University of Hertfordshire

By the same authors

Original Music for Feature Film 'Euphony'

Research output: Non-textual formComposition

  • Timothy Blinko (Composer)
  • Sunny Seth (Producer)
  • Fionn Lucas (Designer)
  • Guido Cavaciuti (Photographer)
  • Majer Christian (Designer)
  • Jess Thorpe (Artist)
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Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLondon, UK
PublisherTreedust Films
EditionTreedust Films
Media of outputFilm
Size1 hr 49 min
Publication statusSubmitted - 10 Jan 2020

Abstract

Euhpony is a feature film written and directed by Indian-British director, Sunny Seth, with screenings at international film festivals during 2020 [to be updated].

An international artistic and production team created the film, and the music commission was competitive with over 40 composers considered. In the narrative, Italian actress, Beatrice Grannò’s character, Olivia, slowly emerges from the most severe form of PTSD and agoraphobia

The music score critically develops concepts widely discussed in the literature –e.g. Heldt (2013), Chion (2019) et al. In summary, non-diegetic music, where the source of the music is not visible on-screen, is significantly the most deployed type of film music. Diegetic music is less frequent, but conveys a sense of realism with the source of the music visible, be it a gramophone or a performance. Internal diegetic music, however, is where the music is imagined in the mind of a character and its use is very rare indeed and when it has been used, it has been restricted to short, occasional scenes.

Music is central to the concept of Euphony, as Olivia can only effectively express herself through her piano playing. It therefore demanded a unique and innovative research process closely integrated to Olivia’s changing mental states, together with a critical interrogation of and extrapolation from existing approaches to film music theory.

This work makes critical enhancements to knowledge and practice by addressing research questions such as: can internal diegetic music be sustained to increase human connectivity and sensory reality with film? And: can the use of internal diegetic music throughout alter the role of music in film and further develop emotional engagement in audiences? The research process and methodology are critically analysed in the contextual information below and accompanying film extracts.

The novel conceptualisation is that all of the music exists in Olivia’s imagination and it is this internal music that the audience is hearing:

'Timothy Blinko's approach in scoring all of the music from an internal diegetic viewpoint chimed exactly with my vision of the film. It is the first film to be scored in this way and this innovative approach has made the music transformatively intimate and personal throughout the narrative arc.

The impact of this together with the synaesthetic elements Tim deploys has had a big impact on audiences so far, moving them to tears and providing a deep sense of engagement.' – Sunny Seth, Director of Euphony.

Contextual Information

Film extract 1 – Opening Credits

In a proleptic approach, the audience is unaware initially that all the sounds in the opening sequence exist within the lead character, Olivia’s, head. The initial vocal sound is a leitmotif that recurs throughout the film as a representation of the man who kept Olivia imprisoned as a child. The ident soundscape which follows was composed to connect this sound to, and integrate it within, the piano music which follows.

It becomes evident in this opening sequence that Olivia is playing this piano music herself and later, in extract 2, that she is also creating it all from her imagination through spontaneous improvisation. We are hearing the sounds that Olivia is imagining from the very beginning of the film to the very end in the first application of internal diegetic music to be used continuously throughout a feature film.

Composed synaesthetic elements are also evident in this opening sequence as part of Olivia’s sound-sensory experience. For example, the frame of coloured woollen strands in the scene resembles the appearance of a harp. However, when she runs her fingers over it, the sound is a synaesthetic mediation of this, from one sense modality to another – we hear the sounds Olivia hears – the ‘sound’ of touch as translated into a human sound.

Likewise, when we hear her strike the bamboo wind chime, it is not the tone of the bamboo, but the slightly disturbing outward breath which Olivia hears and the audience hears. And later when she touches the dolls face, another human wind-like sound is what she experiences as the scene transitions into a windy semi-woodland scene – an experience, as a long-term agoraphobic, she can only imagine.

Film extract 2 – Olivia Imagines Playing the Piano

This very short scene is pivotal in demonstrating that Olivia is imagining the music in the film and that this internal diegetic music is what the audience hears. It is the first music heard in the film narrative itself and establishes Olivia’s intense experience of an inner-world of music and sound. The impression is that the music comes out of thin air and helps her experience an imaginary outer world beyond the confines of her bedroom.

Film extract 3 – Olivia Hears Music in Front of the Mirror

In the next scene with music, Olivia assesses herself in the mirror as she hears the piano music in her mind. The music reflects her inner thoughts and emotions and how they change as she is affected by her conversation with Liam. The consistent use of piano music throughout the film maintains the research imperative of establishing and maintaining her intense connection to the music and the sense that all of the music is internal diegetic music, and that it is her ‘inner music’ that the audience hears.


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