Abstracts (Day 2)

(6) Opening titles I

To Skip or not to Skip: Titles Sequences, Theme Songs, and the Streaming Television Experience
James Deaville (Carleton University)

Streaming platforms present audiences with a dilemma when accessing television series: whether or not to skip the title sequences. Such was not the case a decade ago, when Annette Davison undertook her pioneering ethnographic work on music in television title and credit sequences (Davison 2013). In the meantime streamers have supplanted broadcast and cable networks, but also have had to accommodate the evolving and varied viewing habits of television audiences, ranging from single-episode experiences to “binge watching” (Zündel 2019, Naudin 2023). In their efforts to “hook” these diverse audiences, studios have taken particular care with opening-credit graphic design and music, exploiting their potential for aesthetic branding and audience immersion (Dosser 2022, Sorrentino 2018).

This paper intends to initiate a conversation about the affective power of sight and sound within the opening credit sequence during the age of streaming. Though it may serve like a paratext (Betancourt 2017), “a title sequence… brings you into the world of the series” (Poniewozik 2018), thus meriting audience attention. For their part, showrunners have attempted to offset the “skip” function by presenting compelling — even arresting — audiovisual sequences for streaming series (Richardson 2017). We will consider how dynamically moving images and grounding theme songs first conspired in the organically flowing openings for HBO series Game of Thrones and Westworld. Among their successors, we will focus on the titles to The Last of Us, where series (and game) composer Gustavo Santaolalla’s haunting theme provides the sonic framework for the visual narrative of uncontrolled viral spread.


James Deaville teaches Music at Carleton University. He has edited Music in Television (Routledge 2010) and co-edited Music and the Broadcast Experience (OUP 2016). About television music he has articles in Journal of Sonic Studies (2012) and American Music (2019) and chapters in Routledge books on Twin Peaks (2021) and Star Trek (2022). He edited the American Music issue on television music (2019), co-edited The Oxford Handbook of Music & Advertising (2021), and is co-editing The Oxford Handbook of Music & Television (2024). In 2023 he delivered the keynote address for the Music and Media Study Group in Evry, France.

Re-Hear Me Re-Roar (Again). Opening Identity Multiplicity in narration: Ramin Djawadi and Game of Thrones
Antoine Garnier (University of Rouen)

Streaming has led to the emergence of “Binge Watching”. The absence of a programming schedule and the repetition of episodes in a single viewing session are leading to the gradual disappearance of opening credits. Either viewers skip them to avoid redundancy, or the producers themselves drastically reduce them (Squid Game, Better Call Saul) or even eliminate them (Sex Education, Umbrella Academy). And yet the credits are an important musical moment that can contain the entire series in terms of semiology through its association with a piece of music that is definitively associated with the show.

Yet series need a strong musical identity because they are divided into episodes and seasons. How do composers manage to give their music a metanarrative value in a context where serial works have almost no credits?

In order to explore this issue in relation to a whole host of series, I’m going to take a modest look at just one: Ramin Djawadi’s work on Game of Thrones. He took an original initiative. He decided to compose his theme tune using a continuously repeated pattern. The result is instant recall on the first listen. Djawadi then used this strong memory to reintroduce the pattern more or less discreetly in the scores, either as an accompaniment or as the main theme. These appearances of the theme from the opening credits during the narration act semiologically as an awareness of the work itself, a musical metanarrative. Unsurprisingly, the theme always arrives at important moments in the story, whenever a major change occurs. The theme from the credits underlines the main plot lines and raises awareness of the series as a viewing object.

The aim of this paper is to show how this composer has adapted his music to streaming.


Doctoral student at the University of Rouen Normandie. Specialised in music for television series.

Paratextual Integration: Audiovisual Unity and Variety in the Title Sequence of The Walking Dead (2010-2022)
Marcel Bouvrie (Utrecht University)

Opening titles are designed to effectively communicate crucial features of their corresponding TV-show in both intra- and extradiegetic spaces. Drawing from Gerard Genette’s notion of the paratext, Stacy Abbott argues that title sequences exist in a “liminal space between inside and outside the text” (Abbott 2015, 113). Building on this, she incorporates Jonathan Gray’s understanding of opening titles as both “entryway” and “in-media res” paratexts (Gray 2010, 40-1), meaning that title sequences establish interpretive frameworks through which viewers first engage with the series and which helps them to decipher the unfolding series’ main plot and themes with each reutterance. This poses several challenges for TV shows on finding the right audiovisual identity of the title sequence, on how to embed it within the sonic flow of the episode, and on how to find a balance between audiovisual unity and variety.

This paper analyses the dynamics between the audiovisual unity and variety of the paratextual title sequence of the famous horror series The Walking Dead (2010-2022). I argue that, even though the main titles remain the same musically, there is a sense of variety in its inception and its relation to the audiovisual flow; (i) it merges with the cue from the antecedent scene, (ii) it provides a sonic answer to a foregoing stinger, (iii) the agitated ostinato of the title theme are already heard in the preceding scene and thus anticipate the opening titles. By closely scrutinizing these integrations, I demonstrate that opening titles as paratexts can be organically embedded within the audiovisual flow providing a dynamic between unity and variety in both intra- and extradiegetic realms.

Abbott, Stacey. 2015. “’I Want to Do Bad Things with You’”: The Television Horror Title Sequence.” In Popular Media Cultures: Fans, Audiences and Paratexts, edited by Lincoln Geraghty, 110-26. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Gray, Jonathan. 2010. Show Sold Separately: Promos, Spoilers, and Other Media Paratexts. New York: New York University Press.


Marcel Bouvrie studied guitar and film and media composition at the ArtEZ Conservatory, and musicology at Utrecht University. He now teaches film music and other music and media courses at Utrecht University. His research interests include film music, music and media, the interconnectedness between music and fiction, and popular music. He has presented several papers at international conferences, including the Music and the Moving Image conference. His most recent publication is “The Self-Aware Soundtrack: Music as Metaleptic Device in Comedy Film” in The Palgrave Handbook of Music and Comedy Cinema (edited by Emilio Audissino and Emile Wennekes). He is currently preparing a PhD at Utrecht University.

(7) Music (performances) online

Performers’ Reflections on (Re)Creating Art Song in Online Context
Verica Grmuša (Independent scholar)

This paper explores the digital streaming of live music events, an increasingly important platform for performers, as a factor impacting the art song performance tradition. It presents a sample of Oxford Lieder Festival 2020 performers’ experiences of their live streamed festival performances (online-only setting), captured via an online questionnaire. Adding a longitudinal dimension to the study, it compares these findings with the same sample’s experiences of their performances in the hybrid setting of the festival the following year (streamed with live audience present), followed by findings from this year’s festival return to live-only setting.

The questionnaires covered issues arising in online performances, from the length of the programme, choice of repertory and languages, use of translations; to performance and “storytelling”: issues arising from the absence of the audience and camera presence and approaches to word/music dynamics. The presence of cameras, both in online-only and hybrid settings, affected the performers’ choice of programme and their performance. Reports of increased awareness of stage “persona” resulting in changes to performance (choice and extent of performance gestures, interaction with the performing partner, change in attention to text) call for discussion in the context of the levels of identity at play in art song performance (in terms of Auslander’s person/persona/character). Performers’ unanimous reports of “live performance” experience in online-only settings, further blurring the boundaries between “mediatised” and “live” art song, force us to reappraise the nature of “liveness” and the concept of stage itself, as well as impact of streaming on future of art-song performance.


Verica Grmuša is a classically trained soprano and a scholar interested in vocal performance. She studied vocal performance at the University of Arts in Belgrade and at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Grmuša completed her PhD at Goldsmiths, University of London in 2018, followed by the Early Career Research Fellowship at Royal Holloway, University of London. Her research interests are performance, art song, nationalism, gender, and stardom. Her current projects include The Art Song Platform, an ongoing forum for knowledge-exchange and the enhancement of performance as research in the genre of art song and a collaborative blog, Women’s Song Forum (https://www.womensongforum.org/).

Changing operatic narratives: new perspectives on the multimedia commercial strategies
Andrea García Torres (University of Alicante)

Online platforms became an essential way to promote opera singers and presenting new albums. One step more through the strategy of publicizing them seems to be several music videos where the opera star stares a short story, close to conventional video clips. This tendency is gaining importance by the day, promoting operatic arias such as singles in pop music. Youtube is the most used platform for distributing and promoting this type of opera videoclips, second only to Facebook (Kemp 2020). 

However, the scientific literature reflecting the use that opera labels make of online platforms and social networks to publicize their new releases and the messages is quite limited. There is still a gap of study about the marketing purposes by the most significant singers and their influence on the digital audience. The research will focus on analyzing recent examples of operatic arias, highlighting the evolution from traditional narratives to those addressing contemporary themes like ecology, gender roles or mental health. Specially sensitive to this circumstance are recordings of baroque and historically informed opera.

This paper will focus on how some labels developed a specific strategy to promote new recordings. The recording crisis and the new online listening and viewing patterns and formats have made labels rethink their musical distribution strategies and public. This proposal advocates for a comprehensive examination of opera video clips as a dynamic and evolving phenomenon, showcasing how these innovative strategies contribute to the adaptation and rejuvenation of opera in the digital age.


Andrea García Torres is an Assistant professor at the University of Alicante (Spain) since 2021. Her PhD was fully-founded by the Spanish Ministry of Science. She completed three short-term scholarships at the University of California, Riverside, University of Arizona and Université Paris Sorbonne IV. Some of her works were published by Anales cervantinos, Anuario musical and Cuadernos de Música Iberoamericana, Brepols, Universidad de Oviedo, Universidad de Educación a Distancia (UNED) and Dykinson, among others. She works on a book based on her thesis and the composer Manuel Nieto, which will be published in 2024.

Returning to Nature, Constructing Intimacy and Body Performance: A study of ASMR soundscape on streaming media
Tianci He (Jinan University, Guangzhou)

As a kind of auditory-centered sound performance, ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) videos use various materials to simulate or reproduce life noises in order to trigger the audience’s auditory pleasure. This paper focuses on the ASMR soundscape on Douyin (Chinese version of TikTok), and through textual analysis of popular ASMR videos and comments, the author interprets the popularity of ASMR on the streaming media platform and the socio-cultural symptoms it reflects. The study concludes that the hustle and bustle of modern cities has made people’s sense of hearing lax, but the habitual neglect of ambient sounds does not bring true peace, and ASMR’s deliberate reproduction of natural sounds can help audiences heal themselves spiritually through sensory wanderings. ASMR not only creates a long-distance intimacy between creators and audiences, which is close to real interaction, but also activates an emotionally biased embodied experience. As the emotional and aesthetic autonomy of female audiences is emphasized, more and more female-oriented content becomes more visible and tangible, making ASMR breed the potential and possibility of rewriting media gender practices. It is of great significance to note that ASMR is highly dependent on sound devices from creation to listening, and the mediation of technology may bring about new auditory disciplines.


Tianci He, master of communication studies at School of Journalism and Communication, Jinan University, Guangzhou, China. She received her bachelor’s degree in advertising from Guangdong University of Foreign Studies. Her research interests include media culture, museum digitization, and art communication. Her papers have been accepted by a number of academic conferences, and she gave oral or poster presentations at the 4th International Conference on Big Data and Social Sciences, the 6th International Symposium on Healthcare, Humanities, and the Media, the 4th China Academic Forum on Public Communication, and Academic Symposium of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Great Bay Area, etc.

(8) Sound

Polydiscursive Art work and it’s sound continuum. The case of A. Sokurov
Nataliya Kononenko (State Academy for Art Studies, Moscow)

The paper is devoted to the phenomenon of polydiscursive Art work (V. Podoroga) – the principles of continuous representation throughout the artist’s life of his individual author’s world. So the spontaneously developing text-Sokurov includes not only the films by the director A. Sokurov, but also his multifaceted life experience. The principle of stringing musical themes that are repeated from film to film becomes a reflection of two intentions: the continuous reproduction of subjective sound reality and, partly unconsciously, the unification of individual texts into a kind of global integrity, metatext.

The forming of A. Sokurov’s screen form occurs in the process of its approaching its own limits. First of all, this is the use of a screen tool to explore other (for example, painting) matter. Two trends are noticeable – towards a special extension of film form and, on the contrary, a mosaic of structures (numerous diaries and elegies). The idea of super-continuity leads to the complete elimination of editing discourse – up to the implementation of the mise-en-scene of a full-length screen action within one shot (“Russian Ark”, 2002).

Flow – a romantic model of artistic structuring, – implies overcoming the narrative template. In “Elegy of a Voyage” (2001), such a deviation reflects a mnemonic event close to Plato’s anamnesis (according to the film plot, the Author examines paintings in the Boijmans-van Beuningen Museum). The visual illusion of penetration into the artistic space of the picture is accompanied by special effects of auratization of sounds, conventionally attributed to the canvas diegesis – from the free combination of romantic idiomes and timbre “archaization” of music to the polyphonization of cues and the sounds of nature.


Nataliya Kononenko (1978). Musicologist and film critic, PhD in Arts Studies, specialist in the field of audiovisual communication. Studied musicology at the St. Petersburg State Conservatory and pursued post-graduate studies at the State Institute for Arts Studies in Moscow. In 2008 defended PhD on the topic “Andrej Tarkovsky. Sound Universe of film”. An author of a book of the same name («Andrej Tarkovsky. Zvuchashij mir filma») and VGIK (All-Russian State University of Cinematography named after S.A. Gerasimov) courses “History and theory of music in cinema”, “Sound aesthetics of film”. At present – research fellow of the State Institute for Arts Studies in Moscow (Mass Media Dept.).

Sound Design, Sonic Realism and Subjectivity Through the Soundscapes of Popular War Films
Soumaya Snoussi (Pukyong National University, Busan)

Sound design in the film industry is not only about technological advancements and improving the auditory experience, but also serves as a tool for filmmakers to create immersive stories and evoke emotional responses in viewers. The war film genre is characterized by its chaotic and tumultuous soundscape, demonstrating historical events, and warfare grounds. The sounds of war may be based on real-life events and soldiers’ statements during combat, and could be a process of pure artifice, thus making it challenging to convey real-life sonic experiences. Technological advancements in audio and sound design techniques have facilitated the portrayal of sonic realism and a fulfilling auditory experience for the audiences. This paper investigates the narratives and realistic modes of war films in relation to diegetic sounds and subjectivity. Through film cases depicting WWI and WWII – Saving Private Ryan, Hacksaw Ridge (1917) and All Quiet on the Western Front (2022) – this study explores war soundscapes from the sounds of machines and men to narrative functions, with reference to sound production studies related to editing and mixing practices. And while the main character plays a significant role in conveying the warfare, subjective sounds will be taken into account as the internal diegetic sounds, which convey the mental subjectivity of “the man on a mission”. Consequently, narrative functions and the framework of chaos and mortal peril were supported, where sound design revealed a pattern of narrative tension and a disguised release. In addition to portraying the subjective sounds that emphasize the heroic narrative and delve into the character’s innermost thoughts and feelings, immersing the digitally literate audience into the hero’s auditory subjective experience and battlefield soundscape.


Soumaya Snoussi is a PhD candidate at the department of Media Communication Studies in Pukyong National University, Busan, South Korea. She worked as a boom operator, sound editor and mixer in Tunisia after obtaining her master’s degree in cinema and audiovisual studies (majoring sound). Currently, Soumaya holds the Global Korea Scholarship and she is a member of Brain Korea 21, a research program for leading universities and students, also initiated by the Korean government. Her dissertation project focuses on perceptual and sonic realism in relation with digital film technologies.

The influence of listening and viewing habits of film composers on film music (… or the other way round?)
*Hands-on workshop (about 45 min)
Susanne Hardt (Hochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber Dresden)

The current range of a variety of different streaming providers gives a large part of society easy access to a large selection of different films and series. At the same time, it can be observed that modern productions found on these streaming services often have stereotypical design features in the interplay of dramaturgical progression, video design and music composition (“Film-Musical Topologies”). It can be assumed that film composers are also increasingly influenced in their way of working by the comparable influence and development of their listening and viewing habits (regarding the “SFP-Model”: Lehmann 1994, 122-126). To investigate this assumption, all 26 submissions to the competition for film music and sound design as part of the “Kurzsüchtig” film festival in Leipzig (2023) were analyzed regarding their individual compositional design for the video and then compared. The comparison of these analysis results correlates with further empirical studies on Film-Musical Topologies in modern entertainment films. The structure of the study and its results will be presented. Finally, it is discussed to what extent these connections indicate an influence on the viewing habits of film composers and directors (see Schneider 2011; Kümpel 2008; Lissa 1965) or an underlying perceptual psychological pattern (see Tsogli et al. 2022; Levitin et al. 2018; Margulis 2014).


Susanne Hardt (*1993) completed a Bachelor’s degree in Music Theory (Dresden, 2012-2016) and a Master’s degree in Film Music (Potsdam Babelsberg, 2016-2020). She is currently working on her dissertation on the influence of different compositional structures in film music on the viewer’s perception (Dresden, Lausanne) as a scholarship holder of the Saxon State Scholarship for Graduate Studies.

Since 2016, she has been a lecturer at various institutions and works as a composer in the fields of new music, film music and music for video games. She has received several awards for her compositions, most recently the special prize in the “Beethoven – Back to the Future” competition (2020).

(9) Anime / East Asia

Music Structuring Animation: The Role of Chopin’s First Ballade in the Series Finale of Your Lie in April
Jeff Yunek & Nash Hickam (Kennesaw State University)

Preexisting piano music in multimedia works tends to be undermined in two significant ways: (1) the music is cut up, distorted, and altered to fit with what is on screen and (2) it usually contains farcical depictions of piano playing. The anime Your Lie in April is exceptional on both counts. Chopin’s Ballade No. 1 is played in its entirety during this anime’s series finale with surprisingly accurate animations of the piano playing. This lack of alteration raises the question: how does this distinctly animated and preserved rendition of this work relate to the associated narrative in the anime?

During this work’s performance, the main character Arima Kousei is performing in a piano competition while his friend/love interest is undergoing an ultimately life-ending surgery. According to the pianists consulted for the music in this anime, this ballade “perfectly” conveys Arima’s emotional angst because of the correlation of hopeful and tragic signifiers in the music to Arima’s hopefulness for his friend/love interest’s survival during her ultimately fatal operation. I will reference hermeneutic concepts given by Klein (2005), Almén (2008), Zbikowski (2002), Hatten (1994), and Hepokoski and Darcy (2006) to articulate the underlying tragic musical narrative whose competing signifiers of hope and despair align with the protagonist’s ill-fated hopes for his friend’s survival. Accordingly, this correlation illustrates how the narrative of Chopin’s Ballade No. 1 requires no alteration to convey the complex emotional arch occurring at this anime’s series finale and how the music drives this climatic scene’s narrative structure.


Nash Hickam graduated from Kennesaw State University with an undergraduate degree in music theory in December of 2023. His main interests in the field are in musical narrative, ludomusicology, and multimedia music. His future plans involve teaching English to Japanese students in the JET program and subsequently applying for master’s programs in music theory.

Dr. Jeff Yunek is an Associate Professor of Music Theory at Kennesaw State University and former President of the South Central Society for Music Theory. He has published on the work of Alexander Scriabin in book chapters, Music Theory Online, and Music Analysis, which are based on his study of Scriabin’s manuscripts and compositional notebooks at the Glinka museum archives in Moscow. He has also presented on the mashups of DJ Earworm at regional, national, and international conferences with related publications in Music Theory Spectrum and the Journal of the Society for American Music.

Mit Debussy gegen das System. Zu Einsatz und Bedeutung des Klavierstücks Rêverie in der Anime-Serie Granbelm (グランベルム)
Dominik Leipold (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)

Im Sommerquartal 2019 wurde im japanischen Fernsehen sowie auf internationalen Streamingplattformen eine 13-teilige animierte Fantasy-Serie ausgestrahlt, die verschiedene Elemente der ostasiatischen ebenso wie der europäischen Kulturgeschichte verknüpft und trotz des kommerziellen Misserfolgs eine lautstarke Fangemeinde fand: Eine Gruppe junger Magierinnen kämpft darin unter Verwendung riesiger Roboter um die Kontrolle sämtlicher Magie. Diesen Gran­belm-Wettbewerb leitet eine artifizielle Entität, die sicherstellen soll, dass nur ein Übermensch im Sinne Nietzsches die damit verbundene Macht erlangt.

Die Mecha-Duelle werden von einem Soundtrack in sinfonischer Tradition begleitet, instrumentiert mit klassischem Orchester und sparsam eingesetzten synthetischen Klangeffekten. Jedoch sticht ausgerechnet eine Szene musikalisch heraus, in der die Hauptprotagonistinnen als unbeteiligte Zuschauerinnen fungieren: Von ihrer Erzfeindin Su­i­shō bedrängt, entdeckt die Kombattantin Ku­on, wie sie die Erinnerung an das Klavierspiel ihrer Schwester nutzen kann, um sich der psychischen und sexualisierten Gewalt ihrer Gegnerin zur Wehr zu setzen. Darauf folgt eine dreiminütige Kampfchoreographie zu Claude Debussys Klavierstück Rêverie. Dessen Bedeutung für Ku­ons Biographie zeigen zudem mehrere, über acht Folgen verteilte Rückblenden.

Neben dieser Schlüsselszene soll analysiert werden, wie durch das Zitat eines spätromantischen Werks und die Darstellung zahlreicher Musiziersituationen ein eigener Handlungsstrang in einem reichhaltigen philosophischen und ästhetischen Ideenkomplex entsteht. Der Rückgriff auf klassische Musik als Kampfmittel kann als Auflehnung gegen die von Su­i­shō repräsentierte Weltordnung verstanden werden. Gran­belm reiht sich ferner in eine für das Medium Anime typische Rezeptionsgeschichte westlicher Kunstmusik ein, der auch die einschlägigen Genre-Vorbilder Mahō Shōjo Madoka Magika und Neon Genesis Evangelion angehören.


Dominik Leipold studierte Mathematik, Musikwissenschaft und Informatik an der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. Seit 2015 arbeitet er als Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter im Akademienprojekt Kritische Ausgabe der Werke von Richard Strauss, wo er unter anderem die Forschungs- und Publikationssoftware weiterentwickelt. Im Rahmen seines Dissertationsprojekts bei Hartmut Schick ediert er derzeit die späten Instrumentalkonzerte von Richard Strauss. Neben der Musikphilologie liegen seine Forschungsinteressen in der Analyse von Musik ab dem 18. Jahrhundert sowie den Werkzeugen und Methoden der Digital Humanities und der Digitalen Musikwissenschaft. Gemeinsam mit Kathrin Kirsch vertritt er die Gesellschaft für Musikforschung e. V. im Steering Board des Konsortiums NFDI4Culture der Nationalen Forschungsdateninfrastruktur. Nebenberuflich ist er regelmäßig als Kirchenmusiker tätig.

Digitalization and the OST of Korean TV Seriestel
Veronika Keller (Universität Koblenz-Landau)

Since the past 20 years, digitalization is part of the musical practices in South Korean TV series. The soundtracks consist of several newly composed pop songs, which are published (as downloads) every week parallel to the broadcasting of the newest episodes. This makes the OST part of the series’ cross-media marketing: a) through constant repetition of the songs in the series themselves (some serve as leitmotif signals for relationships or characters), the songs are introduced to consumers; b) songs by “idols” draw attention to the TV series. However, this does not only apply to the market in Korea, but now internationally thanks to “halyu,” the global spread of Korean pop culture. The digital spread of both the series via platforms like Netflix and viki.com as well as the music via downloads or Spotify are one of the core reasons of the newest phase of the wave, which now also arrived in Europe and North America.

But while this practice has generally been established for the international releases of Korean TV series, the Korean series made* by American streaming platforms forego both the pop song soundtrack and the weekly releases of the OST. The reasons for this as well as its narrative and marketing consequences will be explored in the second half of the paper.

* There are three different types of Korean series on platforms, especially Netflix: The ones bought by the platform, the ones co-produced (both with weekly releases) and the typical original series released in one go.


Veronika Keller is a research associate at the Institute for Musicology and Music Education at the University of Koblenz. After studying musicology and German literature in Leipzig and Halle, she did her doctorate at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich on American students at German conservatories (1843–1918). Her research focuses on the history of professional music education in the nineteenth century, music and gender, music in video games and TV series (US and Korean) and the popularization and reception of classical music in contemporary media.

(10) Aesthetics

Music, lies and artifice: Occult Aesthetics in HBO’s Landscapers (2021)
Jessica Shine (Munster Technological University)

In his book Occult Aesthetics Kevin Donnelly writes that films “exploit the illusory characteristics of the medium to present a world that on some level is taken to be reality by its audience” and that the magic of cinema rests heavily on the concealment of its own artifice. Donnelly’s discussion devotes close attention to the role of the soundtrack, and in particular to the synchronization of sound and image, of music and narrative. His use of the term occult to ground his discussion deliberately conjures up ideas of mystery and all that which is hidden. This paper seeks to employ Donnelly’s theory of occult aesthetics and synchronization to discuss HBO’s true-crime mini-series Landscapers.

The show’s two protagonists Susan (Olivia Coleman) and her husband Christoper (David Thewlis) are depicted as cinema loving, naïve victims of circumstance, whose love is strongly rooted in cinematic notions of romance and when they are accused of murder the couple justify their actions through a filmic lens of romance, justice and heroism. Throughout the series, the artifice of cinema is stripped away: sound stages are revealed, characters address the director, an orchestra and singer are shown singing the soundtrack etc. At first glance, this is the opposite of the concealment of artifice to which Donnelly refers. However, this paper argues that through the use of sound and music, and in particular musical tropes for cinematic genres, Landscapers invites us to believe the couple’s version of events. The soundtrack indulges their romantic fantasy and engages with their pretense in an occult way, shielding us from the reality that they are convicted murderers against our better judgment.


Currently a lecturer in the Department of Media Communications at MTU. Completed a Doctorate on the topic of sound and music in Gus Van Sant’s “Death Quartet” in the School of Music and Theater at University College Cork under the supervision of Prof. Christopher Morris (NUIM) and Dr Danijela Kulezic Wilson. Current research focuses on the use of sound and music in film and television with a particular interest in soundscapes, aesthetics and narrative. I have published my work on Peaky Blinders, Sons of Anarchy, Crazy Ex Girlfriend, Paranoid Park and on Breaking Bad.

“I Wish You Could Hear This”: Sonic Absence, Sensory Deprivation, and Subjective Point-of-Audition in Streaming-Era Television
Peter Adams (University of Cambridge)

This paper will explore the ways in which recent televisual content has experimented with sonic absence, muteness, and subjective point-of-audition to represent forms of sensory deprivation and deafness.

Before focusing on television, I will briefly consider so-called “sensory deprivation cinema”, including Hush (2016) and A Quiet Place (2018). These horror films specifically foreground sonic deprivation, situating the audience – often problematically – within the point-of-audition of deaf and deaf-mute characters. In a non-horror context, several other recent films – including Sound of Metal (2019) and CODA (2021)– have also sought to emulate and mediate the sensory experiences of deaf protagonists.

Following the release of these films, many critics commented on the impact of their pared-back soundscapes, identifying a wider “quiet cinema” phenomenon, yet television’s engagement with deafness and sensory deprivation remains largely overlooked. My paper seeks to address this gap by analysing TV’s “deprivatory” sonic strategies, including the suppression of diegetic sound and consequent reliance on other communicative modes, such as subtitles, sign language, and music.

I will particularly focus on an episode of Hulu’s Only Murders in the Building – ‘The Boy from 6B’ – which is presented from the perspective of a previously-tangential deaf character. By foregrounding this character’s auditory perspective, the show received plaudits for its nuanced portrayal of deafness, avoiding the impulse to associate sensory deprivation with horror.

Combining this case study with several shorter examples, my paper will draw attention to an often-overlooked area of contemporary media aesthetics, highlighting the sonic transformations that have been enabled by the streaming era.


Peter Adams is a PhD candidate at Cambridge University, jointly supervised between the Music Faculty and the Centre for Film and Screen. His work explores the relationship between music, sound, and the moving image, and is situated at the intersection of musicology, sound studies, and media theory. His current research project focuses on the selective omission of diegetic sound in contemporary audiovisual media, and, more generally, on the potentialities of silence and other forms of self-imposed creative restriction. Alongside his PhD, Peter teaches for several colleges across the university, specialising in visual culture, film music, popular music, and ethnomusicology.

Using non-sequential compositions to provide individual interpretation
Ewan East (York St John University)

Through an exploration of possible commercialisation opportunities in producing non-sequential contemporary compositions, I instead fostered the development of providing individual interpretation to the listener, the collaborator and the performer. Exploration of non-sequential musical work has been documented since the eighteenth century (Steib, 1999, p. 18), but it is the commercialisation and diversification of non-sequential media that has captured the mainstream populations attention. Media such as Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (2018) capitalises on an audiences intrigue in dictating the narrative, with an accompanying twenty five interactive TV shows and movies available on Netflix. The age of audience dictated narrative is gradually moving in, but what can classical music do to capitalise on these developments and could this be a way to engage with a wider audience than before.

My current PhD research explores non-sequential compositions and the individual interpretations this can provide. In the context of music, individualisation is not limited to the audience. By providing a piece that can change narratives through variation of orders, the listener, the collaborate and the performer can all develop their own individual connection and outcome of the piece. My research has seen me collaborate with creative writers, performers and audiences, all influencing the narrative outcome of the material provided, alongside questions on the length of sections and the impact on the narrative continuing to be explored.


Currently undertaking a PhD in Music Composition at York St John University, Ewan’s compositional style explores minimalism and romanticism, with material developing from improvisations at the piano. Ewan became the inaugural recipient of the Ann Green Prize for Contribution to University Music in 2019.

Interested in education, Ewan completed a PGCE in Secondary Music and a subsequent year of teaching, later returning to York St John University in 2021 to complete a Masters in Music Composition. His Masters work, Pieces of Depression, created a musical representation of different symptoms of depression, with the aim of encouraging conversations around mental health.

(11) Opening titles II / Nostalgia

“Ancient Voices”: A Hypermetrical and Orchestrational Analysis of the Theme Songs to Seasons of CBS’s Survivor
Micah Roberts (University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music)

This paper analyzes the theme song “Ancient Voices” from CBS’s reality show Survivor, focusing on its hypermetrical accents and structure across the first twenty-six seasons. It investigates how each season’s musical introduction, reflecting the show’s geographical and cultural setting, creates a thematic ritual for the audience and mirrors the narrative of each season. The study uses hypermetrical analytical methods by Cone, Lerdahl, and Jackendoff, incorporating retrospective listening and cognitive processes by London and Mirka to identify metric cultural signifiers. This approach is vital as Survivor’s music primarily exists aurally due to the lack of available scores.

The theme “Ancient Voices,” composed by Russ Landau, underwent variations to resonate with each filming location’s culture, involving local musicians and styles. The core composition, a twenty-two measure piece in 4/4 time with a variable quasi-metric upbeat, remains consistent across seasons, but structural elements like rhythmic ostinatos and countermelodic figures vary.

The paper limits its study to themes fitting three criteria: composed by Russ Landau, featured in each episode’s beginning, and from seasons where the location changed every one to two seasons. The analysis shows that the variations in “Ancient Voices” are not just for entertainment but are intricate arrangements that effectively convey the unique identity of each Survivor season through hypermetrical and orchestrational techniques, transmitting authentic world cultural musical styles to the audience.


Micah Roberts is a second year MM in Music Theory student at The University of

Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. His research interests are mathematics of music

theory, British brass band music, worship music, and music in media. He studied undergraduate music education and mathematics at Austin Peay State University.

Sonic (Screwdriver) Storytelling: Analysing Musical Gesture and the “Nostalgic Potential” of the Doctor Who Theme in the Streaming Age
James Ellis (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Television theme music creates overarching thematic tensions and narrative signifiers, ushering viewers into established audiovisual worlds. This paper will outline how the evolving theme music of the science-fiction drama Doctor Who (BBC) can act as a storytelling device, conjuring affective narratives for the viewer as they venture with the Doctor through new audiovisual land- and soundscapes.

By utilising a new theory of musical gesture, this paper will graphically map musical contours revealing how theme music can link to past franchise iterations whilst also establishing new themes for dramatic storytelling. In the streaming age, this intertextual relationship reveals a phenomenon I term “nostalgic potential” which informs a franchise’s evolution. The concept of “nostalgic potential” will identify how musical themes can develop original musical material to serve new audiences, particularly in a streaming context, whilst preserving musical signifiers which link original characters and stories to new portrayals. Through an analytical theory of musical gesture, influenced by musicology (Hatten, 2018), dance pedagogy (Albright, 2013) and media studies (Donnelly, 2005), we can precisely examine how music reveals the narrative experience viewers come to inhabit through their engagement.

By analysing the musical and thematic content of Doctor Who (1963–1989) and the franchise’s revival (2005—present), this paper highlights how related and diverse musical gestures and their “nostalgic potential” can impact storytelling and audiovisual engagement. In a world where streaming platforms are vying for our prolonged engagement within their product, this paper’s theorisation of how that attention can be immediately grasped is contemporarily apt.


James Ellis is a PhD Research Student at Royal Holloway University of London. His recent publication in the Journal of Sound and Music in Games is entitled “On the Trail of a Nostalgic Adventure: Identifying and Analyzing the Nostalgic Potential of Video Game Music in the Context of the Pokémon Franchise.” James’s research centres around ludomusicology and musical analysis with a focus on player interaction, identity and engagement with audiovisual texts and the development of gestural theories of music to illuminate concepts of immersion. James is also an active pianist who teaches and regularly performs.

“Reminiscence Therapy”: Nostalgia and the Leitmotif in Disney’s Star Wars
Conor Power (Maynooth University)

Once hearkening back to the sound of Golden Age Hollywood, now, the Star Wars “Main Title” might instead remind audiences of their own history with the galaxy far, far away. In reboots, sequels, and spin-offs, returning musical themes not only signify a continuing story and remind us of a narrative past but reinforce ourown connections to that past. Indeed, composers and filmmakers frequently elicit nostalgia in an attempt to resummon the utopian value often linked to older media; this process was described as a form of “reminiscence therapy” by John Powell, composer of Solo: A Star Wars Story, who noted that echoes of familiar music could “remind us of what [our] lives were”.

In a Hollywood defined by the consistent repackaging of existing IP, the leitmotif serves as a device of recollection, with scores to popular franchises often highlighting broader metanarratives and callbacks at the expense of the current story, an aesthetic that reflects contemporary fandoms’ obsessions with Easter Eggs and referentiality. Drawing upon the work of Flinn (1992), Boym (2001), and Golding (2019), this paper explores the nostalgification of John Williams’s music in contemporary Star Wars films and series, the musical citations of which necessitate a re-evaluation of the leitmotif’s developmental and signifying properties. Accordingly, I argue that Williams’s themes now act in the vein of reminiscence motifs (Erinnerungsmotivs) of opéra comique rather than Wagnerian leitmotifs, a revision not only effected by Williams but by directors, film editors, and other Star Wars composers.


Conor Power is a PhD candidate at Maynooth University. His thesis Composing America: Patriotism, Mythology, and Piety in the Film Scores of John Williams was completed under the supervision of Professor Christopher Morris and was funded by Maynooth’s John Hume Doctoral Scholarship. Conor has presented at conferences in England, France, Spain, and the US and has lectured at Oxford Brookes and Edinburgh University. He has published with Cuadernos de Investigación Musical and Ireland’s national broadcaster, RTÉ, and has been interviewed by The Journal and the BBC. He serves on the editorial board of the French media journal Émergence·s.

(12) Production & Reception

The Ontology of Audio Objects: Dolby Atmos and Streaming Audio’s Immersive Aesthetics
Harry Burson (University of California, Berkeley)

My paper examines Dolby Atmos, a so-called “immersive” sound technology employing digital technology originally created for cinemas that has since become a premium format for streaming audio on platforms from Netflix to Apple Music. Unlike traditional channel-based stereophonic formats, Atmos is based on the arrangement of discrete “audio objects” that can be moved around an artificial soundscape of any number of speakers in a home listening environment. Compared to formats designed around static channels or a monadic ambience, as an object-based format, Dolby Atmos presents an increasingly flexible soundscape defined by relational movement rather than fixed location. I argue that Dolby Atmos’s formulation of digital audio objects interacting on an imaginary, modular substrate owes much to the theoretical grounding of object-oriented programming in the field of computer science. Through a close analysis of both the technical basis of audio objects and Dolby’s promotional materials, I argue that the sensation of auditory immersion in Dolby Atmos is a productive site where listeners have an aesthetic experience of the otherwise insensible ubiquitous data networks that undergird contemporary digital culture. I contend that recent scholarly debates on the fundamental inability to illustrate the complexity of new informational and social structures in visual terms has ignored new ways of apprehending digital networks through sound. The hegemony of vision that characterized structures of knowledge in modernity has been significantly challenged by the novel cinematic soundscapes that explore the role of the auditory in comprehending the contemporary reality of ubiquitous computing.

I argue that the appeal of auditory immersion in Dolby Atmos is largely based in the new digital format that uses sound to reveal hidden, complex, and ubiquitous networks that structure contemporary life. Drawing on the work of Alexander R. Galloway, Frances Dyson, and Gascia Ouzounian, my paper challenges predominantly visual approaches to questions of representing networks and media aesthetics. My work contributes to contemporary discourse in new media, sound studies, and media environments by examining how sound is used to represent the supersensible realm of cloud computing and ubiquitous data.


Harry Burson is a PhD candidate in Film & Media at the University of California in, Berkeley. He is interested in immersive sound technology and aesthetics as well as histories of stereophonic sound.

The Spectacle of the Streamed Space: A Private and Separated Spatial Image for the Alienated and Isolated Viewer
Teerath Majumder (Columbia College Chicago)

The sound of modern film has almost invariably been the result of a curatorial process that allows filmmakers to select and place sonic events with the purpose of creating/supporting a narrative. This process at once attempts to separate the sound sources from any naturally occurring spatial artifacts and synthesizes an artificial space that becomes a collage of spatial signatures. As such, film sound always is an autonomous and fabricated image—much like its visual counterpart—that presents itself as reality, thereby engendering separation between production and reception. This paper postulates that the private viewing space that streaming has given rise to perfects this separation by lending ever more credibility to the sonic image through immersion and the negation of the social phenomenon of visiting and being in a theatre space.

The paper engages with “situationist” ideas put forth by Guy Debord, the deconstruction of sonic space by Georgina Born, acoustic ecology, and relational aesthetics to critique the affordances that streaming provides producers of fixed visual media to isolate the viewer and control their sonic and social environment. This criticism leads to the conclusion that streamed content further alienates the viewer from the mechanisms of production and isolates them socially by making the spectacle of “immersion” the objective; an objective approached through a sophisticated caricature of spatial signatures disguised as a coherent acoustic ecosystem.


Teerath Majumder is a Bangladeshi composer, designer, technologist and educator who works ininteractive and immersive media, computer music, and sound design. He is interested in how sound facilitatesand mediates social relationships among people, spaces and objects. His 2022 project Space Within engagedaudience members and featured musicians in a collaborative creation of electronic music. He frequently collaborates with dancers, filmmakers, visual artists and writers in various capacities. Teerath holds a PhD in Integrated Composition, Improvisation and Technology from University of California, Irvine and is currently an Assistant Professor of Sound Design at Columbia College Chicago.

Hip Hop YouTube: Technological Creativity Confronts Algorithmic Bias in Automated Copyright Administration
Matthew Day Blackmar (UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music)

This paper observes how the proliferation and subversion of copyright administration technologies converge in novel YouTube genres, emphasizing beats that simulate hip hop alongside rap “fan vidding.” Spurred by the creative subversion of audio technologies, musical sampling practices have long tested copyright law. But while the burden of proof for litigants rests on “substantial similarity” between protected and infringing content, YouTube operates differently: audio “fingerprinting” technologies now enforce copyright preemptively, compounding a chilling effect exerted by case law and prompting a proliferation of “type” beats. YouTube hip-hop producers use the “type” modifier, simulating a celebrated beatmaker’s style, to reconcile legibility to other users with search visibility. On the one hand, such beats cater to demand among aspiring emcees for instrumentals to rap over while providing producers raw material for sampling. On the other hand, they yield a siphon-like effect on “official” videos, monetizing them while eluding automated content detection. Where type beats simulate music, “fan vids” instead set copyrighted audio to video pastiche, “time-stretching” media to avoid algorithmic scrutiny. Videographic manipulation subverts fingerprinting algorithms by way of rapid-fire montage, while compression artifacts thwart scanning via reduction of encoding bitrates. Musical and audiovisual style are thus instrumentalized online, marking out how YouTube’s materiality has stimulated new genres of media practice. Ultimately, I argue that YouTube’s automated copyright administration system, Content ID, is itself a text that can be productively understood via the musical lens of hip hop. Examination of music under Content ID in turn helps to explain contemporary hip hop practice.


Matthew Blackmar is a musicologist and media-studies scholar whose research interests center on the musical amateur, engaging contemporary digital practice, twentieth-century recording engineering and sound design, and nineteenth-century print cultures. His work has appeared in the Thurnauer Schriften zum Musiktheater, Sensate: A Journal for Experiments in Critical Media Practice, and The Musicology Review, and received the American Musicological Society’s Ingolf Dahl Award. Prior to graduate study, Matthew contributed keyboards, programming, and string arrangements to indie pop, hip hop, and heavy metal recordings in Los Angeles. He is a PhD Candidate in musicology at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music.

(13) Identities

“A last dance before the feast”: Timbral Alteration and Vampiric Love In Interview With the Vampire (2022-Present) and First Kill (2022)
Jacy Pedersen (Wichita State University) & Caitlan Truelove (Independent Scholar)

Noted by Nina Auerbach (1995), vampires have long served as a metaphor for societal values and fears, often grappling with matters of sex and sexuality. In our current media-streaming culture, vampires are once again being embraced as a way to explore gay and lesbian relationships in Interview With the Vampire (AMC+) and First Kill (Netflix). Musical tropes found in vampire media, such as the use of solo cello, Romantic orchestral scoring, and period-appropriate popular music (Halfyard 2016), as well as the musical tropes found in lesbian media, such as more current chart-topping or newly written popular music to show female agency (Kassabian 2001), are highlighted in these two series. However, within these soundtracks, the use of timbre quickly ebbs and flows between the non-diegetic soundscapes of horror and romance. In both series, these shifts heavily involve distortion, electronic processing, and traditional ways of scoring vampires. Although changing timbre is an easy way to show mood, and not uncommon to show rising action in horror, the time constraints of scoring streaming television productions, as well as how audiences consume this media, affect our listening/hearing of these timbral changes. We argue that the use of timbral alteration, be it electronic or acoustic through extended techniques, transcends the musical tropes of vampire- and lesbian romance-focused media to highlight these narratives’ shared exploration of non-othered same-sex relationships.


Dr. Jacy Pedersen is an Assistant Professor of Music Theory at Wichita State University. Her primary research focuses on an interdisciplinary approach to analysis of music composed by women in the Soviet Union, incorporating analytical tools from music theory, drama, literature, and gender studies. She has presented her work on video game music, film music, and Russian music at the Society for Music Theory, the North American Conference on Video Game Music, and the International Musicological Society. Jacy earned her PhD from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

Dr. Caitlan Truelove earned her PhD in Musicology at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music in 2023, writing a dissertation that situated the twenty-first-century television musical series as an emerging genre, exploring how musical numbers addressed themes of disability, mental health, trauma, and identity. She has presented her work on film and television music at the American and International Musicological Societies, the Society for American Music, Music and the Moving Image, and the Society for Cinema and Media Studies. Caitlan has forthcoming chapters in The Oxford Handbook for the Television Musical; The Oxford Handbook of Arrangement Studies; and The Oxford Handbook of Music and Television.

A case for minimalist melomania: Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)
Anika Babel (University College Dublin)

Mélomanes are music-loving directors who “treat music not as something to farm out … but rather as a key thematic element and a marker of authorial style.” In establishing this term, Claudia Gorbman was careful to include within its purview auteurs who “hardly use music at all” (2007). I argue that sparsity, as a minimalist mélomane’s prerogative, enhances rather than diminishes music’s profundity in their films.

Towards developing scholarly discourse on minimalist melomania, writer-director Céline Sciamma’s careful use of music throughout her 2019 French feature film, Portrait of a Lady on Fire,is delineated throughout this paper. Sciamma’s integrated soundtrack is rooted in her characters’ subjectivities; we experience their soundscape as they would. Not only does Sciamma’s limited and expressly diegetic use of music help foster this impression of realism, this stylistic choice also bolsters her political ambition: to reclaim ‘the verifiable histories of women artists and [lead] us to imagine new affective and erotic realities for them’ (Wilson 2021). 

Through analysis of the film and script, alongside critical engagement with published interviews with the filmmakers, the impact of Sciamma’s minimalist melomania in Portrait of a Lady on Fire is illustrated. I argue that the film’s popularity — aided by its accessibility on various streaming platforms and indeed the correlative increase in the consumption of foreign-language films among anglophone audiences arising from the growing use of subtitles on streaming services (Garcia 2020) — suggests an appetite for, or at least an openness among contemporary filmgoers to, films featuring minimal amounts of music.


Anika Babel is a final-year doctoral candidate at University College Dublin. Her thesis examines the narrative and symbolic roles of pianos in film adaptations. She is president of the Dublin Musicology Collective and co-editor of The Musicology Review. Further to publishing research in journals such as The Soundtrack and sharing papers at conferences like Music and the Moving Image, Anika is a keen public musicologist. She contributes and consults regularly for Ireland’s national broadcaster, Raidió Teilifís Éireann, and enjoys working with community groups.

“The City’s Ours Until the Fall”: Queer-Coded Worldbuilding in Tumblr Albums of the 2010s
Allyson Starr (Indiana University, Jacobs School of Music)

In the 2010s, the social media site, Tumblr, fostered a safe community for queer youth to take part in fan culture activities, surrounding various musical artists, their albums, and the resulting sounds and narratives. In their dystopian soundscapes and aesthetics with contrastingly simple lyrics, these artists reflected on themes of identity, queerness, and love. Given that the audience on the platform heavily-consisted of queer youth, such topics offered a sense of hopeful self-recognition for their listeners, which created anticipatory nostalgia. Drawing on the workings of identity studies, such as that of Suzanne Cusick and Jodie Taylor, I aim to recognize the queer-coded aspects of the music that popularized on Tumblr. On the platform, several albums were specifically noted for their presence on the platform, which I will hereby refer to as “Tumblr albums.” These albums include: Halsey’s Badlands (2015), Lorde’s Pure Heroine (2013), Melanie Martinez’s Cry Baby (2015), and Troye Sivan’s Blue Neighborhood (2015). In this paper, I will conduct a timbral analysis in order to recognize similar elements of the soundscapes across these Tumblr albums as a means to understand their individual narratives.

In my discussion of genre-bending characteristics, I adopt methodologies outlined by Megan Lavengood and Paul Théberge to determine and analyze the elements of production that create the timbral patterns in each of these albums both individually, and within the greater realm of music popularized via Tumblr. Through case studies of four tracks from the aforementioned albums, I strive to understand the musical elements that could be attributed to the strong sense of community and identification for Tumblr’s queer patrons. Such analyses will offer insight into the production tactics and timbral inflections that accomplished the queer-coded worldbuilding in the albums that marked the 2010s on Tumblr.


Allyson Starr is a first-year PhD student in Music Theory at Indiana University, Jacobs School of Music. She holds a Masters in Music Theory as well as a Bachelors in Music Theory and Flute Performance from Temple University, Boyer College of Music and Dance. Allyson’s interests lie in contour theory, transformational theory, and topic theory in regard to contemporary and post-tonal works, as a means to analyze musical aesthetics and semiotics. Her research also ventures into American popular music and narrative, through a lens of identity studies.

(14) Pre-existing music in series

The Pop Song in the Age of Video-Streamed Reproduction
Michael Baumgartner (Cleveland State University)

The here proposed paper investigates the function of popular songs in such recent multi-episode television dramas as The Handmaid’s Tale, Killing Eve, Babylon Berlin, and The A Word. Produced during “the third golden age of television” (Erlend Lavik), these programs follow the aesthetics of “post-continuity” (Steven Shaviro). In this style, the emphasis of the viewing and listening experience is less governed by chronological strategies of storytelling than more by a jagged collage of visual and sonic fragments. Within the framework of this aesthetic, popular songs fulfill a crucial role. As pre-existing music, they add an “affective accentuation” (Nicholas Reyland) to these programs, which other filmic devices cannot add. The songs in all four shows have in common that they are prominently mixed into the aural foreground. They are often integrated into these programs with biting irony (Killing Eve), as a means of communication (The A[utism] Word), as a Brechtian alienation effect (The Handmaid’s Tale), or in an overt, self-reflexive manner (Babylon Berlin). Mainly used as fragments, they provide a blueprint for a particularly fast-paced and musicalized editing style. As intertextual references, they supplement a close reading of the on-screen actions with broader socio-cultural significations (Nicholas Cook). In short, these songs, as crucial elements of the “integrated soundtrack” (Danijela Kulezic-Wilson), provide sonic richness to the here discussed television dramas which elevates them to the level of stylized, kaleidoscopic, and nuanced audio-visual events in line with the characteristics of recent trends in “quality TV” (Janet McCabe and Kim Akass).


Michael Baumgartner teaches at Cleveland State University. His research focuses on music in relation to cinema, theater and visual arts, music of the twentieth and twenty-first century, and the exploration of the narrative capacity of music. He is the author of the monographs Metafilm Music in Jean-Luc Godard’s Cinema (Oxford University Press, 2022) and Exilierte Göttinnen: Frauenstatuen im Bühnenwerk von Kurt Weill, Thea Musgrave und Othmar Schoeck (Olms Verlag, 2012). Together with Ewelina Boczkowska, he is also the co-editor of the three anthologies Music, Collective Memory, Trauma, and Nostalgia in European Cinema after the Second World War; Music, Ideology, Commerce, and Popular Cinema in Europe: 1940s to 1980s; and Music, Authorship, Narration, and Art Cinema in Europe: 1940s to 1980s (all Routledge, 2020–24).

My New Music: Scrubs’ Changing Soundtrack in the Streaming Era
Ben Major (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Television shows have been using preexisting music for most of their history. Most genres are represented in this practice. Contemporary-set dramas and comedies carefully choose pop music for humorous and emotive ends, and to connect the show to the viewers’ everyday existence, with it being the “stock music of everyday life”. (Donnelly, 2005).

But what happens when the music is changed? Although not exclusively a streaming-era phenomenon, changing the soundtrack to a show as it moves across formats and territories has become more commonplace as the rights to use specific music becomes even more complicated. The rise of streaming in particular has brought about a shift in practice, as songs that aren’t licensed for streaming must be replaced by other pop music or be newly composed. This not only has an effect on the audiovisual result, but also leads to a disconnect for longtime fans of many series. This problem has only been exacerbated by the emergence of “forensic fandoms” who pick apart shows and analyze every aspect of the medium.

Using Scrubs (2001-2010) as a case study, and based on work by Donnelly, 2005; Brown, 2009; Mittell, 2009; Godsall, 2019; and others, this paper examines the practice of using preexisting music and its effect on audience’s experiences. It will then look at the effect of musical substitutions both for consumers, and for the show itself, as meanings are changed by the new accompanying music.


Ben Major received a BMus in Music Education from Brigham Young University, beginning his career as a public school band teacher in the state of Utah. After teaching for six years, he returned to higher education to pursue a Master’s degree in England, where he completed an MA in Music from the University of Birmingham. Ben is currently pursuing a PhD in Music at Royal Holloway, University of London where his research looks at game-specific tropes and their sonic qualities. His research interests include video game topics and tropes, audiovisual media, and 20th century popular music.

Audiovisual Souvenirs from the Upside Down: Post-Binging Engagement with Pre-Existing Songs in the Soundtrack of Stranger Things
Julin Lee (Hochschule für Musik und Theater München)

The summer of 2022 saw the resurgence of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” (1985) following its use in the fourth season of Stranger Things (Netflix, 2016–present), where it played a key narrative role in the survival of one of the series’ main characters. Besides climbing various music charts internationally, the song’s use in Stranger Things inspired a multitude of audiovisual paratexts: from samples of Bush’s original recording accompanying various TikTok videos recreating the original scene to epic covers of the song produced in the style of the “orchestral mix” version heard in the show’s soundtrack. These fan-made videos evidence a strong engagement not only with the original song but also its deployment in the narrative environment of Stranger Things.

Using this as the main case study, I aim to theorize how series soundtracks are engaged with in the post-viewing phase, particularly following the binge-watching experience encouraged by the affordances of streaming platforms such as Netflix through their bulk-release format. First, I draw parallels in experiential intensity between binge-watching and tourism, which engenders the reliance on salient (audiovisual) landmarks for (narrative) orientation, both during and after (binge) trips. After drawing on theories from spatial informational sciences (Sorrows and Hirtle 1999) to systematically characterize “landmark sequences,” I develop an analytical framework around “audiovisual souvenirs” that allow narrative tourists to extend their viewing experiences. Adapting approaches from material culture studies of tourism (Hume 2014), I build a comparative framework for analyzing audiovisual souvenirs ranging from original clips to TikTok recreations and YouTube covers to examine the different socio-cultural roles they fulfil.


Julin Lee is a doctoral research and teaching assistant at the University of Music and Theatre Munich, where she is working on her dissertation on American narrative television music and sound in the 21st century. During her affiliation with the Deutsches Museum, her research focused on the intersection of organology and film music studies. Her paper on the Yamaha CS-80 synthesizer and Blade Runner won the Frederick R. Selch Award at the 2021 conference of the American Musical Instrument Society. More recently, she is the winner of the 2023 Claudia Gorbman Award for her paper on musical instruments in behind-the-score featurettes of contemporary television series. She currently serves on the editorial board of the Kieler Beiträge zur Filmmusikforschung.

(15) Historical to current perspectives

Row against the stream
José Júlio Lopes (Lisbon New University)

The digitalization of music and audiovisual is part of a general process of digitalization of daily life that has largely been achieved. It is true that the digitalization of music and streaming made the creation/consumption of music uniformly planetary: It is also true that what seems to be in danger are vernacular musics, the “imperfection” of music digitally unprocessed, and musical expressions aesthetically misaligned with the industrialized tonal canon (such as contemporary music). Digitalization seems to impose processes that force the circulation of (filmic and musical) narratives from a centralized source of technological narrative processing and dissemination. Music and narratives pre-processed by centrally created and managed technological machines could annihilate some important categories such as the “authenticity” or the “aura” (Benjamin, 2017). There is no single way to describe the impact that digitalization has had on the music field. And the consequences of a broad process of streaming audiovisual and intermedia narratives are not yet foreseen. The mediation of music cannot be reduced solely to its technological mediation – no matter how transformative these technologies may seem (Ernst, 2016). Music is at the forefront of turbulent changes in the production, distribution and reception of culture, galvanized by digitalization. And this is precisely what should be thought of right away (Wilson, 2021). Therefore, in the era of digitalization and streaming, it is important to think about a new phenomenology and a new critical thinking that considers the practices and effects of the digitalization of music and streamed audiovisual narratives (Born, 2022) globally.


José Júlio Lopes, born in Lisbon, started his career writing stage music. Today his catalogue includes music for chamber orchestra, instrumental, vocal, and choral, ensemble with voices, electro-acoustic, symphonic, large orchestra and opera. He studied music, composition and piano in Lisbon and composition with Franco Donatoni (Royal Academy of Music, London). He also completed a master’s degree on Communication Sciences and a PhD dissertation under the theme “The opera of the future – the arts in the era of aesthetic electricity“. He is researcher at the CESEM (Lisbon New University), and a teacher. His music is regularly performed by artists, groups and ensembles in various venues in Portugal and abroad (Spain, Germany, London).

The Streaming Revolution (But Not the One You Think): The Fate of Polystylism in Recorded Video Game Music
Mattia Merlini (University of Milan)

Speaking of streaming, there is another important revolution that is related to an entirely different – but, from a ludomusicological perspective, even more important – event. During the 1990s, video game consoles started to become capable of not only synthesizing music on board or play it via compressed samples combined in real time, but also streaming music directly from the game’s physical support. This meant that video game music could be recorded like any other kind of music and then reproduced directly during the playing experience without substantial differences. But what happens to music when the compositional affordances change so radically? In this paper I focus on that important shift in the history of video game composition and particularly on how the relationship with polystylism has apparently changed in Japanese and Western games during and after the shift. In doing so, I focus on case studies that cover the timespan of my interest, be these single games that were reissued (with “remastered” music) multiple times, single franchises and single composers. Thus, I will be able to emphasize some of the main differences between the Japanese and Western approaches, and how these could be related to the ways in which the two industrial contexts reacted to the important technological change of streamed video game music.


Mattia Merlini is PhD Fellow at the University of Milan, holding an M.A. in Musicology (2019, Milan) and a second M.A. in Philosophy (2022, Pisa). He is also teaching assistant at the University of Milan (since 2021) and at the IULM University (since 2022). He teaches philosophy, human sciences, history, and music disciplines in secondary schools and since 2017 has been organising participating in outreach activities, especially in the fields of art and philosophy, in the areas of Milan and of Bolzano, his homeland – where he is also active as a composer for local independent film productions.

The Physiognomy of Streaming: Adorno’s Radio Theory and Digital Media
Aare Tool (Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre)

In this presentation, I attempt to approach the current situation in digital media from a historical perspective. Many of the dilemmas that seem to define the “streaming age” can be traced back to the 1920s and 1930s when radio broadcasting revolutionized the way how information and entertainment were transmitted to a mass audience. Theodor W. Adorno analysed the aesthetical and ideological hazards of radio broadcasting in a series of essays, including “Radio Physiognomics”, written during his participation in the Princeton Radio Research Project (1938–1941). Several of the observations he expressed in connection with what he called the “radio voice” – concerning standardization, illusion of closeness, commodity listening, etc. – resonate in his subsequent writings on mass culture and remain relevant in the current age of digital media. The more early radio stations declared themselves to be dedicated to fostering education and popularizing “serious” music, the less they were, according to Adorno, able to fulfil these noble aims. Advertisements of radio receivers in the 1920s and 1930s on the one hand and those of current streaming services on the other will serve as my primary sources for this research. Despite the obvious differences in media consumption then and now (linear broadcasting vs streaming), the ideology surrounding radio broadcasts and modern media remains similar in many aspects. As in the 1930s radio receivers were supposed to provide access to music “from all over Europe”, so are streaming services advertising themselves as the best source of music for “everyone”.


Aare Tool is Lecturer of Musicology and Researcher at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre. In 2016 he received his PhD in Musicology from the EAMT, focusing on music theory and neo-Riemannian analysis (The Modes of Limited Transposition and Form in the Music of Eduard Oja). His research interests have recently included the histories of Estonian (jazz) music and radio broadcasting in the 1920s and 1930s. His recent articles include “Theodor W. Adorno’s Radio Theory: An Interpretation from the Estonian Perspective of the 1920s and 1930s” (Res Musica, 2023).