(Written by Martha S.)
At some point in the episode I remarked that I thought it was interesting that we all picked genre media – what I mean by that is that we all picked media that falls outside of “realistic fiction.” “Genre” books or film is typically a term applied to science fiction, fantasy, horror, anything that has a distinct genre other than literary fiction, drama, comedy, etc. And I think it’s worth noting that music and sound potentially has a larger role to play in these kinds of narratives, because they do more work to indicate the intended tone or mood of a piece of media.
For example: picture the opening sequence of Jaws.
Without the iconic music, it’s a woman swimming in the ocean (until she gets eaten by the shark, obviously). We as the audience don’t know to be anxious about her nighttime swim without the music; that’s what causes our deep-seated dread. The camera work does a lot of heavy lifting, especially once Chrissie Watkins (played by Susan Blacklinie) starts getting yanked under the water and the camera forces us uncomfortably close to her panic. But it’s those iconic musical beats that underscore the danger and sear the scene into our minds.
Keep those beats in mind. Because genre film can also be more easily changed by the musical undercurrent. Remember the scene in Jurassic Park when Grant and Sadler get to see dinosaurs for the first time?
The music is grand, sweeping, majestic. It makes me cry with wonderment, even as an adult woman. Now mute that clip and play it again, with the Jaws theme underneath it instead. Giant dinosaurs, giant shark – it’s not hard to reimagine the scene as a scary one, when we’re not being told aurally that this is a moment of wonder and awe.