Sounding film and video

Andy Birtwistle
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Film sound merits study because it is an essential component of cinema. This book considers the ways in which one might come to terms with the materiality of film sound, both beyond and in relation to its semiotic or significatory dimensions. It discusses Michel Chion's proposal that any critical engagement with the film's materiality must be informed by the idea that what people term as 'the film' is marked by a relationship between sound and image. Running alongside the significatory is a parallel universe of materiality, with ways of knowing sound, and ways of registering sonic presences. Between the First and Second World Wars a series of experimental concrete sound mirrors was constructed to serve as an early warning system against airborne attack from mainland Europe. John Smith's work engages directly in a destabilisation of the model of sound-image relations that informs much of classical film practice. The book focuses on optical crackle and ground noise as sounds which signal just a sense of the past, and on the quality of compression that contributes to the sonic signature of older film soundtracks. The materiality of the strange sounds of electronica can be sounded by considering the ways in which tensions between the radical potential of noise, cinesonic codes, and the processes of history weave through the cinesonic text. Whitney Brothers' Five Film Exercises are of particular relevance to a study of the cinesonic. Cartoon sound begins with violence, or rather its threat, as evidenced by the Warner Bros. cartoons.

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