The Importance of Incidental Music

Imagine your favorite TV show or video game without music or ambient sounds. Or what if the jingle in your favorite podcasts was not there? All of those forms of music are called incidental music. Such music is specifically written to accompany the main act of whichever medium it finds itself in and is an integral part of modern multimedia. Though, not many pay it too much attention and take it for granted, as if it was actually created by accident.

The use of incidental music dates back to ancient Greece and the development of Greek drama. I mean, it’s no wonder we take it for granted, it’s been around for millennia. Its importance, though, can’t be overstated. The tradition was continued by renowned classical composers, such as Mozart, Schubert, and Mendelssohn, who have all written music for various plays.

Fast-forward a few centuries and incidental music is still there. A great modern example is film. Especially horror movies, where the music is extremely fundamental to building up tension. This is where incidental music took a massive leap forward. Using minor keys and dissonant forms the composer provokes unease, suspense, dread, and trepidation, tapping into our most visceral instincts.

Speaking of visceral reactions, what I found most baffling is the use of infrasound in the aforementioned intents and purposes. Infrasound is basically any sound that’s 19 Hz or lower and it breaks the boundaries of what incidental music stands for. Humans can consciously register only sounds louder than that point on the sound spectrum because the range of the human ear is from 20 Hz to 20.000 Hz. But, even though the frequency level of sounds below 20 Hz is too low to pick up, they still have a great deal of influence on us. Such sounds provoke feelings of general discomfort because they’re present during horrifying events such as earthquakes or thunder.

Just because we tend to neglect the omnipresence of music, even though it’s meant to be in the background, it doesn’t mean it has no impact on how we’ve grown accustomed to perceiving things. Some might disagree and say that I went out on a limb by attributing a lot of weight to non-musical concepts and presented them as music, but that’s a stance I won’t change – everything can be music if you listen intently, and even if you don’t, it still is of great importance. Even a shower is music to my ears, especially since I installed a tankless water heating system that I found from Tankless Center; now I can spend as much time as I want contemplating various musical concepts while enjoying endless hot water.