I am looking for a word or a turn of phrase to describe a situation whereby the music or a soundtrack does not go with the visuals of a film at all. This is to perhaps make it more poignant and create more of an emotional impact because of the sheer contrast of the ill-fitting music.

E.g. really happy cheerful music in a violent war movie.

Some adjectives I have considered so far include:

  • disjointed
  • contrasting
  • contradictory
  • out-of-sync
  • antithesis of each other
  • (oxymoronic?)

Perhaps there isn't a single word or phrase to describe this, but wondered if anyone had any other helpful suggestions or phrases in mind.

  • Among the alternatives, out-of-sync comes the closes to the technical terms. – Kris Jan 3 '13 at 11:00

Perhaps the best phrase / word to describe two juxtaposed circumstances that are ridiculously discordant is (totally) incongruous.

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  • 1
    Why not simply use "discordant"? – Fortiter Jan 2 '13 at 22:56

How about dissonance? It conjures up the appropriate sense of 'ick' and 'what the heck??!' in my head from having music that's got a completely opposite emotional timbre to the video footage.

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  • NOAD lists a definition for dissonance that seems especially supportive of your suggestion; it reads: "a tension or clash resulting from the combination of two disharmonious or unsuitable elements". Other online dictionaries use definitions that seem to focus more on a lack of harmony within the music itself, but the word is widely used in other contexts nonetheless (such as cognitive dissonance). I find this to be a very good candidate. – J.R. Jan 3 '13 at 9:37
  • @J.R., While aptly adaptable to this meaning, dissonance, as you mentioned, has a very specific meaning to musicians and is even quite beautiful to some of us. – Kristina Lopez Jan 4 '13 at 1:49

@Edwin's "incongruous" is good, but maybe a bit stuffy. How about just:


not appropriate; not proper or suitable: an inappropriate dress for the occasion.


Unfitting, unsuitable, silly, inept, irreverent, idiotic, misunderstood, over-stylized, hipster, or this.

You can really express your opinion on their misuse, vs. just implying that it is "not working for you".

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Wikipedia entry on Audio to video synchronization lists two terms for the lack of it: lip sync error, lip-flap.

See also:
Experts' Experts: Lip-Flap — Why your expensive TV's audio and video are out of sync

For an adjective, you would in all possibility, use
(A/V) unsynced

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@Edwin and @ipso

Thanks to both for very good suggestions. I have also found another film specific term of "counterpoint". Although usually referring to classical music, it can be used to mean a contrasting element. (see http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/counterpoint)

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  • Ah – perhaps contrast would work for what you’re going after. “The inappropriate music served as contrast to the image.” “Counterpoint” may or may not work, depending on the context. – ipso Jan 2 '13 at 22:59

"solecistic" soundtrack - based on solecism, particularly definition #3, below, from Dictionary.com

solecism[ sol-uh-siz-uh m, soh-luh- ] noun

1. a nonstandard or ungrammatical usage

2. a breach of good manners or etiquette.

3. any error, impropriety, or inconsistency.

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