Sound and Image Theory

Jane Gaines

Some of the most exciting theoretical moving image work in recent years has centered on the problem of the acoustic sign in moving image works and especially around the relation between image track and sound track. This course rethinks the history and theory of moving image narrative from the point of view of sound: effects, dialogue, music, with significant attention to the theoretical work of Michel Chion. It begins with some history of cinematic sound recording, play-back technologies, sound delivery systems (Dolby Sound) and ends with contemporary digital audio experiments. Basic theoretical constructs revisited are realism (sound perspective, dubbing), anti-realism (contrapuntal and dissonant effects), genre (the leitmotiv), perception (the synaesthetic effect) as well as word vs. “wordlessness.” The silent to sound divide considered relative to the case of Soviet Cinema as well as the silent film composite score. We end with  the Wagnerian classical Hollywood score associated with the Viennese-trained Max Steiner and Eric Korngold, the tradition culminating in the scores of John Williams. Western contrasted with non-Western traditions in musical scoring.