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May 1994


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"P. Feng" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 19 May 1994 01:10:40 -0500
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Hello Gloria --
> > As I've said elsewhere, the diegetic/extradiegetic distinction, when
> > applied to music, is a useful point of departure but quickly becomes
> > untenable.  We can all cite examples of music which first seems
> > extra-diegetic, which is eventually justified by a radio or phonograph
> > etc. diegetically.
>         I believe it is important to maintain the distinction between onscreen
> and offscreen diegetic sound.  Can one see the radio& phonograph you are
> describing?
>         Gloria Monti, who's been reading too much *Film Art* obviously
Well -- I don't want this to turn into a "everyone post an example of a
film with a radio in it"... so I'll simply say I'm thinking of cases
where there is an insert shot or a pan to the radio, and also of cases
where the "diegetic grounding" of the music is established on the
soundtrack (e.g., the introduction of the crackling sounds of a 78,
clipped frequency range of a car radio speaker, etc.)
That last example leads me to the point that: "offscreen diegetic sound"
is sometimes only distinguishable from extradiegetic music by aural
cues.  (Of course, if the characters don't react to music the audience
hears, we tend to assume its extradiegetic: I'm simply saying that our
ears hear things like echo, frequency response, fx suggesting a sound
medium, etc.)
Can I ask a dumb question: In this case, talking about jazz music, why is it
important to make a distinction between on and off-screen diegetic
music?  And another dumb question: what is off-screen diegetic music?  If
there's an insert shot of a phonograph spinning, and the next shot is in
the same room but the phono is not visible -- is that off-screen?  In
GIGI, when Gigi's mother is practicing opera scales -- she's never on
screen, but the door to her room is open, and then closed on screen.
(For that matter, how do we know that the phonograph in the insert shot
is our diegetic sound source at all?  It's because we infer that the
music is diegetic either before/during/after seeing the phono -- how does
that inference affect our classification of sound as on- or off screen?)
(Un)fortunately, Rick Altman does not hang out on the internet...
Peter Feng