Diegetic distinctions are a crucial part of film/television scholars' vocabulary for discussing music's narrative functions. However, terms such as nondiegetic, extradiegetic, and intradiegetic music are defined and used inconsistently across the field, which limits the effectiveness with which narrative theory can be used to discuss musical narration. I address this issue in my article, even as my case studies in Chinese television music complicate ongoing debates about music's diegetic status: do we treat theme songs—performed by actors/actresses, often with lyrics rendered from their characters' perspectives and overlaying the dialogue—as nondiegetic, metadiegetic, extradiegetic, intradiegetic, or diegetic music? Using The Journey of Flower (2015) and Nirvana in Fire (2015) as my case studies, I explicate television music's narrative functions by mapping Lisa Zunshine's theory of transparency onto the study of sound diegesis. I define diegetic distinctions in relation to audiences' degrees of access to the story through its soundscape. My article focuses on Chinese television dramas' distinctive characteristic of homodiegetic musical narrations performed by the character-actor-singer, given the sophisticated ways by which they complicate our sense of narrative agency, elude spatiotemporal anchoring, and purposefully limit/ facilitate transparency. My analysis highlights the significance of Chinese television dramas as a rich resource for research being undertaken in media, cultural, and narrative studies. Given that China has one of the world's largest yet most under-researched television markets, my work bridges the scholarly gap in understanding how Chinese television dramas' sonic landscapes are crucially intertwined with their storytelling practices, by drawing attention to issues of diegetic ambiguity and story access.


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pp. 81-103
Launched on MUSE
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