Created By: justanid on June 7, 2014 Last Edited By: justanid on June 7, 2014

Red Herring Orchestra

When a soundtrack is used to deliberately deceive the audience.

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When a movie or radio-drama or TV show is, well, honest with it's audience you can expect Score and Music Tropes to correspond with what's occurring on-screen. A love-scene will have a Love Theme, a funny clown will have circus music, etc. etc.

Not so when there's a Red Herring Orchestra, especially when it comes to the Horror and Thriller genres. Anything from Scare Chords with nothing there to complete Soundtrack Dissonance can be used, but it's all to keep the audience on-edge, not knowing what to expect. It might not always work, as some techniques can become cliche when you know what to listen for, sometimes making it a Revealing Cover-Up.

The Faux Action Girl and Miles Gloriosus will get their own awesome fight-music Leitmotifs. The Big Bad? They might not even have a tune until they're revealed. The Fall Guy? The brass-section brands them as the evil mastermind! And forget knowing when a monster is going to jump out, the entire work could be set to a constant, nerve-wracking Drone of Dread, yet turn out to be "artistic" with no threats at all. Or the music could completely ignore a Meaningful Background Event.

Rarely will this trope be used with Bad to the Bone or a Regional Riff, as they tend to be more straightforward in their use, Though it can happen, such as Rock & Roll playing when The Cavalry comes to save the day, only for it to snap-back should they fail. It can also be diegetic, like ethnic music from a radio that's being used to disorient both characters and the audience into thinking they're in a certain country, when it's a all just part of a Fauxtastic Voyage.

Subtrope of Red Herring. Overlaps with Soundtrack Dissonance. Contrast The Musical. See also It S Quiet Too Quiet, Last Note Nightmare, Jump Scare & Scare Chord.


[a lot of Horror or Thriller works with music]

Live Action Film

[[AC:Live Action TV}}

Western Animation — Film
  • The 2011 Tintin movie had Nestor following in the shadows as Tintin investigated Marlinspike Hall, while the music carried on without interruption... right up until when he gets knocked out.

Western Animation — TV
  • Metalocalypse has a more literal version, with a philharmonic orchestra warming up to play with the Heavy Metal band, only to "accidentally" get ripped apart by a lasers meant for special-effects that were set too high (saving the creators from having to actually pay an orchestra to perform).

Indexes: Score and Music Tropes
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