The sound is 'out there': score, sound design
and exoticism in The X-Files
ROBYNN J. STILWELL
While scoring for films is a subject which has finally, belatedly, been drawing scholarly attention, the television sound-world is still largely uncharted territory. The assumption is made, implicitly, that techniques are merely transferred from the big screen to the small. Although it is now widely accepted that visual codes are not fully transferable from one medium to the other – television has roots in theatre and radio, as well as in film – the study of sound, once again, lags so far behind that of image in television that it is practically non-existent.
Just as shot composition, editing, lighting, special effects, and acting are different in television and films – for various historical and technical reasons, television is thought of in terms of limitations vis-à-vis film (smaller screen, smaller budgets, shorter attention span) – sound is also different. Speakers are small and limited in reproductive range; stereo is a recent development and still dependent upon relatively poor quality and little or no practical separation, unless viewers invest in exterior speakers for their television sets. Therefore, frequency and dynamic range are restricted, and clarity of musical voice-leading is compromised.
Film and television are different. Television as it exists in most parts of the world is a commercial enterprise, a long flow of advertisements for products interrupted by a schedule of entertainments which in effect serve
My thanks to Ian Flindell of the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, Southampton, for allowing me access to his knowledge of acoustics and perception; and to Nicholas Cook and Stan Hawkins for reading and commenting upon the draft.