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film, photography and drama
doctoral research
Completed

Sound as inner movement in the transmission of experience in film: a phenomenological approach

  • Onderzoekers: Martine Huvenne
  • Promotoren: Helena De Preester (School of Arts), Rokus de Groot (University of Amsterdam, Music Sciences) Christel Stalpaert (Ghent University, dept. Art, Music and Theatre Studies)

2006 – 2012

“Sound is 50% of a film, at least; sometimes 100%. It is the thing that can add so much emotion to a film. It's a thing that can add all the mood and create a larger world. It sets the tone and it moves things. It has great pull into a world – The sound... without it you've lost half the film.” In this quote by David Lynch, we see a reversal of hierarchy between auditive and visual elements. Lynch himself often makes sound break loose from its utilitarian straitjacket which was once conceived alongside the sound-film by the American film industry: for exclusively economical reasons in the entertainment business, sound was only added at the very end of the production process, subordinating it to narrative and image. Even today, film is said to be part of ‘visual culture’, it has ‘spectators’, and we ‘watch’ films. It is, however, incontrovertible that a film is also listened to, and the auditive plays a substantial part in film. At the very beginning of sound-film, numerous film makers, composers and theoreticians were indeed aware of the possibilities to synchronise sound and vision in a non-hierarchical fashion. This project aims to examine film as an audiovisual composition, in which sound is not perforce subordinated to image or narrative. Sensory perceptions “Sound is 50% of a film, at least; sometimes 100%. It is the thing that can add so much emotion to a film. It's a thing that can add all the mood and create a larger world. It sets the tone and it moves things. It has great pull into a world – The sound... without it you've lost half the film.” In this quote by David Lynch, we see a reversal of hierarchy between auditive and visual elements. Lynch himself often makes sound break loose from its utilitarian straitjacket which was once conceived alongside the sound-film by the American film industry: for exclusively economical reasons in the entertainment business, sound was only added at the very end of the production process, subordinating it to narrative and image. Even today, film is said to be part of ‘visual culture’, it has ‘spectators’, and we ‘watch’ films. It is, however, incontrovertible that a film is also listened to, and the auditive plays a substantial part in film. At the very beginning of sound-film, numerous film makers, composers and theoreticians were indeed aware of the possibilities to synchronise sound and vision in a non-hierarchical fashion. This project aims to examine film as an audiovisual composition, in which sound is not perforce subordinated to image or narrative. Sensory perceptions can in fact transcend cognitive recognition. In such a composition it is an experience rather than a meaning that is being conveyed. It is, subsequently, not merely a matter of combined filmic elements, but of the essence of these elements: their internal, energetic dynamism. This is in keeping with Deleuze’s aesthetics of intensities, in which he claims film makers primarily think in terms of images and sounds, combining these in idiosyncratic ways not necessarily referring to the linguistic model. ‘La référence au modèle linguistique est un détour dont il est souhaitable de se dépasser,’ Deleuze laments. Our inquiry mainly focuses on the sound track and assumes ‘inner movement’ as its starting point. All too often, ‘inner movement’ is automatically linked with ‘emotions’, but is this necessarily so? We propose these questions: What, exactly, is that inner movement? How can it be represented? Is that inner movement represented through music, or through the sound track as a whole? What, then, is the nature of the relationship between the auditive and the visual? Is this governed by certain ‘rules’ of composition? How significant a part does the interaction between sound and vision play in this? How should we speak about this (terminology)? Can we, in fact, speak of film as an audiovisual composition? We aim to propose a terminology and a methodology of analysis applicable to both sound track analysis and the creative process; for film makers, composers and sound designers.

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