece I’d written. And as I watched several episodes, I heard that piece pop up again and again. I realized something that is probably obvious: TV composers often reuse their work. So, if you have a musical piece that denotes a simmering tension, you can play it when detectives are interviewing a rape victim, when they are walking down a dark hallway pursuing a killer, and when someone is anxiously awaiting the results of a pregnancy test. (I should note that the musical bit I often hear recurring on the show is not replayed exactly the same every time. There’s little variations.)

The larger topic here — the art of cueing emotional states via sound — is quite interesting. To think that someone can play a chord on the piano and elicit subtle physiological shifts that will be interpreted as emotion in the listener seems like a very powerful force. It makes one presume that somewhere out there is a “dark chord” — a harmony that will demand such a strong emotional reaction it will drive listeners into a homicidal cannibalistic fury.

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