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Bill Bailey and the Secrets of TV Music

May 12, 2009

Bill BaileyI loved Bill Bailey’s Remarkable Guide to the Orchestra last night.  Apart from the usual Bailey-esque humour, he makes a couple of shrewd observations about the use of music on TV. 

First, he points out how banks like Lloyd’s used baroque music like Bach’s chorale from Cantata BWV140 (yes, I had to look this up online!).  ‘The music from that era is often used in advertising to subliminally suggest…order, solidity and trustworthiness’.  He then accompanies the music with a mime related to global financial collapse.  I guess you have to watch it…!

Second, he covers the NBC nightly news theme.  It’s a news intro, but ‘pure Hollywood entertainment’ created by film score composer John Williams.  ‘It sounds like ET on a horse being chased by Darth Vader’.  It reminded me of a brilliant observation by Vincent Miller: that in a consumer culture we have to find ways to ‘package’ global events and domesticate the suffering of others.  We do this by turning the news into a grimly entertaining spectacle. 

“the news…provides an unremitting mood of catastrophe.  This is where we find an emotional experience not available elsewhere”…The news media are not in the business of analysing causes and promoting debate on solutions…Rather, it is a marketer of intensities, of which the suffering other is a best selling variety…[it does have a] disquieting effect…but in the absence of analysis of its causes and proposals to address it, it merely stupefies (Consuming Religion, p. 134)

OK, so the news does provoke some debate.  But very often we consume it as nightly entertainment.  And if that sounds unfair, maybe we should ask ourselves how many of the news articles we encounter each day we actually get to do something about. 

Bill Bailey sings along to the news theme, and adds the refrain ‘you really should get out more’.  If he means that we should spend less time being darkly fascinated by global events we are often powerless to change, and more time making real connections in our community where we can make a difference, then I think I agree.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Mark permalink
    May 12, 2009 10:58 pm

    OK, so I followed the ‘subliminal advertising’ tag and found this

    These things truly scare me…!

  2. May 14, 2009 9:46 am

    The books ‘why we buy’ and ‘buyology’ were both written for the advertising industry, but make good ‘know your enemy’ reading.

    As for music, have you noticed how much twee whimsical folk music there is on adverts these days? What does that say?

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