Zarah Ersoff

Zarah Ersoff is a PhD candidate in Musicology at UCLA. Her dissertation examines the relationship between musicality, aestheticism and Orientalism in Erik Satie, Maurice Ravel and Reynaldo Hahn. Her broader research interests include nineteenth- and twentieth-century opera, queer and feminist theories, and film and television music. She has given past talks on topics as diverse as glam rock movie-musicals, the politics and aesthetics of transgender vocality, and homoerotic Orientalism in Ravel’s music.



"Treme's Aural Verisimilitude"

Emmy-award-winning writer, director and producer David Simon (The Wire, Homicide: Life on the Street) is known for his aesthetic of verisimilitude, and his most recent television project Treme is no exception. Set in post-Katrina New Orleans, Treme is marked by Simon's characteristic painstaking attention to realism in aural, visual and narrative details. While developing the show, Simon was particularly concerned with recording and conveying what he calls the city's "ornate oral tradition." In this paper I examine Simon's aural verisimilitude by exploring the interaction between sound and diegetic music in the show.

Treme illustrates how Katrina dramatically altered the city's urban soundscape, rendering New Orleans strange and even threatening to its inhabitants. At several points characters must hide from the insidious sound (not sight) of circling FEMA helicopters. More subtly, characters also note the conspicuous absence of birds, a silence which implies what Katrina has stripped away. In contrast, the return of familiar musical events, such as second-line parades, mark both an individual's passing and the renewal of community tradition. Drawing upon interviews with Treme's supervising sound editor Jennifer Ralston and music supervisor Blake Leyh, I demonstrate how their closely coordinated approach to production blurs the lines between sound effects and diegetic music. These sound and music editors worked together to reconstruct the show's altered urban spaces, from the city's neighborhood bars and cramped cafes to the abandoned buildings and desolate riverbeds. Ultimately, Treme's sonic realism both demarcates social space and constructs an new soundmap of post-Katrina New Orleans.

My Speakers Sessions

Sunday, March 25

4:00pm EDT