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The 8th Biennial Slayage Conference on the Whedonverses (SCW8)

Mr. Jordan will present his paper titled "Gender-Coded Diegetic/Non-Diegetic Music: A Stake Through the Heart of Gendered Musical Traits."

Abstract: In opera, television, or cinema, the accompanying soundtrack and musical gestures within aide in informing the audience how one should perceive a situation, environment, emotion, or character, in addition to conveying cultural and social messages. Whether the music or sounds are made within the story space—and thus, are perceived by the on-screen characters—or created for the purpose of eliciting moods or reactions from the audience, the sounds and silences that one experiences from a motion picture are an integral part of forming the identities of the characters and subsequently how the audience responds to that character. This paper will attempt to investigate the relationship between masculine and feminine musical features in both diegetic and non-diegetic music in film and television, and the fictional characters with which they correspond. 

The paper will briefly explore traditional gender-coded musical traits in male and female characters in earlier classical compositions, such as opera. The research will then look at how women were depicted in early Hollywood films primarily using Heather Laing’s book The Gendered Score, specifically how diegetic music can be used for masculine characters, while non-diegetic music is often associated with an emotional, feminine character. Philip Tagg’s 1989 empirical research on television themes and gender association will then be discussed to give a basis of expectations for gender-coded music. Finally, the paper will then consider the main theme of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, using Janet K. Halfyard’s article in Slayage and contributions in the book Music, Sounds, and Silence, discussing the diegetic and non-diegetic music within several episodes, exploring how the television series and its female protagonist exploit gendered musical traits and, on occasion, purposefully reversed some gendered musical expectations, without reducing the protagonist to a parody or caricature of anti-femininity.