IASPM International Conferences - Proceedings, Situating Popular Musics

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Sound in Lost and the disavowal of reality
Carlo Nardi

Last modified: 2013-01-22


This paper looks at the use of synchronised sound in the American television series Lost (2004-2010). Here the score bypasses the conventional distinction between diegetic and nondiegetic sound, thus affecting the viewer's capacity to make sense of the narrative. I will show how this reflects a current tendency in the media towards the spectacularisation of reality and the fictionalisation of information. The inclusion in the plot of issues such as torture, terrorism or racism, which at the time of the screening were at the centre of the public debate, makes this use of the medium especially problematic. The effect of the score in Lost is not just one of disorientation, as it also contributes to the conviction that there is no available perspective that would grant an understanding of the countless mysteries that characterise the series; accordingly, the possibility itself of a rational explanation of the fictional events is often avoided through illogical turns in the plot. Background sounds play a role in generating this divergence between (fictional) reality and perception: if the fictional world is mystified, any means to know, understand and control it through our senses is frustrated, so that the spectator has to relinquish to the inexplicability of events. I will read this loss of perspective in the light of the theory of alienation, explaining how music is used in order to obtain a derangement of perception.

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