Music, The “Silent” Influencer

Lovers of podcasts rely heavily on music in their listening experience, whether they are aware of that fact or not. The music is usually so well crafted into the story that a casual listener can easily miss it. But, how can it have such a substantial impact on the emotional state of the audience, when it’s hardly noticeable?

The entire concept of “True You” by Invisibilia is filled with suspense and anticipation – who really ARE you when you are not looking? The podcast series provides an ideal platform for the analysis of music as a tool of emotion.

The music drives the action, with gentle rings at suspenseful moments, and upbeat melodies during happy recollections. Lullaby music plays during the description of the child, a symbol of innocence and joy, Tania’s alter-ego. The woman who dreams of this four-year-old girl is curious about her, but the idea itself is creepy. The editors of the podcast play on that feeling.

At times, when the story becomes eerie, like when the child speaks, the sound embraces the same ominous tone. The editing of the little girl’s voice to sound raspy and low is another editing trick for the reinforcement of suspense. The layering of music and sound effects creates an emotional tone, which goes from happy, to scary, to hopeful.

The music “emanates” from the characters, a term used by Abel. When cartoonist Chad is unsure or describes his fear of being found out, the subtle music compliments his emotions. Without visual cues, the audience has nothing else to rely on for emotional impact. Thus, music tells the audience how to feel and to empathize with the character.

I have noticed a lot of “holding of space” in this episode. Abel describes music as having that pausing effect, as it lets the impactful moment in the podcast linger a few seconds longer. This occurs when Tania first hears herself speaking to her alter-ego in her sleep. The same moment of hesitation happens when Chad answers that his online character will die with the reveal of his identity, his name and the name of the school where he teaches. That space is as impactful as any other sound effect, as it lets the emotional gravity of the situation to settle into the audience’s minds.

Now being aware of music’s role in my podcast experience, I cannot help but notice when it is doing its intended work. I think the goal for any editor of a podcast is to blend the sounds seamlessly with the action and spoken words, in a way that it carries you deeper without you even noticing.

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