This article appears in the Oxford Handbook of Sound and Image in Digital Media edited by Carol Vernallis, Amy Herzog, and John Richardson. This essay discusses the separation between image and sound inaugurated with the introduction of sound recording technology in the late nineteenth century. Two areas are explored in depth: the development of sound-based art maximally divorced from the image and postrecording technology art forms that recombine sound and image in new ways. The latter part of the essay focuses on artistic sound/image relationships inherent in digital media.
This article appears in the Oxford Handbook of Sound and Image in Digital Media edited by Carol Vernallis, Amy Herzog, and John Richardson. This essay argues that contemporary digital media present forms of space, time, and rhythm that we haven’t seen. These new forms bear some similarities to contemporary experiences like work speedup, multitasking, and just-in-time labor. One can only guess why this is happening and its causes and effects. A Frankfurt School perspective might note that forms of entertainment replicate labor so we can better toil under oppressive conditions. Marshall McLuhan might claim that the digital has infiltrated entertainment, finance, and labor; hence, there’s a homology between them. This essay suggests that both perspectives grasp something: becoming more aware of the patterns of space, time, and rhythm in media and in work speedup might help us to adapt to social change. We might even work to train our forms of attention so that we can handle the shocks of contemporary society with more grace, care, and awareness.
This article appears in the Oxford Handbook of Sound and Image in Digital Media edited by Carol Vernallis, Amy Herzog, and John Richardson. This chapter develops a poetic perspective to analyze the unusual sound, image, and narrational structures of Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006). A poetic perspective examines how a film is made (rather than trying to work out what it means). This chapter examines the decision-making process that has gone into the construction of the film’s complex aural and visual narrative world: specifically, the issue of how shots and scenes are joined in Inland Empire to create a complex ambiguous world of multiple intersecting layers.
Many online video games nowadays feature voice-chat capabilities that enable players to speak with one another through microphones connected to computers and gaming consoles. Players who speak out via voice-chat telegraph ambiguous bodies and often end up participating (willingly or not) in instances of identity assimilation, repression, deception, and revelation. This chapter examines how voice technologies in online games compel players to negotiate practices of domination, masquerade, and passing through acts of speech and silence. Attempts here to put pressure on voice-body relations speak to a broader effort to reassess conventional theories of the voice as a site of authentic and agentic expression. The chapter will conclude by considering the sexual politics of voice-chat in the audibly male-dominated communities of online first-person-shooter games.
This article appears in the Oxford Handbook of Sound and Image in Digital Media edited by Carol Vernallis, Amy Herzog, and John Richardson. This essay examines a growing number of filmmakers who construct personal sound aesthetics that rework the rules of sound and image relations. This trend has emerged over the past decade, and it finds global filmmakers engaged in a revitalization of the affective powers of film sound in a digitally converged world. Under consideration are issues of sound authorship, acoustic markers of cultural identity, how sound tropes circulate transnationally, and whether the rules governing sound and image are culturally determined.
Acting and singing have often been considered incompatible activities, but most successful operatic performances depend in part on successful acting. Acting in opera is, however, different from acting in spoken drama. Realistic characterization is often difficult to achieve when acting with music, and often the formal gestures of a more rhetorical representation are more appropriate. A more vivid style of acting was initiated with the bel canto opera early in the nineteenth century, and later verismo opera required acting that brought out the unconscious motivation of characters. Wagner, Stanislavski, and Felsenstein all developed a style of acting that reflected the psychology of the character and encouraged ensemble. Modern operatic performance incorporates a variety of styles, but a combination of realism and minimalism may be most effective on stage. Callas’s performance in Act 2 of Tosca and Nicholas Lehnhoff’s production of Parsifal are analyzed.
This article appears in the Oxford Handbook of New Audiovisual Aesthetics edited by John Richardson, Claudia Gorbman, and Carol Vernallis. This chapter uses textual analysis of the music video “Umbrella,” featuring Rihanna, to demonstrate the intricacies of sound and image synchronization. It argues that music highlights subject positions according to the viewer’s expectations, assessment, and understanding of the displayed subject. Rihanna’s erotic imagery forms a critical point for contemplating the pop artist’s physical responses to music. One central ingredient of most video performances is disclosed by the suggestive positioning of the gendered body, which extends far beyond everyday experience. Such notions are theorized through aspects of hyperembodiment and hypersexuality, wherein the technological constructedness of the body constitutes a prime part of video production. The aesthetics of performance are predicated on the reassemblance of the body audiovisually. Editing, production, and technology shape the images, which are stimulated by musical sound, and ultimately the audiovisual flow in pop videos mediates a range of conventions that say much about our ever-evolving cultural domains.
This article investigates the aesthetic conclusions that the Canadian artists Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller draw from the basic phenomenon of listening—such as the “horizon of simultaneity” of sound and vision—in their own creation of their audio- and video-walks. It describes how their work functions as social experiments in the public sphere. The thesis is that their works “vampirize” sounds and actively assimilate them to natural acoustic tracks and traces, thus becoming affective traps for their pursuers. Cardiff and Miller lead the participants astray in their desire to actually “see” what is “only” to be heard. Thus an uncanny criminology of artificially laid traces is to be predicated on the seductiveness of the disembodied human voice as guiding narrative. Cardiff’s and Miller’s intriguing art form improvises a new way across the ravages of time by inventing new vestiges of the past.
The Afterword, positioned as it is at the rear of the Handbook, presents itself as a study of the conceptualization and application of the notion of virtuality found in the preceding 45 chapters. It does so by discussing four binarisms: reality and world; unreal and real; emic and etic; and utopia and dystopia. Through these four binarisms, the chapters' key themes are assessed and debated and questions of the virtual and digital are discussed as they relate to questions of society and culture change.
Alternative Virtuality: Independent Micro Labels Facing the Ideological Challenge of Virtual Music Culture—The Case of Finnish Ektro Records
This chapter examines virtual music culture from the viewpoint of an independent micro label, Ektro Records, based in Finland. Micro labels are small record producers who subscribe to uncompromising aesthetic and countercultural ideologies. These labels have a complex relationship with virtual music culture, which undermines their economic infrastructure and challenges their subversive position as cultural producers. Although the globalization and elimination of intermediaries by virtual media has advantaged micro labels, labels specializing in physical formats such as Ektro Records are affected by declining sales. Furthermore, micro labels have to compete with the free distribution promoted in the virtual music culture at providing alternatives to the music industry and defending artistic autonomy from commodification. However, it is argued that there is still a need for micro labels in the virtual music culture, and their continuing usefulness to micro labels such as Ektro.
The opening decades of the twentieth century saw painters renounce mimetic representation for the formal rigors and spiritual transcendence of visual art divorced from reproduction of the visible world. That they chose to do so in no small measure resulted from a profound shift in aesthetic values: music became the paradigm for visual art. While the concept of visual music gained international currency, this seductive aesthetic model had particular resonance in the United States. Between 1910 and 1930, leaders of the American avant-garde, such as Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Max Weber, experimented with musical ideas to forge a new abstract art. A comparative case study of the music pictures of these painters and the inter-media installations of contemporary artist Jennifer Steinkamp will illuminate the transformation of the modernist ideal of visual music in the postmodern era.
The problems associated with the “representational” nature of music has been a feature of musicology and Western thought for many years, with authors such as Eduard Hanslick highlighting how music’s “beauty” lies in its formal structure as opposed to containing or purveying any inherent emotionality. In more recent times, academics such as Davies, Moore, and Zak have all elaborated on how recording technology has added to the complex ways in which music and musicians interact with time, place, and space; to a certain extent all popular music can be considered “virtual.” This chapter discusses the creation and reception of the music of Frank Zappa, who purposively employed techniques to philosophically position his output in a virtual dimension. It draws on Zappa’s own vocabulary, in addition to a range of thinkers (including those highlighted here) to Plato, Paul Weiss, and Schopenhauer.
This article appears in the Oxford Handbook of Sound and Image in Digital Media edited by Carol Vernallis, Amy Herzog, and John Richardson. By 1915, directors of photography were no longer satisfied with providing a correct exposure to their images. By apportioning different levels of light to adjoining areas of a scene, they started the process of enhancing the action with contrast, mood, and dramatic tension. Still, the cinematographers’ best efforts remained circumscribed by what they had actually captured on film, give or take some modest adjustment of light and color when timing the release prints. The advent of digital technology gave directors of photography and colorists access to a wide array of postproduction tools allowing them to manipulate after the fact every detail in a given shot. Although this engineering of flawless imagery dazzles the audience’s senses, overly processed image enhancement ultimately conveys a vaporous, glossy world that could inhibit the viewers’ emotional and mental engagement.
Although musicians and labels have been slow to jump into application production for mobile devices, major artists such as Björk and Lady Gaga have recently released expensive and expansive app-based virtual albums, suggesting apps are becoming an increasingly viable format for packaging and delivering popular music. This chapter analyzes app-based albums like Bjork’s Biophilia to theorize on app music and its impact on production and consumption of music commodities. Through historical analysis of enhanced CDs and interactive CD-ROMs as well as close reading of a range of virtual albums, this chapter explores the possibilities and problems apps present as they mediate our aesthetic and affective relationships with cultural goods like music. Although their artistic potential is exciting, app-based albums are nonetheless limited by the demands of the platforms and software that constitute them.
With its roots in psychological writings of the twentieth century, the subject of the uncanny provides ways of critically analyzing why some objects appear eerie or make us feel uncomfortable. For researchers building on this appraisal, the uncanny is now associated with realistic, human-like characters featured in film and video games. Such characters may fall into an “Uncanny Valley” as their increased realism evokes a negative affective response in the viewer. This chapter presents a possible psychological explanation of the uncanny in virtual characters, based on a perception of a lack of empathy in a character. Aspects such as a lack of facial mimicry and a belief that there is an inability to forge an attachment with a character may lead to an abnegation of self and evoke the uncanny. An assessment is also made of how old and new definitions of the virtual may be applicable or untenable to the uncanny.
This article appears in the Oxford Handbook of New Audiovisual Aesthetics edited by John Richardson, Claudia Gorbman, and Carol Vernallis. Language is "divided" into its (unrelated) spoken and written forms. Cinema uses language in the distinctly different channels of sound and image, and thus is audio-logo-visual. Some films attempt to transcend the language division via embodied language (e.g., deaf sign language). This chapter considers the transition from silent film to sound and the presence of written speech in narrative films depicting screen media. Subtitling “kills” language: it cannot approximate dialects or accents, different languages being spoken, hubbub, and indistinct recording; thus it demobilizes listening. Could filmmakers develop graphic conventions in subtitles to indicate some of the richness of language spoken on the soundtrack?
Robynn J. Stilwell
This article appears in the Oxford Handbook of New Audiovisual Aesthetics edited by John Richardson, Claudia Gorbman, and Carol Vernallis. While the commercial and sociological aspects of technological convergence have been discussed among scholars, producers, and consumers, this chapter explores the aesthetics of convergence and how the technological/historical/aesthetic conventions of distinctly different media can be used as “meta” gestures. Two multimedia products focusing on the same complex topic-climate change-are used to illustrate how audiovisual space is configured differently in “theatrical” and “cinematic” modes and how those spaces can create a higher level rhythm and texture. The film documentary An Inconvenient Truth alternates rhetorical theatrical and affective cinematic spaces. The three-part television series Climate Wars is markedly more complex and contrapuntal, “theatricalizing” the audience-screen relationship of cinema and deploying a dense, layered visual texture. The soundscape and visual field organize information from relatively straightforward, reinforcing “harmony"; to a counterpoint commenting on earlier documentaries; to streams of information that can overwhelm comprehension, creating affective “bursts” akin to musical stings.
This chapter maps the territory of the contemporary audiovisual cinematic avant-garde, which arose at the very moment of celluloid’s passage from mass use to obsolescence. It presents films that bear witness to the avant-garde’s ongoing interest in the formal organization of sound/image relationships. If one of the main concerns of sound in conventional film is to “naturalize” the image, experimental film is interested instead in an anti-naturalistic use of sound. Films without sound or even without images (which still can be called “films”), the use of audiovisual polysemy, asynchronous, or even synchronous sound, as well as the visualization of code-based music, are all means of revealing the constructed nature of the cinesonic event. The chapter examines the realm of the sound of technology itself, pointing out the creative potential of optically synthesized sounds as well as live generated sounds and images, which attest to the agility of current projection performances.
This chapter provides an account of several audiovisual dissemination activities of the Federal Cylinder Project and the American Folklife Center since the 1970s. Institutional protocols, developed in consultation with tribal advisors, shaped early outreach by the archive to Native communities, as did cooperative efforts with other federal agencies. More recently, as communities and individuals develop their own expertise, the dynamic has sometimes changed: the active role of outreach is now often made by Native and nontribal organizations and individuals, who come to the Center in search of relevant recordings. This mutual process allows both entities to learn about the collections that have been cared for by the archive. Dissemination via collaboration is now a characteristic archival practice—one that preserves elements of the past while working to achieve goals in the present and future, always in consultation with those whose intellectual property is contained in the recordings.
This article appears in the Oxford Handbook of New Audiovisual Aesthetics edited by John Richardson, Claudia Gorbman, and Carol Vernallis. This chapter discusses audiovisual communication and the construction of transgender subjectivity in the film Transamerica (dir. Duncan Tucker, 2005), which portrays a male-to-female transgender woman’s journey of self-discovery and parenthood while driving with a teenage son across America. Combining audiovisual analysis with queer and transgender studies, the film is interpreted as a queering—or more precisely, a transgendering—of the standard road movie format, adopted as the means of depicting the culmination of the protagonist’s gender transition. The analysis focuses on how the journey trope of transgenderness is constructed in the film music and sound. Special attention is devoted to the use of American country music to symbolize an identity in transition, the use of music encoded for ethnic identity to highlight transgender people’s social status and create a potentially progressive space of intersectionality and multiculturality, and gendered play in uses of the human voice.