Captain’s Log — Incidental
Long before I became even a DJ, never mind a producer, audio, let alone music, was my great passion. Form, structure, treatment, composition all grabbed my attention whilst I was moved by the music for its own sake … adding a level of enjoyment I evangelised to anyone who would listen to me wax lyrical about them.
I’d draw their attention to the way in which different ‘voices’ ‘spoke’ to each other … the way a certain refrain was transposed to a different ‘instrument, inverted, reversed, ‘arpeggiated’ (resulting in its disappearing but never actually leaving) … or how a sound was reverbed and delayed as the cutoff filter changed the frequencies affected … the way the delivery of a vocal imparted mood, an emotion (it’s not just what is said, but the way ¹ ) … how a remix changed the ‘story’ told by emphasising different aspects … you name it, I could (and would) deliver a lecture on the relevant musical theory.
It’s why, when ‘dance’ music started becoming a thing, I was excited by the way it broke the composition down into its constituent parts and rebuilt them, stage by stage back into the glorious whole it had been before the breakdown — now everyone was getting a musical education and could come to appreciate it the way I did.
Now … as many of you know, I don’t watch TV.
That is to say, I don’t actively watch it. Instead, I wait for family and friends to inform me of what they know I will appreciate rather than waste my time watching inordinate amounts of dross, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year … precious seconds of scarily finite life evaporating into the entropic ether of lost time better spent doing something else altogether, in the hope that, eventually, something will prove to have been worth it.
So, with very rare exception, I usually end up watching things long after they’ve been and gone.
It has taken me some five years to learn of Travelers, therefore (because others were incredibly slack about their moral duty to their friends and didn’t inform me of its existence sooner).
Is it a staggeringly original concept?
Of course not: there are only nine (or it might be twelve, I forget exactly) stories that can be told, after which the only things that determine whether something is especially good, bad or just plain ‘meh’ are the panache and finesse with which the tale is told.
It is, however, the best of its kind that I’ve seen since Fringe — the chemistry between the cast is superb and it is, as a result, real binge-watch material because you care about the characters and their fates (even the ones you dislike).
But there’s something else noteworthy about it.
Namely that it has attained the holy grail of incidental ‘mood’ music.
Normally, incidental music, like a laughter track, is so unsubtle about its manipulation of mood and signposting of significant plot development that it has become a meme in its own right — how often have you seen/heard a remark along the lines of “I wish my life had a soundtrack to let me know when something important was about to happen”?
But it took me until s3e3 to realise that I had only just noticed it for the first time.
That’s twenty hours of almost non-stop viewing before it impinged upon my consciousness.
And I then completely failed to notice it again right up until the end.
That’s some seriously next-level psychoemotional manipulation: I, with my lifelong focus on the sonic realm, failed to notice it even though I knew it was happening!
I’m impressed … and will have to watch it again, taking notes as I do so — if you wanna score something to enhance it without being intrusive … that’s how you do it!
¹ Amongst the finest examples being the sleazy machismo in Track X ² and characterisation, in Catch 22, of the mindset of both those who enthusiastically embrace the rat race and those for whom it is mind-numbing, spirit-crushing, soul-destroying (the manic laugh after “Oh, boy, do I love money” is just perfect.) … or the macho bravura of Chard — Aura really should spend more time listening to early SoD (Greatest Hits / On Drugs) … I’m sure they’ll grow on her, if she gives them a chance.
² Not that the music itself is any less sleazy — oh … and listen to the way the first “yeah” is transformed into a pig after the lyric “Drag your skin on my leatherette … [I] wanna hear the squeal” 😉