Incidental music is defined as music within a film, television programme or other media that both complements and adds to the drama being played out, enhancing its atmosphere or sign-posting to a viewer how they should be emotionally reacting to what they are watching or listening.
Such music goes back to the earliest days of Greek drama and has been used for centuries, even in the plays of Shakespeare. In the earliest days of cinema, the lack of sound on film meant that for the first couple of decades of the medium, music, and particularly piano music, was used in the picture houses alongside the hand-cranked films that audiences were watching. One of Violet Carson's first professional jobs was providing such music using her piano skills.
In the genre of serials and soap operas, the UK is unusual in that music is rarely used as part of the programme, the major exception being the Channel Four "teen-soap" Hollyoaks. In other countries music features to a large extent, especially in bridging between two scenes. For many decades in the United States of America, organ music was played throughout episodes of the daytime soaps, only being phased out in the 1970s. The Australian soaps use a large library of stock soundtracks to this day.
Coronation Street has only used incidental music on a small number of occasions, so much so that most viewers would make the claim that it has never been used and the rare incidents when it is heard provoke surprise. The table below summarises the known uses in the programme's history.
|Episode and transmission date||Scene||Track used|
|Episode 46 (22nd May 1961)||Montage of the Street residents explore Blackpool and its attractions||I Do Like To be Beside the Seaside on the piano, possibly specially arranged for the programme|
|Episode 359 (20th May 1964)||The residents arrive at the cemetery for Martha Longhurst's funeral||Si Simple est Celle Historie by Pierre Arvay and his orchestra|
|Episode 361 (27th May 1964)||Dennis Tanner tries to catch pigeons in Manchester's Albert Square||Tango Du Clown by Pierre Arvay and his orchestra|
|Episode 389 (2nd September 1964)||Stan Ogden takes a party out of a trip in a Rolls Royce.||Piano piece in silent film style based upon the traditional children's song We're Off In A Motor Car|
|Episode 991 (22nd July 1970)||Elsie Tanner and Alan Howard walk to the registry office for their wedding||Concierto de Arenjeuz by Joaquin Rodrigo|
|Episode 1137 (8th December 1971)||Montage of Stan and Hilda Ogden on a shopping spree||Winifred Atwell playing The Poor People of Paris|
|Episode 1170 (3rd April 1972)||Ernest Bishop is driven to his wedding||Unknown composition, played by a brass band|
|Episode 1171 (5th April 1972)||Emily Nugent waits in the Rovers's back room and Ray Langton and Vicki Bright walk through a park||Both unknown|
|Episode 1214 (4th September 1972)||The residents travel to the Preston Guild by coach||Unknown|
|Episode 1289 (23rd May 1973)||The residents explore Woburn Abbey||Harpsichord music, including an arrangement of Greensleeves|
|Episode 1298 (25th June 1973)||Ray Langton takes a girl on the boating lake at Heaton Park||Unknown|
|Episode 1402 (24th June 1974)||At Manchester Airport, Ron Cooke reconsiders leaving Maggie Clegg||Unknown|
|Episode 2726 (18th May 1987)||The residents wait as Alf Roberts is brought out of No.11 after a heart attack||Unknown|
|Episode 3369 (10th April 1992)||Montage of Steve McDonald and Victoria Arden shop at Affleck's Palace||She Bangs the Drums by The Stone Roses|
|Episode 6455 (25th December 2006)||The Platt family implodes after David stirs things up||Somebody to Love by Queen|
|Episode 6927 (17th October 2008)||Liam Connor dies after being run over||Downtown by Petula Clark|
|Episode 6959 (3rd December 2008)||Maria Connor searches for Carla after finding out about her affair with Liam||Time of Your Life by Green Day|
|Episode 7152 (31st August 2009)||Norris Cole visits the grave of his mother and brother||Waltzing Matilda|
|Episode 7489 (10th December 2010)||The residents come to terms with the ramifications of the tram crash||All I Want Is You by U2|
|Episode 9018 (21st October 2016)||Residents come to terms with the consequences of David Platt's car explosion and Ken Barlow's stroke.||All We Do by Oh Wonder|
|Episode 9064 (24th December 2016)||Maria Connor spends her first night in prison while Kirk Sutherland looks after Liam.||The Gift of Christmas by Josh Powell|
|Episode 9065 (25th December 2016)||The residents open their presents on Christmas morning.||It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas|
|Episode 9067 (30th December 2016)||The residents celebrate New Year, as Andy Carver prepares to leave. Elsewhere, Anna Windass lies unconscious at the bottom of her stairs.||Jar of Hearts by Christina Perri|