NO SPOILERS, BUT BE WARNED: YOU WILL NEVER WATCH DISCOVERY THE SAME WAY AGAIN AFTER READING THIS BLOG (REALLY)!
I didn’t feel that this latest episode of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY was particularly blog-worthy, soI’m going off-Book (sorry) this week to focus on an aspect of the series that I’ve been wanting to cover: background music. This will be a different kind of Discovery blog, so much so that I’m not even calling it a “review.” But I think you’ll find it…fascinating!
In the TOS episode “The Trouble with Tribbles,” Captain Kirk tells Uhura: “Too much of anything, Lieutenant, even love, isn’t necessarily a good thing.” Is that also true of music? If so, then Discovery is definitely the tribbles of background music!
Why? Well, take a listen to any episode lately. Try to find a scene where there isn’t any background music playing. With the exception of a few seconds here and there, the background music is pretty much constant.
So the question follows (with all due respect to Captain Kirk): is too much background music not necessarily a good thing?
Let’s start off by talking a little bit about background music in film and television as a general concept. The first time I noticed the power of background music was in 2003 when I saw the film Lost In Translation with BILL MURRY and SCARLETT JOHANSSON. The reason I noticed the music was because director SOFIA COPPOLA made the conscious decision almost no background music in the entire movie! Actually, I should qualify that statement. There were scenes where the stereo was playing or they were singing karaoke or there was piano music in a bar, like this scene…
But as far as the typical Hollywood instrumental music that is usually inserted during scenes, there was virtually nothing throughout the entire film. And for me, that made the movie feel tedious and bland. Despite rave reviews from critics and even from audiences, I left the theater having felt almost nothing.
And in fact, that lack of connection is exactly what background music is supposed to prevent. Music added under a scene can help the audience know what emotions to feel when the scene is ambiguous. And beyond that, music can actually help to intensify the emotional experience of the viewer/listener. Take a look at this eye-opening (and ear-opening!) video…
One of the reasons that background music can be such a powerful tool is that it’s processed in the different part of the brain than spoken language (right temporal lobe versus left temporal lobe, respectively). So both music and dialog can exist simultaneously in a scene and work in tandem without competing or canceling each other out. Music can trigger emotions in the amygdala and limbic system while visual and language centers of the brain can still process what is being seen along with the words being spoken.
But how much music is too much?Continue reading “STAR TREK: DISCOVERY’s non-stop background music (editorial)”