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Dissonant Affections: Exploring the Use of Soundtrack Dissonance in Scenes of Violence

Published onOct 31, 2023
Dissonant Affections: Exploring the Use of Soundtrack Dissonance in Scenes of Violence


Dissonant Affections: Exploring the Use of Soundtrack Dissonance in Scenes of Violence
Ashley Robinson, Goldsmiths, University of London

Since the advent of cinema in the early 20th-century, music has been an integral part of the cinematic design and development of a film. In typical cases, a film or TV show's soundtrack is used to complement its visual content. Soundtrack dissonance, conversely, creates a contradiction between the scene’s sonic and visual elements, altering the audience’s movie viewing experience with conflicting audiovisual input. The unsettling feelings facilitated by this audiovisual incongruence can further audience engagement and prompts deeper analysis into the meanings and messages implied by the scene’s score and visual content. 

This video essay serves as an audiovisual tool in which the emotional and cognitive influence that soundtrack dissonance has in film and television can be understood. It details the varying audiovisual theories used to confront and support the use of soundtrack dissonance in film. Additionally, the video addresses how soundtrack dissonance facilitates deeper analysis of plot themes and protagonist ethos. It also showcases the long-standing, influential legacies that soundtrack dissonance can create as a remediated form and a musivisual language. 


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Ashley Robinson is a graphic designer and musicologist with a desire to craft captivating visual and auditory experiences. She obtained her BA in Design from the University of Pennsylvania and her MA in Music - Audiovisual Cultures from Goldsmiths, University of London. Her research interests centre around the ways in which genre is visually represented through music video and performance. This topic was addressed in her Master’s thesis which explored the use of nature as an essential visual identifier of the neo-soul genre.

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