Something from Nothing: The Expressive Ambience…

Green, M. (2019) Something from Nothing: The Expressive Ambience of God’s Own Country, 2017. Presented at: Music and Sound Design for the Screen, September 6-7, 2019, Maynooth University, Ireland.

The paper concerns the film God’s Own Country (2017), which is a fictional drama depicting the anguish and ultimate relief of a young farmer in North Yorkshire, UK as he confronts his sexuality, feelings for a new co-worker and relationship with his ailing father. The main focus of the paper is the role of the soundtrack in conveying the mental and physical disposition of the film’s protagonist. Usually, a film’s score is the main vehicle through which the emotion of an event, location or character is expressed. Unusually, in God’s Own Country, there is very little non-diegetic music, it is present in only three scenes. In place of the score is what it usually obscures: ambience. Across the film’s first act, the ambiences of God’s Own Country lack event and are noisy and abrasive. Experienced as music these ambiences suggest a lack of emotion and vibrancy in the life of the film’s lead, Johnny; the suppression of emotions; and the extent of the mental and physical pain Johnny experiences. As the film progresses, the soundtrack eases and brightens to reflect the positive changes to Johnny’s life.

Across the paper, film, contemporary music and sound studies theory are applied. In particular, the musical practice of soundscape composition, which upholds the expressive power of ambience, and the terms ‘noise’ and ‘silence’ are considered.