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, 2013 at 11:00

6 Answers 6


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

  • 1
    Why not simply use "discordant"?
    – Fortiter
    Jan 2, 2013 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.

  • 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, 2013 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. Jan 4, 2013 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".


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


@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)

  • 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, 2013 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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