This time I’m really doing it!
I’m going to go through the two different viewpoints in the With the Light sound – Sachiko’s and Hikaru’s – and list what I learned from discussions with people on the National Autistic Society discussion forums, and how I reproduced what they were saying with the digital sound kit at my disposal.
Sachiko’s point of audition is represented with the non-diegetic music. I would say that most of the music we hear is from her point of audition; even the bits depicting other characters are actually showing how the other characters affect her state of mind. For example, the well-behaved little niece, Noa, is portrayed (very unfairly!) by the sickly sweet glockenspiel and cello, constantly rising in pitch as though eager to please everyone all the time! Of course, this is not how the little girl is, but how Sachiko sees her in the midst of her agitation, exerting all her energy in her attempts to get Hikaru to ‘fit’ this mould too.
The only exception to the music being purely Sachiko’s is Hikaru’s little repeated inwardly resolving diminished 5th, previously discussed.
As a general rule, Sachiko’s music is in two halves – the tense first section as she keeps trying to make it work, and the deeply melancholy second section when she has failed to make it work. They are divided by a moment of silence when it has just all fallen apart. The silence allows the rain to start.
This is the first device that I should like to develop.
Absolute silence, without even ambient noise, always feels like a very internal thing to me on screen.
I know that absolute silence is actually not possible in real life. When people are put in entirely sound-proof, dampened rooms where there is essentially no external sound, their own body sounds quickly come to the forefront of audibility. Therefore, by definition, absolute silence in soundtrack must be a symbolic representation of something else in our consciousness.
It can be used to portray moments of shock or grief, those moments when adrenaline courses through veins and feels like it’s bleaching our bodies from the inside. There is an alarming whiteness about absolute silence, I find.
You can then examine the interplay of internal and external worlds – what is invading the consciousness of a person.
Even alternating between quasi-silence with ambience presence and absolute silence could feel like an audience is dipping in and out of a character’s head. Absolute silence is also like a new page that you can drop new words or colours onto and draw attention to these ideas.
The new idea that drops onto Sachiko’s page is the piano. The ‘raindrop’ melody that the last section is built on from there was the first part of the soundtrack that I wrote and I think in writing it I did draw on my own memories of the early days of being a mum, when I often doubted the connection between my child and me. (Of course, it turned out that my love was going in and in time my child learned to communicate love back, and the same happens for Sachiko.) Having written that motif, however, it was easy to re-use the rising perfect 6ths at the beginning to imitate Sachiko repeating Hikaru’s name again and again, coaxing her son out of the car with that tense false jollity of the anxious mother!
The other thing to say is obvious – in this soundtrack, musical sound represents a mature brain that is neurologically typical and organised; amusical sound represents a young, unregulated brain that is also on the autistic spectrum and therefore finds it much more difficult to filter out or effectively process sensory information.
Juxtaposing these two sound worlds in a kind of sound sandwich is not a subtle way to map out the contrast for an audience, but I believe it can be done in a more fluid, immediate way, perhaps even within one dialogue.
This idea leads us on to Hikaru…