Sheridan Tongue’s music for silent witness: new perspectives on Pärtian tintinnabulation

Sholl, Robert (2016) Sheridan Tongue’s music for silent witness: new perspectives on Pärtian tintinnabulation. In: Sounding the Sacred, 1-4 May 2016, New York Fordham University Campus. (Unpublished)

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This paper explores the ramifications of Pärt’s music beyond ‘confessional and religious boundaries.’ It addresses how the spiritual aspects of his music are addressed through sound and vision. In a forthcoming study (Dolp, 2017), I examine the way Pärtian aesthetic ciphers (death, memory, mourning, introspection, silence) control the lens of film for the listener/viewer. My focus here, unlike other scholars (Cizmic, 2012; Maimets-Volt, 2013) is on the way in which images are not just given meaning but controlled, and profoundly reconfigured by Pärtian music. This paper extends that thinking through an examination of music by the composer and artist Sheridan Tongue.

Tongue has composed the music for series 9-20 of the BBC’s long-running Nordic-noir-style drama Silent Witness. In this paper I first detail the aesthetic implications of this prevalent television genre before exploring three scenes from the final episode of series 19 of Silent Witness: ‘River’s Edge’ (2016). I show how Tongue first responded to temporary tracks referenced by the producers of Silent Witness from his own work in other episodes. I reveal how Tongue’s striking use of Pärtian music knits three moments of the narrative together, and how he uses this music to take the sacral ciphers of Pärt’s music further into other darker, complex and commensurate realms of human activity: murder, desire, and compulsion.

I will show the three examples with ‘before’ and ‘after’ music. These clips strikingly reveal the effect of Tongue’s music to shape the way in which the viewer perceives the drama and the possibilities inherent in tintinnabulation. The effect of this difference I argue is an embodied realization in intention, purpose and meaning that is situated and enactivist (Varela, Thompson and Rosch, 1991). The appreciation of this difference shown in three video clips reveals to the viewer the degree to which they participate in, co-create and limit the meaning of the film (Bowman, 2004). This paper therefore both extends our understanding of Pärt’s music and its resonance, and it also provides a foundation for a rich new vein of study.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: Music > Musicology
Depositing User: Robert Sholl
Date Deposited: 13 Jun 2018 09:00
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2021 07:26

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