Aural Excitement on the Modern Soundtrack


Sonic Cinema is a complex and thought-provoking overview of that oft neglected component of cinema: the soundtrack. Everything from a nuclear bomb blast to a single water drop, from a symphonic overture to a last dying breath – this is the beautiful noise of cinema that is half music, half sound, all soundtrack. Sidestepping the arcana of filmdom – its literary origins, theatrical staging and photographic allure – the book invites the reader to become conscious of the extremities of audio-visual effect; to be born into the sound of cinema.

Sonic Cinema is not solely an intellectual text, introductory history, or technical production manual. Nor is its scope restricted by the dry aim to be curriculum support material. The information & critical insight it contains result from many moist years of author Philip Brophy's intellectual and material analysis of film scores, sound design and sound post-production, plus his experience in composing and sound designing for films, videos and installations. The incisive text voices theoretical and practical concerns, and is aimed at: (i) those with a voracious media appetite (movie goers, music collectors, cinephiles, amateurs); and (ii) those with keen and developing aural sensibilities (composers, producers, mixers, musicians, DJs). Exploiting the undying hipness of movie soundtracks, the book targets celebrated films to expand the reader's perceptual awareness of the cine-listening experience. A key strategy of the book is to then introduce a range of radical, bizarre & unconventional movies to demonstrate the inventiveness which can mark film sound as a truly awesome multi-media phenomenon. The book's ultimate aim is to posit an entirely new critical view: that the more interesting & engrossing films are not those with weighty themes, social relevance, psychoanalytic complexity or sumptuous cinematography, but those whose soundtracks psychologically excite the auditory membrane.

Words 198,000
Format text only
99 films analyzed (11 films per chapter)
9 chapters @ 22,000 (average 2,000 words per film)
Categories: cinema, music, sound, media, technology.


Sonic beings at our deepest and most unconscious level, we are shaped by sonar and aquatic sensations well before we hit the piercing dryness of air and the blaze of light that accompanies the doctor's slap on our behind. The sensorium of the womb is our primary induction into the nature of sound – its encompassing and multi-directional matrix of acoustic events, its liquefying ambience. The curvaceous film theatre returns us directly to a psycho-physical zone of uterine impressions: deep rumbles, pink noise, shifting timbres, spatial reflections, swelling rhythms. Much has been made of the cinema as some sort of primordial social cave for storytelling. Wrong. The cinema is a womb where the sonic prevails.

We say we watch movies, but the cinesonic experience is far more than a mere optical event. Try watching a film with no sound. Gone is its power, emotion, drama, vitality. Shut your eyes and listen to the soundtrack, and through the blackness one can be aurally excited by the fundamentality of sound. Sudden gunshots, soaring violins, distant footsteps, cracked bones, howling winds, fuzzed guitars, baby gurgles, screaming synthesizers and the burst of a single saliva bubble. Through the orchestration of voices, atmospheres, effects and music, the sonic engulfs us, massaging our liver, rattling our skull, stinging our temples. Nerves, muscles, bones and speeding bodily fluids dance in a frenzy to the unfolding audio-visual carnival that is the cinema. Yet like a mysterious hieroglyphic stream, those squiggly white lines to the left of the celluloid film strip lay silent even to the inquiring the eye. Once decoded and replayed in the auditorium, time and space are sculptured and realigned into a dimensional, tactile, electric realm. This is the transformative power of the film soundtrack. Under-theorised, presumed ancillary, yet vital to the contemporary audio-visual experience and integral to technological advances in the entertainment industries..

You know this without realizing it. Thanks to years of optical eye-washing and literate indoctrination, you articulate experience through words which use visual metaphors, as if the world is solely comprised of data beamed at those round reflective discs you call eyes. But after a few simple pointers about how sound is performatively materialized – how it immerses you in its density, how it manipulates your sense of time and space, how it entrains and seduces you – the most comp lex issues of aural dispersion and psychoacoustic entrancement can become remarkably evident when one is guided through the audio-visual layering of a film. From Albert Einstein's assertion of music being the purest art, to Fritz Lang's regret of thinking primarily in images, to George Lucas' obsessive pursuit of hi-fidelity in the making of movies, to David Lynch's decimation of all rational categories of aurality, the sonic has long been acknowledged as a key factor which shapes our experience of the world and its myriad reproductive technologies. Night clubs, the ocean, tunnels, elevator muzak, stadium concerts, shopping malls, home theatres, subway PAs, forests, freeways, televisions in the next room while we eat breakfast, streaming music on a billion ear-buds - we are surrounded by sonic spaces. You have experienced all this - but so little has been said about it. And so little has been written about how cinema in its classical presentation, modernist deconstruction and digital platforming touches upon these temperate aural realities which direct your everyday momentum.

Sonic Cinema is impelled by the need for a reveal of how the core meld of the outside aural world informs and shapes the internal sonic dimension of the cinema – and vice versa. The book accordingly writes with this heightened attenuation to the physicality of sound worlds, and puts into evocative and illustrative prose the scintillating mechanisms of film sound and the means by which music, voice, sound and space communicate dense narrative meaning.

Grouped into 9 non-sequential chapters – each containing detailed essays on 11 films ranging from the seminal to the experimental – expert, novice and innocent alike can identify the films with which they are already familiar. Readers can then map their own explorative trail through the titles, discovering different aspects and issues of sound reproduction and how they contribute to one's understanding and enjoyment of a film. The text shuttles the reader on an informative journey through films from the USA, UK, Canada, India, Australia, Russia, France, Germany, Italy, Hong Kong, Japan and Hungary, spreading from the early '40s to the late '00s. Mainstream moviemaking is referenced, but in tracking aural innovation, the inclusive logic of the text favours awkward, uneven, dismissed and even disreputable films. Throughout these many examples, key figures who developed new and radical styles, strategies and concepts of sound-designing and film-scoring are highlighted, evidencing how their conceptual inventions would define audio-visual conventions in cinema. In eschewing hierarchical markers, cultural propriety and good taste, Sonic Cinema is primarily geared to mentally stimulate and aurally excite.


  • Part 1: The Rapture of Melody

    song, dance, pulsation

    FANTASIA (1941) - the production of music for animation & its symbiotic effects; relations between architectural progression and harmonic logic; notions of fluidity, channelling and flow in musical discourse; Disney's project of Romantic idyllicism in pre-war America.
    (A partial analysis of this film's music is included in The Animation of Sound.)
    WEST SIDE STORY (1961) - the street as stage; the non-space of music in musicals; physical energy & its effect upon body movement and choreography; territory, demarcation & isolation in the mapping of musical zones; the influence of Robert Wise's transposition from Broadway stage to Manhattan locales.
    THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG (1966) - the effect of absenting prose dialogue in the cinematic text; theatricalization of the cine-photographic world & its ramifications for production design; musical motifs & their role as memory triggers; Jacques Demy's Euro-reworking of the classical Hollywood musical.
    THE COLOUR OF POMEGRANATES (1969) - lyricism, iconicism & correlative musical states; poetic rhythm & 'stanzaic cinema'; aural counterpoint & audio-visual seepage.
    MOSES & AARON (1976) - synchronous sound and the documentary effect upon location musical staging; the dilemma of the simulacra and its bearing on musical visualization; religious dogma of iconography and governing factors in image/music relationships; Jean Marie Straub's approach to recording sound & music.
    ONE FROM THE HEART (1983) - coding operatic style under frontier principles of Las Vegas architecture; generating narrative momentum through voice-over chorus singing; artifice, simulation & restaging of the staged; Francis Ford Coppola's predilection toward operatic excessiveness.
    BLACK RIVER (1994) - the political collision between Australian indigenous themes & European High Art orchestration; terrain, colonialism & the space of musical occupation; vocalising oppression & the instrumentality of the law.
    (A partial analysis of this film's score is included in How Sound Floats On Land.)
    BRING IT ON (2000) - hormonal teen energy; racial division & competitive integration; militarised calisthenics; corporeal explosions live on-stage; system playback & bodily listening.
    (A brief review of this film's music has been published in Real Time.)
    FUNKY FOREST (2005) - redefining musicality & choreography; the unformed body & the propensity for movement; irrational pleasure.
    (A brief review of this film's music has been published in Film Comment.)
    TOKYO TRIBE (2014) - globalized hip hop and Eastern masking; saturated artifice on-stage & aural compression in the mix; rhyming & timing; pummelling sonnets.
    (A brief review of this film's music has been published in Film Comment.)
    LA LA LAND (2016) - postmodern neutralization through actualized production; inhabiting references & becoming musicalized; reality incursions & melodic diversions; inverting Hollywood into Los Angeles.

  • Part 2: The Mania of Music

    composers, musicians, demons

    HANGOVER SQUARE (1948) - psychoses, neuroses & their sonic triggers; the tyranny of harmony and the obsession of composers; the descent from music into noise; harmonic resonance & the internal tones of bells; the atonal legacy of Bernard Herrmann.
    THE WRONG MAN (1959) - bass, depression & fatalism; Bernard Herrmann’s dissolution of jazz; subjective viewpoints & aural impressions through timbrel modification; working relationships between Herrmann & Alfred Hitchcock.
    SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL (1971) - exposing the recording studio apparatus; deconstructing the composition & production of music; microphone placement, multi-tracking and fold back, & their effect upon filmic narrative; Jean Luc Godard's collaging of direct sound.
    A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971) - the subversion of romanticism through alienation; misreading musical content; the result of employing an eclectic, polyglottic & contradictory range of music tracks; fascism & the orchestral academy; the dialogue between Wendy Carlos & Stanley Kubrick.
    FINGERS (1977) - the viral properties of pop music & their seepage into social environments; schizophrenia & cultural difference in music styles; melding the consumption & production of music; the duality of hands in the making of music.
    KEEP UP YOUR RIGHT (1987) - multi-tracking & schizophrenic listening; capturing emotion in the studio.
    GEORGIA (1992) - soul, heart, spirit and other specious myths about music; the terror of beauty and the passion of the dispossessed; character contrast through vocal abilities; the fine line between singing badly and acting it.
    (A partial analysis of this film's soundtrack is included in I Scream in Silence.)
    CRAZY (1999) - facial disrecognition & emotional impenetrability; the mask of music; listening as sculpting & sounding as moulding; registering traumatic catatonia through auditing music.
    (A brief review of this film's music has been published in Real Time.)
    METALLICA THROUGH THE NEVER NEVER (2013) - full-range frequency assault in metal music; the dislocated self & metal's alienation; surrendering to the sonic; flights of freedom versus tech-sonic grounding.
    WHIPLASH (2014) - adrenaline & body pumping; expression of self through technique; percussivity & dramatic impact; velocity & sonic force; the skin as self in the act of drumming.
    NICO, 1988 (2017) - historicizing the aural past; veracity of performance in recreation; psychological memory spaces; poor sonics & poor performance; drugged states and sensorial distortion of sound.

  • Part 3: The Nature of Sound

    technology, reproduction, fidelity

    PLAYTIME (1970) - order, precision & the controlling power of sono-industrial design; the role of sound in the suburban techno-topia; lack in the interfacing between acoustic design and urban planning; the fetishism of sound effects and other erotic moments; Jacques Tati's perspective on the role of sound post-production.
    THE EXORCIST (1971) - innocence, virginity & untampered vocal chords; the body as vessel & voice as instrument; possession, rape and corporeal invasion; the powers of written and spoken words; terror through sound editing.
    THE CONVERSATION (1972) - alienation, existentialism & the shaping of one's self through sound; personal space & private aural zones; the drive to comprehend the unheard; recording processes & their attendant doctoring; frequency separation & noise suppression; the microphone as instrument of death.
    CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977) - extra-terrestrial communication through musical language; muzak & domesticity; interiorized melodic messages & externalised sonic analyses of sound.
    TALK RADIO (1987) - the ether sphere of broadcast space and the zoning of radio; telephones, communication and the forming of live interplay; the power of the media voice and its microphonic aura; personal loss and public persona.
    FACE OFF (1997) - Peking Opera, Chinese fireworks and other sonic aspects of Hong Kong cinema; the void between jump-cuts and the aural stretching of real time sound; spatial orchestration and pyrotechnic kinetics.
    (A brief review of this film's sound design has been published in Real Time.)
    THE HAUNTING (1999) - terror-sonics in the cinema; the film theatre as amplified spook house; post-screenic aural rupture; demolishing perceptual masking in the cine-listener.
    (A brief review of this film's sound design has been published in Real Time.)
    DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012) - electric Italy & black America; musicological territorialisation and narrative recontextualization; trans-historical film scoring; gangsta rap and slave sonics.
    (A brief review of this film's music has been published in Real Time.)
    UNDER THE SKIN (2013) - the impossibility of imagining alien audio-vision; registering the ear of the Other; sensory dislocation in the everyday world; listening as tracking prey; reading signs and hearing noise.
    MANAKAMANA (2013) - hyperreal sonics; the aural domain of sensory ethnography; real-time, real-space & unreal sound; the black box of aura experience; central positioning of the cine-ear.
    (A brief review of this film's sound design has been published in Real Time.)
    THE TRIBE (2014) - deafness & the sound of silence; physical vibration & physical violence; sounding force through direct contact; the voiceless as percussionist.
    (A brief review of this film's sound design has been published in Real Time.)

  • Part 4: The Bombast of Effects

    animism, resonance, bodily presence

    Warner Bros. cartoons (1945-55) - cacophony as an apposite to symphony; post-war metallica & the love of machine noise; quantum physics & the warping of space through speed; the obliteration of music in the name of noise; working relationships between Tregg Brown & Carl Stalling.
    (A partial analysis of this film's soundtrack is included in The Animation of Sound.)
    THE BIRDS (1963) - the revenge of animal clusters against human order; the impenetrability of non-human vocal communication; sheets of noise & their signifying presence; musique concrete & its interference of sound/music distinctions; multiple layers of mimetic codes on the film soundtrack.
    (A full analysis of this film's sound design has been published in Essays In Sound.)
    WAY OF THE DRAGON (1972) - bodily perspectives & the sound of exertion; energy, mass, weight and scale, & their aural direction; the percussive self & the resonant body-drum; gladiatorial orchestration; death release & decaying breath; aural chi.
    BENEATH THE VALLEY OF THE ULTRA VIXEN (1979) - unreality in sonic accompaniment; grotesquery & vagaries in the depiction of sound; the noise of the human engine; stylization of sound & the ensuing depiction of the world; the influence of cartoon sound on live action cinema.
    APOCALYPSE NOW (1980) - complexity in sonic construction; levels of realism, reality & realization in the design of film sound; disorientation through non-urban soundscapes; hallucination & quadraphonic sound; the importance of Walter Murch.
    HAIL MARY (1985) - savagery, violence & chaos in the montage of sound; the sonorum of nature & the space of its aura; multiple dimensions of mystical energy & the networking of sonic realms; the contrapuntal continuum of sound against image.
    ANGEL DUST (1994) - digital precision & aural terror; psychotic perspectives on audio-vision; assaultive sound design.
    LA VIE NOUVELLE (2002) - silencing the self; the impossibility of music in post-humanism; turning the ear inside-out; disorientation as reorientation; scopic & sonic meltdown .
    (A partial analysis of this film's score is included in The Oxford Handbook Of New Audio-Visual Aesthetics.)
    PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE (2002) - the widened sonorum of anxiety; looping, locking & psychological immobility; panic attacks & triggering transients; the uncontrolled sounding of fretful tempos; music collapsing into interference; stability through noise.
    TRANSFORMERS (2007) - inventing 'metallic music'; machinic erotics and sonic weaponry; massive weight through sound design; phantom tactility through sounding metal.
    THE HURT LOCKER (2008) - the self as disconnected vibrational node; deadly interplays of silence and noise; repression of real world sound; impossible isolation and sonic consciousness.

  • Part 5: The Marvel of Space

    atmospheres, environments, aural zones

    COLORS (1987) - the dimension of bass as the film soundtrack's final frontier; deep space, threatening foregrounds & the spectre of off-screen sound; music as territorial marker; acoustic zones as governed by playback systems; the urban jungle & its sonar logic; the sonic assault of Hip Hop.
    (A full analysis of this film's soundtrack has been published in Culture, Creativity & Technology In The Late 20th Century.)
    HOUSE BY THE RIVER (1954) - memory, guilt & the inescapability of sonic occurrences; on-screen rendering of invisible actions through the presence of sound; the phonograph as symbolic narrative device; the effect of silence.
    CONTACT (1997) - hyperspace & surround sound activity; dimensional transgression & the transformation of the auditorium; radar & sonar activity, & their narratological import; the hidden talents of Randy Thom.
    (A brief review of this film's sound design is included in Real Time.)
    TRON (1982) - problematics in sounding the virtual world; markers of distinction through pitch, timbre & effect; the textual morphing between orchestra & synthesizer, and their indented replication of the other; matching sound to computer generated imagery.
    LOST HIGHWAY (1997) - rumbles, sub-sonic swells & densely timbrel atmospheres; the defunctioning of music in the face of sound; emotional removal through the horizontal planning of aural textures; the psychoacoustic precision of frequency arrangement; David Lynch & Alan Splet's love of noise.
    (A brief review of this film's soundtrack is included in Real Time.)
    THE STRAIGHT STORY (1999) - aural isolation & the degenerative self; nerve deafness & emotional withdrawal; aged sonics; the permeance of quietude; aural decay & approaching of death.
    (A brief review of this film's soundtrack is included in Real Time.)
    NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (2007) - featureless scoring & hollowed music; nothingness in mind & action; violent puncturing & the sound of death; ghostly refrains in the inner mind.
    (A brief review of this film's soundtrack is included in Film Comment.)
    PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (2007) - bumps in the night & the aural unfamiliar; inverting the domestic sonorum; lo-fi terror; ghosting sounds & images; feedback, distortion & ether interference.
    RESIDENT EVIL (2002) - sensurround terror & other jungle-sonics; electro-acoustic governance of the soundtrack; underground room tones & aural mazes.
    4 (2004) - orchestrating the existential; verbose articulation versus guttural actions; expansive field recordings of unknown domains.

  • Part 6: The Collapse of the Orchestra

    accompaniment, synaesthesia, interiorization

    PSYCHO (1960) - ulteriority, psychic displacement & auditory transference; atonality & its figuring of the Other; voicing aberrant behaviour & morbid fixation; inverting the paradigm of nature/beauty/truth in the design of the violin; Bernard Herrmann’s application & interrogation of the orchestra as a semantic and textual machine.
    KWAIDAN (1963) - the sound of the Occidental soundtrack turned inside out; asynchronism & its siding with psychological displacement; the corruption of musicality & the sublime presence of sound; the alien perspective of Toru Takemitsu.
    (A full analysis of this film's sound design has been published in How Sound Floats On Land.)
    FELLINI SATYRICON (1969) - sounding the Tower of Babel; delusional dialects and fevered voices; world music and polyglot slave markets; class divisions in noise and silence.
    TAXI DRIVER (1976) - the orchestra as organism & the city as living entity; more on Herrmann’s dissolution of jazz; the musicalization of ambience & the orchestration of pressure; syncing voice-over rhythms to the breathing of an orchestra.
    THE SHINING (1980) - first degree sourcing of 20th century avantgarde music for the cinema; the shrinking of consciousness, the dissolving of rationalism & the disappearance of harmony; the sound of music as abject terror; Stanley Kubrick's musicological sense.
    VAGABOND (1985) - atonality and unalterable tragedy; past events and future music; aleatory melodies and the wandering figure; transience and transitions.
    ONIMARU (1992) - - inverting atmosphere recordings & orchestral scoring; the sound of inside versus the sound of outside; walls of paper, volcanic mountains & other containers of sound; the tonality of land & the tuning of wind.
    (A partial analysis of this film's score is included in Japanese Horror Cinema.)
    HEAT (1994) - Hovering chords, impressions of instruments & transparent sonic textures; fusing musical styles in a single score; monolithicism & the engineering of orchestral energy; Michael Mann & the dialectic of Pop music.
    THE CONVENT (1995) - obtuse musical referencing; music as psychological penumbra; the resonant cave of dark humanism.
    SHUTTER ISLAND (2010) - avant-garde music as signs of mental fatigue @ fracture; absenting music as the mind cracks; removing the distinguishing features of music; the emancipation of dissonance.
    INHERENT VICE (2014) - mysterious musical portraiture; orchestrations of the slipping self; musicological density and orchestral embodiment; 'auralizing' directionless narrative; non-committal melodiousness.
    (A detailed review of this film's soundtrack is included in Real Time.)

  • Part 7: The Rise of Electricity

    guitars, synthesizers, volume

    FORBIDDEN PLANET (1954) - geotextual & aquasonic aspects of interplanetary acoustics; electronica & its voicing of the repressed; the disappearance of the orchestra; absenting sonic realism.
    KING CREOLE (1958) - New Orleans musical ghosting through the presence of Elvis Presley; the Faustian links of folk & pop; singing with a rebel yell; the troubadour of rock's imaginary utopia.
    ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1968) - rewriting the western through the sound of electricity; obsession, memory & haunting melodies; instruments of death & instruments of song; the song craft of Ennio Morricone & the aural sensitivity of Sergio Leone.
    SHAFT (1971) - the black man caught in cross-town traffic; the urban grid & the percussive gridlock; Occupy Hollywood & black film music; being chased to the funky beat.
    SUSPIRIA (1977) - the violence of volume & the terror of music; visceral sound & bodily noise; hysterical forms of audio-visual narration; hyper-opera & the acidic shared vision of Dario Argento with Goblin.
    ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981) - the pulse of the dying urban metropolis; tension through drones & monophonic ambience; the grain of analogue synthesis; underground & overground sonics; acknowledging the electro-minimalist style of John Carpenter.
    KOYANISQUAATSI (1983) - hysteria, apocalyptica & choral overload; the end of the world & the death of European High Art; singing angels of conscious & the demonic sound of progress; imperialist & colonialist film scoring; minimalism & its oppositional recourse to drama.
    METROPOLIS (1983) - questioning the sanctity of the ontological status of silent cinema; reconstructing narrative through musical rescoring; simultaneity in subtitles, title cards & song lyrics; the MTV effect & Giorgio Moroder's pop scoring.
    THE KEEP (1983) - streaming meta-music through simulated synthetic textures; morphing instrumental identity into synthesized generality; pervasive timeless evil & its musicalization through electronic synthesis.
    BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE (2014) - therapeutic workshopping through drumming; visually locating the non-diegetic role of music; madness & frenzy in the drum clinic.
    ARRIVAL (2016) - aural incomprehension & alien communication; registering the unknowable; sounding how gravity changes; voicing the other through para-musical means.

  • Part 8: The Fabric of Song

    rhizomes, radio, pop

    AMERICAN GRAFFITI (1972) - the advent of 'worldizing' sound for on-screen spatial environments; radio broadcast & its role in establishing real-time narration; multiple locations & narrative continuity through song.
    SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL (1985) - the energy of youth & the consumption of song; drumming , passion & emotional release; the notoriety of teen movies and John Hughes' musical sensibility.
    STAND BY ME (1987) - nostalgia, memory, allegory & their evocation through songs from the past; re-orchestrating songs as a form of voice-over narration; the role of a theme song & its framing effect on cinematic narrative; radio as textual construct.
    DO THE RIGHT THING (1989) - the aesthetics & politics of blackness on the film soundtrack; reclaiming blues idioms in New World Americana scores; racial tension through invading space with radio; the texture of Hip Hop & the sound of the street; Spike Lee's musicological agenda.
    AN INDEPENDENT LIFE (1991) - transience, ephemera & the rhizomatic drift of European folk music; musical journeys & mapped narratives; mythological weaving & oral tradition.
    (A partial analysis of this film's sound design is included in How Sound Floats On Land.)
    GOOD FELLAS (1992) - hyper ellipsis & radical sound editing; the voice as orchestrator & conductor of narrative rhythm; incorporating musical recording space into on-screen spaces; the mania for song in Martin Scorsese’s cinema.
    RED PSALM (1972) - folk music and territorial habitats; the floating rural of song.
    MAGNOLIA (1999) - exhaustion and vocal performance; hyper-multiplicity in overlaid songs; redefining musical 'cues' as indifferent triggers; aural overloads and mental break-downs; harmonic patterns and fatalistic dances.
    (An analysis of this film's score & sound design is included in Real Time.)
    DETROIT METAL CITY (2008) - ridiculing essentialism in musical genres; war between pop idioms; performing in-character and hiding in-character; alter-ego drives through song; the spectacle of karaoke.
    THIS MUST BE THE PLACE (2011) - traumatic silence and the reclusive star; channelling pop and performing pop; the remains of pop music.
    SONG TO SONG (2017) - delusional truth-seeking behind musical production; the borderless zones of the self-centric singer-songwriter; endless listening to endless music; romanticising music as life.

  • Part 9: The Grain of The Voice

    screams, breaths, silence

    CITIZEN KANE (1941) - the power of the mediated voice & the amplification of the media; control through oral dominance; character, identity & persona in vocal performance; the act of speaking; gender dynamics & gendered voices; Orson Welles' radio textuality.
    (A full analysis of this film's soundtrack is included in Music & The Moving Image.)
    A LETTER TO THREE WIVES (1949) - multiplicity in voice over narration; narrative & narrational overlapping in melodrama; the closure of feminine discourse through voicing the unspoken & silencing the written.
    LAST YEAR IN MARIENBAD (1960) - the hysterical symbiosis of sound & image; voices from nowhere & texts from elsewhere; harmonic improvization, chromatic chord progressions & the generation of vertiginous narratives; truth, documentation & the lie of photography.
    THE MAN WHO LIES (1968) - opening your mouth to lie; the randomised speech of a character in search of a story; musique concrète as the sonic staging of memory.
    THE ACT OF SEEING WITH ONE'S OWN EYES (1971) - how to sound dead; the silent soundtrack for experiencing beyond one's death; imagining how the body once sounded.
    CALIFORNIA SPLIT (1974) - loquaciousness, garrulity & vocal type in star personae; deafening silence & talking about nothing; psychological tropes in vocal activity; the vociferous revolution of Robert Altman's live multi-track recording of improvised dialogue.
    I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (1981) - the abjection of sound & the absence of music; the silent forest & the erasure of social norms; the unheard cry of rape & the silencing of women; breathing, screaming, gasping & other bodily expulsions.
    (A partial analysis of this film's sound design is included in I Scream in Silence.)
    CRASH (1996) - separating vocal presence from emotional projection; post-dubbing & the alienation effect; pornographic texturing through close-mic voices; the erotic sigh & its poetic lineage.
    DOCTOR DOLITTLE (1998) - materializing schizophrenia on-screen; the transubstantiation of the human voice; how 'crazy people' hear you; stand-up comedy as an oral malaise.
    (A brief review of this film's sound design is included in Real Time.)
    DOGTOOTH (2009) - the deafening din pf patriarchy; taking Zeus at his word; repetition, utterance & other forms of oral mind control
    (A brief review of this film's sound design is included in Film Comment.)
    HER (2013) - emotional pornography & social silence; the invisible female as voice alone; 'unspatialization' & the acousmatic of voices in one's head.
    (A brief review of this film's sound design is included in Real Time.)