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Chion, M. (1994). Audio-vision: Sound on screen C. Gorbman, Trans. New York: Columbia University Press. 
Added by: sirfragalot (01/30/2006 10:01:49 AM)   
Resource type: Book
BibTeX citation key: Chion1994
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Categories: Film Music/Sound
Keywords: Acousmatic sound, Aural Imagery, Diegetic/non-diegetic, Film sound, Listening modes, Music, Narrative, Sonic Narrative, Sound objects, Sound Recording, Synchresis/Synchrony
Creators: Chion, Gorbman
Publisher: Columbia University Press (New York)
Resources citing this (Bibliography: WIKINDX Master Bibliography)
Views: 4/852
Notes
One of the seminal books on film sound.

Foreword by Walter Murch.
Added by: sirfragalot  
Quotes
p.viii   Murch's foreword: talking of sound in cinema: "If we do notice [sound] consciously, it is often only because of some problem or defect."   Added by: sirfragalot
p.xv   Murch's foreword: "Such a 'biological' approach -- sound first, image later -- stands in contrast not only to the way most people approach film -- image first, sound later -- but, as we have seen, to the history of cinema itself."   Added by: sirfragalot
p.xvi   Murch's foreword: Claims far back in history that sounds "seemed to be ... a shadow to the object that caused them."

Recording broke this duality separating sound from image allowing for an appreciation of sound for its innate qualities (cf. Musique Concrète) and to associate sounds with disparate objects.   Added by: sirfragalot
p.xix   Murch's foreword: Humankind's mutual habit of always associating/subjugating sound to the image object if they are rendered simultaneously, works in favour of film sound designers who, for example, can provide the "sound of a watermelon being crushed instead of a human head."   Added by: sirfragalot
pp.xix-xx   Murch's foreword:

Talks of stretching sound/image relationship to create a "fruitful tension" between the image on screen and the mind of the audience. Chion's sound 'en cheux' or sound 'in the gap'.

Sound "doesn't possess the built-in escape valves of ambiguity" that other media possess "by virtue of their sensory incompleteness".

"...the metaphoric use of sound" in film "can open up a perceptual vacuum into which the mind of the audience must inevitably rush."   Added by: sirfragalot
p.xx   Murch's foreword: Talking of metaphoric gap between image and sound: the larger the gap the greater the "added value" (Chion's term) that sound brings to film. There are limits to how far the metaphor can be stretched.   Added by: sirfragalot
pp.xxi-xxii   Murch's foreword: Unlike the instantaneous fusion of the left and right eye images into stereoscopic vision, the fusion of sound and image "is -- and should be -- continuously changing and flexible".

The more instantaneous such fusion the flatter and less dimensional the result is.   Added by: sirfragalot
p.xxv   "Theories of the cinema until now have tended to elude the issue of sound, either by completely ignoring it or by relegating it to minor status."   Added by: sirfragalot
p.xxv   "...audiovisual media .. place their spectators -- their audio-spectators -- in a specific perceptual mode of reception, which ... I shall call audio-vision."   Added by: sirfragalot
p.xxvi   "We never see the same thing when we also hear; we don't hear the same thing when we see as well."   Added by: sirfragalot
p.5   Uses the term 'added value' to describe sound's relationship to image -- specifically its enrichment of image. The impression given is that the sound "is already contained in the image itself."   Added by: sirfragalot
p.11   "...the eye is more spatially adept and the ear more temporally adept."   Added by: sirfragalot
pp.14-15   "A smooth and continuous sound is less "animating" than an uneven or fluttering one."

The latter, when combined with image, more insistently draws our eyes to the image or part of it.

The same is also true for a sound with little repetition and therefore less predictability. To a point -- cf. the tension created in Who Want's to be a Millionaire? where we await a change.

What is important in grabbing the audience's attention is not the speed of the sound but the rate of change of the sound.

Sounds rich in high frequencies (i.e. sharp) command attention.   Added by: sirfragalot
p.19   Sound with moving images imposes a "real and irreversible time". Sound in a reversed film always discloses that the film has been reversed. Many images are (visually) reversible.   Added by: sirfragalot
p.22   "...the figurative value of a sound in itself is usually quite non-specific."
Acoustical realism is of less importance to the viewer than the sound's synchronicity with the image.   Added by: sirfragalot
p.26   "For a shot of a hammer, any one of a hundred sounds will do."   Added by: sirfragalot
Keywords:   Synchresis/Synchrony
p.32   Acousmatic sound "intensifies causal listening in taking away the aid of sight."

We can shut our eyes but not our ears -- sound is omnipresent -- can saturate. Especially the case with passive, as opposed to active, perception.   Added by: sirfragalot
p.32   "When we listen acousmatically to recorded sounds it takes repeated hearings of a single sound to allow us gradually to stop attending to its cause and to more accurately perceive its inherent traits."   Added by: sirfragalot
Keywords:   Acousmatic sound
p.34   Sound "can become an insidious means of affective and semantic manipulation."   Added by: sirfragalot
p.41   "...the editing of film sounds has created no specific sound unit ... sound splices [do not] permit us to demarcate identifiable units of sound."

"Sounds have been edited since it became technically possible in radio ... and in phonograph and tape recording. In none of these instances, regardless of whether images are involved, has the notion of an "auditory shot" or unit of sound montage emerged as a neutral, universally recongnizable unit."   Added by: sirfragalot
p.44   "...for sound pieces the temporal dimension seems to predominate, and the spatial dimension not to exist at all."   Added by: sirfragalot
p.47   "The most widespread function of film sounds consists of unifying or binding the flow of images."

-- bridges visual gaps,
-- provides an acoustical container for the images,
-- "unity through non-diegetic music ... casts the images into a homogenizing bath".   Added by: sirfragalot
pp.54-55   "...elements of auditory setting (E.A.S.)" are point source sounds emitting infrequently and which "help create and define the film's space".   Added by: sirfragalot
p.57   Silence "is the product of a contrast."

i.e. it has to be prepared for and is the polar opposite of what we've heard before.   Added by: sirfragalot
p.58   "Film uses sounds as synonyms of silence". The cliché is the film shot where the only sound to be heard (or at least that given prominence in the mix) is the ticking of a clock - i.e. it's now so quiet that only now can you hear sounds you would normally not hear.   Added by: sirfragalot
p.61   "What we hear is what we haven't had time to see."   Added by: sirfragalot
p.70   "...there is spatial magnetization of sound by image."

In terms of film, the perceived location of a sound source is psychological and is usually tied to on-screen image or imagined off-screen action regardless of the loudspeaker (the real source) positioning.   Added by: sirfragalot
pp.71-73   A continuum:
Acousmatic sound <---------------> Visualized sound
Sound source not seen <------> Sound source seen.

"A sound or voice that remains acousmatic creates a mystery of the nature of its source, its properties and its powers, given that causal listening cannot supply complete information about the sound's nature and events taking place." p.72

Non-diegetic sound is a form of acousmatic sound but one with no connection to the story world.   Added by: sirfragalot
p.73   Chion defines nondiegetic sound as: "sound whose supposed sound source is not only absent from the image but is also external to the story world".   Added by: sirfragalot
Keywords:   Diegetic/non-diegetic
pp.75-76   Offscreen Space:

"Let us call ambient sound sound that envelops a scene and inhabits its space, ... birds singing, churchbells ringing." Although lacking a visual source they "identify a particular locale through their pervasive and continuous presence." p.75

"Internal sound ... corresponds to the physical and mental interior of a character." The physical sounds (breathing, crying etc.) are "objective-internal sounds" and mental thoughts or memories are "subjective-internal sounds". p.76

Acousmatic sounds "transmitted electronically [are] on-air sounds" (e.g. telephone, radio etc.). p.76   Added by: sirfragalot
p.79   "Spatially speaking, a sound and its source are two different entities."

Chion expands this to pointing out that in an enclosed space (i.e. with reverb etc.) a sound is actually an approximation of many sounds from many sources. Additionally, sound "tends to spread out, like a gas, into whatever available space there is."   Added by: sirfragalot
pp.82-83   'Offscreen sound' requires an image to work -- without an image there is no difference between offscreen and onscreen sound.

Ofscreen sounds "interact with a screen where they [encounter] the void of their presence." p.83   Added by: sirfragalot
p.85   Active offscreen sound is acousmatic sound that excites the audience's curiosity. It "propels the film forward and it engages the spectator's anticipation."

Passive offscreen sound anchors the viewer in a space, stabilizing the image and requiring no questions to be asked. e.g. Territory and EAS sounds.   Added by: sirfragalot
p.96   "...reality is one thing, and its transposition into audiovisual two-dimensionality ... which involves radical sensory reduction, is another."

At the start of this chapter (5), Chion is discussing that attempts to make film using sounds recorded while filming (as unprocessed as possible) don't work. Makes the point that what works in cinema (both audio and visual) is a stick figure drawing (works) when compared to a Dürer drawing (won't work).   Added by: sirfragalot
pp.98-99   Differentiates between definition and [hi-]fidelity. The latter is a commercial and subjective concept while the former is objective and concerned with the recording and manipulation of higher frequencies for improved intelligibility, more information and more "materializing indices" p.99.

Says that definition is what counts and that it "lends itself to a more lively, spasmodic, rapid, alert mode of listening, particularly to agile phenomena that occur in the higher frequencies" p.99.   Added by: sirfragalot
p.108   Discussing authenticity and realism of sound truth and sound verisimilitude.

There are sound conventions and "specific codes of realism" that produce anything but authentic sound but rather provide "the impression of realism".

These conventions become "our reference for reality itself."   Added by: sirfragalot
p.108   "Of two war reports that come back from a very real war, the one in which the image is shaky and rough, with uneven focus and other "mistakes," will seem more true than the one with impeccable framing, perfect visibility, and imperceptible grain. In much the same way for sound, the impression of realism is often tied to a feeling of discomfort, of an uneven signal, of interference and microphone noise, etc."   Added by: sirfragalot
Keywords:   Realism Reality/Virtuality/Actuality Immersion Presence Hyperrealism
pp.109-111   Uses the term render to indicate a sound that gives away its source. Not all sounds render their source.

Additionally, Chion states that some sounds (which presumably are as yet unrendered) can be rendered by verbal explanation/description.

This dispels the "common ... illusion of a natural narrativity of sounds." p.111   Added by: sirfragalot
p.116   While reverberation can add to MSI, unrealistic reverb can be "dematerializing and symbolizing."   Added by: sirfragalot
p.116   "Reinforcement with materializing indices (or, on the other hand, erasing them) contributes toward the creation of a universe, and can take on metaphysical meaning."   Added by: sirfragalot
pp.120-122   Describes a "universal spatial symbolism of musical pitches" (p.121) in which the direction of a musical scale follows the trajectory of the object on screen.   Added by: sirfragalot
pp.129-131   Acousmêtre:

A sound, often vocal, whose source is not seen (therefore it's acousmatic) but is clearly "implicated in the action" p.129. Does not include dettached film narrators but does include unseen voices such as the mother in Psycho and HAL9000 in 2001 A Space Odyssey.

The acousmêtre (in film) is:
a) all-seeing
b) all-knowing
c) all-powerful
d) everywhere

"paradoxical acousmêtres" (p.130) are those lacking one or more of the four powers above.

The unmasking of acousmêtre or "[D]e-acousmatization consists of an unveiling process that is unfailingly dramatic." (p.131). Accompanies a loss of power and descent to human vulnerability.

Chion points out that technological developments in cinema sound (ie. surround sound) blur the distinction between onscreen/offscreen and therefore weaken the power of the acousmêtre.   Added by: sirfragalot
Comments:
Chion treats the acousmêtre as an acousmatic sound character.   Added by: sirfragalot  (2006-01-12 03:45:45)
p.132   suspension:
"...when a sound naturally expected from a situation (which we usually hear at first) becomes suppressed, either insidiously or suddenly."

This is specific to sound films and creates an enigma or emptiness. Sometimes the spectator is aware of the effect but unable to pinpoint the origin.   Added by: sirfragalot
p.136   By his own admission perhaps oversimplying: "...everything spatial in a film, in terms of image as well as sound, is ultimately encoded into a so-called visual impression, and everything which is temporal, including elements reaching us via the eye, registers as an auditory impression."

Chion views the senses (sight, hearing) as simply channels for preceptions that are neither necessarily one nor the other. Those things that are either purely visual or purely auditory are rare.   Added by: sirfragalot
p.167   Talking of music video: "music video's image is fully liberated from the linearity normally imposed by sound."   Added by: sirfragalot
p.194   "...negative sound" is sound that does not exist on film but is created by the combination of viewer's memory, imagination and film image (at the point of viewing).   Added by: sirfragalot
Paraphrases
   Murch's foreword:

Talking of added value. Murch makes comparison with stereo-scopic vision where the gap between the eyes and consequent image differentiality is resolved into depth - sight's added value.   Added by: sirfragalot
pp.vii-viii   Walter Murch's foreword: claims sound is the primary pre-natalk sense that, after birth, competes with sight. Cinema reversed this hierarchy by initially (1892-1927) being a sight-only medium.   Added by: sirfragalot
pp.xxii--xxii   Murch's foreword: Introduces Chion's concept of acousmêtre -- complete separation of sound and image object such that the image object is only displayed much, much later often to confound the audience's imagination that, in the meantime, has supplied a possibly quite different image object for the sound. In this case, maximum use has been made of the audience's imaginations.   Added by: sirfragalot
p.5   pp.5 onward suggest that film sound is 'verbocentric' in which primacy is given to the spoken voice with other sounds being simply additional sound FX.   Added by: sirfragalot
pp.25-34   Provides three modes of listening:

Causal
Listening as a means of gathering information about the sound's physical object (its cause). The most common and deceptive form of listening. It rarely operates alone and is usually influenced by non-sonic factors. Also, usually more than one source object creates the sound -- recording and playback influence heard object(s).

Semantic
A code or language is required to interpret the sound. Differential listening -- operates on similarites and opposites.

Reduced
Named by Pierre Schaeffer. The sound itself is observed unencumbered by meaning or source/cause. An "objectivity-born-of-intersubjectivity" (p.29). Requires the fixing (recording) of the sounds so that they can be reduced to objects. Our descriptive tools (language even jargon) are wholly unsuited to define sound objects.

The three modes overlap and combine.   Added by: sirfragalot
pp.35-40   Talking of the relationship between image and sound (in film) using musical compositional terminology such as counterpoint and harmony. For Chion, there is no such thing as a 'soundtrack' when the (film) image is also being perceived since the film only makes sense when image and sound are viewed vertically (harmony: dissonance/consonance) rather than horizontally as two independent streams (counterpoint).   Added by: sirfragalot
pp.48-49   Presents the idea of [film] sound used as punctuation -- to accent a bit of dialogue for example, to end a scene.   Added by: sirfragalot
pp.63-64   Chion's synchresis is the melding of synchronous aural and visual objects such that we believe them to be one. In reality, the sound may have nothing to do with the image or action. This phenomenon is not fully automatic but is a product of meaning. Context, volume, rhythm all play their part.

cf (Anderson 1996, p.83) and his description of synchrony.

Anderson, J. D. (1996). The reality of illusion: An ecological approach to cognitive film theory. Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press.   Added by: sirfragalot
pp.83-85   Mentions the 'in-the-wings' effect in cinema sound (i.e. the sound of a visual object continues as it moves off-screen). This has been gradually dropped (even though it was only made possible by later multi-tracking )because it makes no distinction between screen space and cinema space -- an actor is in the wings or an aisle waiting to appear on screen again. Exits and entrances.   Added by: sirfragalot
pp.89-92   Discusses points of audition - i.e. similar to point of view -- where, within the film, are we listening from?

Chion points out the omnidirectional nature of sound as opposed to the directionality of light (not strictly ture -- see my comments earlier) therefore, there is no point of audition but a "zone of audition" p.91.

Further points out that we must also ask: who, on-screen, hears what I hear? Usually it is the image grabbing our attention on screen (defined by focus, close-up etc. rather than something indicated by the sound's characteristics.   Added by: sirfragalot
pp.101-104   Chion resurrects the old notion of phonogeny -- 'he has a very phonogenic voice'. Claims that the notion has died out as, while at the birth of recorded sound (and marriage of sound + image) it was possible to compare the natural voice with recorded (and make dismissive comparisons due to the low definition of early recording playback devices), today the recorded voice is so often heard it is the natural voice.   Added by: sirfragalot
pp.112-113   Some sound FX in films do duty in rendering multiple sensations (mass, pain, violence, etc.) which is how we sense anyway (in multiples).   Added by: sirfragalot
p.114   Defines the term materializing sound indices first mentioned on p.99.

Any sound has either zero MSI or (up to) an infinity of them. Sounds rich in MSI are concrete and easily rendered (when separated from image) and provide rich information about the sound source, the sound's production and the envrionment. Sounds poor in MSI and that are acousmatized are particularly enigmatic.   Added by: sirfragalot
pp.114-115   Chion, talking of MSI, makes the interesting point that the concept of noise is cultural and intimately related to MSI. Using music practice as an example; some music cultures strive for an ethereal sound where all extraneous noise is banished and we are left solely with the notes (low MSI); others gladly incorporate such 'noises' as enriching the music (high MSI -- source easily rendered).   Added by: sirfragalot
p.205   (As part of a longer section on strategies for analyzing film sound.) When analyzing sound in a series of images:
lasting noises extend throughout the sequence,
punctual noises are isolated sounds.

Lasting noises provide continuity across varying textures, shots, content etc. in the sequence.   Added by: sirfragalot
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