In conjunction with the animation and sound effects, a complete soundtrack was created for the story based on the original motion picture score for The Crow, which contained music that fit well to the dramatic range of the comic book. The soundtrack again appeals to the reader's expectations when working with multimedia on the computer. It also serves to help establish mood and rhythm throughout the comic book. For this to work, the story was analyzed and divided into sections based on mood. For example, the first four pages of the story focus on the introduction of characters -- the mood is light and pleasant, corresponding with the "happy, happy small-town life." However, on the fifth page, a hint of mystery and foreboding is struck with the introduction of the mad villain, John Dee. The background soundtrack serves as a subtle method of reinforcing these different modes in which the story operates. It also helps set the rhythm when the characters become agitated and aggressive, increasing the tempo of the music in step. (Interestingly enough, as the rhythm of the music increases, so does the reading speed of the user. The timing controls on the pop-up text balloons, therefore, had to be modified to match.)
One important point to make is that the soundtrack was specifically designed to be backgrounded with respect to the story. It is not an attempt to perform the story or otherwise represent it, except in the general mood of each section. It exists only to add that subtle reinforcement behind the story itself. For example, the soundtrack specifically does not include a voice-over narration or the actual spoken dialogue of the text.
In Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud explains that abstract visual representations can help to convey meaning and can reach a greater universality in images by encouraging the reader to use his or her own imagination as well as to further empathize with the image. I believe that this is also true for other experiences such as audio. Background music and text is far more abstract than the spoken word. The former relies heavily upon the reader's own imagination and allows the reader to better identify with the characters involved. In other words, the combination of text and music engages the reader, making him or her a key part of the storytelling process. Recordings of spoken dialogue, on the other hand, tell the story without the reader. The unfamiliar voices have a distinct otherness to them that encourages the reader to be less empathetic. Also, one can make the argument that reading is necessarily more active than listening since so much more of the individual's attention and thought process is required to read the words than to hear them spoken. In order to keep the experience as engaging as possible, I chose to use no spoken dialogue, but leave the experience within the abstract realm of music and written words.
Last modified 6/11/97.