People in Real Life
usually don't have music following them everywhere they go. But often people do find they've got some underscoring happening in their life — be it from their car radio as they're driving, a band at a bar, or a street musician outside.
Source Music, also known as diegetic music
, is Truth in Television
in this regard: it's music that the characters can hear (or perform) themselves, and that would be playing even if the scene were happening in real life. Of course, the music usually serves a dramatic purpose as well: either it helps establish setting and character, or it comments on the action happening in the foreground.
See also Suspiciously Apropos Music
, AM/FM Characterization
and Left the Background Music On
. If Source Music becomes Background Music
in mid-stream, that's a Diegetic Switch
- An instrumental version of "Let's Stay Together" plays in one episode of Monster, when Roberto and Eva are dancing. In Another Monster, Eva says that this is one of Tenma's favorite songs.
- Given the realistic nature of the show, all the music in BECK is either played live, on a music player, or played in an Imagine Spot.
- The music in one scene of the Cowboy Bebop episode "Black Dog Serenade" seems to be diegetic, in that the music stops suddenly when the view cuts to Fad turning off a monitor before going to confront the episode's bad guy.
- Macross has diegetic music almost everywhere courtesy of there being at least one character who is an Idol Singer. In general, if the song has lyrics, it's probably diegetic, but the score is generally extra-diegetic.
- Macross Seven was unique in that it had no score, just a guy who really, really, really likes to sing and play the guitar and quite often broadcast it over the entire battlefield. Incidentally, this made all the music of Macross Seven diegetic. Any other instances of music was clearly being played from a radio, such as Sharon Apple's music from Mylene's car radio.
- Macross Frontier toyed with the line several times, such as during the first episode in which Sheryl is giving a concert at the same time as a battle with the Vajra takes place outside the fleet, cutting between the two locations but never stopping the song, but no one seems to be aware of the other. There's no indication the soldiers could hear Sheryl's song, or that anyone at the concert was aware of the battle taking place. Except the Vajra, who we learn much later in the show attacked because they could hear Sheryl's song through fold waves.
- Frontier also gives one of the few cases (possibly the only case in all of Macross) of music with lyrics being used as extra-diegetic: the epilogue of the series has the two lead females talking while the background music is both of them singing the series' main theme song.
- Lampshaded and played straight in W.I.T.C.H.. The recently arrived at Earth, Orube, comments how funny the TV seems to be here, and the one thing that catches her attention most is that people inside the movies always seem to be accompanied by music in some scenes. At the end of the comic she decides to go out and in that same moment her neighbor is playing the piano, she approves of his playing skills and decides that tune to be her personal soundtrack.
- The China Syndrome is notable for having only diegetic music. The soundtrack for the movie was disliked and scrapped. In fact, when 1000 copies of Michael Small's original score was released in 2009, it sold out within 24 hours.
- American Graffiti is another example where all the music is diegetic (save for The Beach Boys' "All Summer Long", played over the closing credits; which is just as well, given that that song came out in 1964 and the movie is set in '62).
- Laura features multiple scenes at parties and restaurants where live music is playing; all of these are variations on the film's main theme.
- Matt Monro's "From Russia with Love" is heard over the radio in the film with the same name.
- The 2001 short film My Chorus' revolved around this trope: the main character, Ed, is followed around by a barbershop quartet which provides the diegetic music for his life.
- Used twice for comic effect in I'm Gonna Git You Sucka. The first time is when John Slade leaves his apartment and is immediately followed down the street by a jazz band waiting outside, playing an instrumental version of the Shaft theme. When he meets up with Jack Spade, who asks who these men are, John remarks that they're "his theme music. Every hero should have some."
- At the end of the film, a pair of rappers and a DJ with a portable turntable arrived to meet Jack after he becomes the big hero. John Slade asks who they are and Jack repeats the line about theme music. They then perform the music that is used for the ending credits.
- The Coen Brothers are fond of this trope:
- Almost all music in The Big Lebowski is revealed to be diegetic at some point. The only exception is the stranger's theme song and the music during one of the dream sequences. The music in the first is shown to be from the Dude's Walkman.
- Literally all music in O Brother, Where Art Thou? is diegetic, remarkably for a film crammed wall-to-wall with music.
- Jefferson Airplane's "Somebody to Love" is played through transistor radio headphones at various points of A Serious Man.
- Occurs in The Crow when T-Bird pulls up in his car and turns it off, stopping the music as if it had been coming from his car radio.
- The music in 3-Iron often starts up upon the main characters putting a CD in a sound system and hitting the play button. On one occasion the sound system doesn't start so the lead male decides to fix it.
- In Oldboy the main character's phone rings with a digitized version of the song "Cries and Whispers" which plays occasionally in a non-diegetic fashion during the film.
- Almost all the music in Casablanca is played on a piano by the character Sam.
- Quentin Tarantino is a fan of this trope:
- Reservoir Dogs: K-Billy's Super Sounds of the Seventies, specifically when Mr. Blonde tortures the cop while dancing to the radio
- Kill Bill: when Elle Driver is walking through the hospital she whistles a tune; there is a Diegetic Switch.
- Also, with The 5, 6, 7, 8s in the House of Blue Leaves scene.
- In Part 2, when Budd is in his trailer listening to a record.
- Death Proof: Jungle Julia calls a radio station to request a song.
- Any point in Jackie Brown when someone is in their car, a song is likely to be playing on the radio.
- All of the music in Rear Window is ambient sound heard in the courtyard set, and is a major part of a pivotal moment.
- Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 both have scenes where street musicians play the theme song from the old Spider-Man television series. The third features the (insufficiently strong) singing voice of Mary Jane Watson.
- A lot of the music in Rio Bravo is source music, from the playing of Deguello to wear down the besieged to Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson singing and whistling. This was a conscious choice by director Howard Hawks to the overpowering non-diegetic use of the theme tune and song in High Noon. Funnily enough, Dimitri Tiomkin composed the score for both films.
- Apocalypse Now has the infamous scene in which Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries is played during a helicopter raid as a means of "psychological warfare".
- In Iron Man 2, Queen's Another One Bites the Dust is played by a DJ at Tony's request when he and Rhodes fight.
- Then in The Avengers, he overrides the SHIELD jet's PA system to blare AC/DC as he swoops in to take on Loki.
- In Three Kings, when one of the soldiers wants to listen to heavy metal music while going into battle. Another soldier criticizes his musical choice and suggest they go into battle with something soothing to calm their nerves and plays an easy-listening song which also provides a little Lyrical Dissonance..
- In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Davy Jones' theme is a haunting combination of a tune first played from a music box and then played on an Ominous Pipe Organ, and actually comes from his musical locket which is his only memory of the love he used to have, and is played by him on the Flying Dutchman's organ, respectively.
- In American Psycho, Patrick plays Hip To Be Square by Huey Lewis and the News while he murders Paul with an axe.
- The first Star Wars film had "Cantina Band" and "Cantina Band 2", which was being played live by a group of alien musicians to set the mood of the space bar where they meet Han Solo. Return of the Jedi also had the "Ewok Celebration" or "Victory Celebration", depending on which version you watch.
- In several scenes in Children of Men, the music is coming from radios, stereos or TV screens in the landscape, and are affected by the events surrounding. Perhaps a more literal use of this trope occurs after the bombing in the first scene where we here the ringing in lead character Theo's ears, which is a recurring motif for the first act of the film.
- Lampshaded in Baseket Ball, where the music on Coop's radio is oddly specific.
- Lampshaded in High Anxiety, when dramatic music is revealed as being played from a passing "Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra" bus.
- And lampshaded again in Blazing Saddles, when Count Basie and his Orchestra show up in the middle of the desert. Apparently Mel Brooks was fond of this trope.
- All the music in Dracula (1931).
- This trope is weaponized in the first Final Destination movie, in which the characters narrowly escape death in a plane crash. Ever since, every time "Rocky Mountain High" (a song by Bob Denver, who died in such a crash in Real Life) plays in-universe, it's a warning that Death is about to strike.
- Invoked by Betty and later by Chosen One in Kung Pow! Enter the Fist with a boom box carrying mook.
- One of the rules of Dogme95, a short but influential independent film movement, mandated all sound be produced in scene during shooting. Diegetic music featured (mostly) in the films co-drafters Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg directed to demonstrate their manifesto.
- In Bruce Almighty, the title character uses his newly-acquired divine powers to command the stereo to turn on and play the romantic music that follows.
- Nearly all the music in Hal Ashby's 1975 film Shampoo consists of '60s hits played on characters' radios. The only non-diegetic music in the film is a wordless, hummed version of Paul Simon's "Silent Eyes".
- Discussed by Harry Dresden of The Dresden Files - as he's about to confront a powerful necromancer, he comments that if his life were a movie, dramatic music would start playing, but his life must be really low budget, as all he got was a "radio jingle for some kind of submarine sandwich".
- During one of the Q and A sections of the second Hatoful Boyfriend, an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain hijacks a session and uses it to talk about himself. Other characters, locked out of the studio, pound on the door and yell at him. Tohri calls this the "fevered gibbering of the peanut gallery" and decides to put on some music - his theme tune.
- In Harry Potter Comics, the Hufflepuff Choir's Christmas Pageant rendition of "Silent Night" also serves as the musical backdrop to the villains' assault on Santa's Workshop. What's that? Of course Santa is real in the Harry Potter universe.
- The full manifestation of the Nothing on Earth in Planescape Survival Guide eclipses the sun and causes all electronic receivers on the planet to play Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Bad Moon Rising."