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Lastra, J. (2000). Sound technology and the American cinema: Perception, representation, modernity. New York: Columbia University Press.
Added by: Mark Grimshaw (13 Mar 2006 09:16:44 UTC)
|Resource type: Book
ID no. (ISBN etc.): 0-231-11517-2
BibTeX citation key: Lastra2000
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|Categories: Arts, Film Music/Sound, History, Semiology, Sound Design
Keywords: Cinema, Film sound, History, Indexicality, Music, Sound Recording, Visual Space
Publisher: Columbia University Press (New York)
Resources citing this (Bibliography: WIKINDX Master Bibliography)
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From the back cover:
"Photography, phonography, and the cinema are representational technologies which have helped define modernity itself. Since the nineteenth century, these technologies have challenged our trust of sensory perception, given the ephemeral unprecedented parity with the eternal, and created profound temporal and spatial displacements. Despite the overwhelming importance of these technologies, current scholarship often neglects to examine them. James Lastra seeks to remedy this neglect.
Lastra argues that we are nowhere better able to track the relations between capital, science, and cultural practice than in photography, phonography, and the cinema. In particular, he maps the development of sound recording from its emergence to its confrontation with and integration into the Hollywood film."
Added by: Mark Grimshaw Last edited by: Mark Grimshaw
|p.4 "Vision and hearing are the senses that, as a consequence of nineteenth century innovations, have been most fully penetrated by technology and that have, reciprocally, shaped sensory technologies to the greatest degree." Added by: Mark Grimshaw|
"...not only are technological form and development intimately related to reigning aesthetic norms, they are at times in conflict with them as well."
Discussing a dialectic between technology and aesthetic and/or practical context. This chapter is about "the heterogeneous nature of technology and the local and contingent nature of ideological determination." -- they are symbiotic. Added by: Mark Grimshaw
In a section discussing the idea of sound representation, the 'original sound' and the theories of Williams, Leven and Altman as opposed to those of Baudry, Metz et. al., Lastra states: "...given a particular "original," [sic] it is impossible to predict what any copy will sound like..." and uses this as a justification for the theoretical worthlessness of the "original". Lastra takes Edison's view on the function of the original: it's not meant to be heard by anyone, it is "one stage of a multistage representational process." p.128
Added by: Mark Grimshaw
|p.147 "Decades of tin-sheet thunder and coconut shell hooves prove ... that fidelity to source is not a property of film sound, but an effect of synchronization." Added by: Mark Grimshaw|
|p.207 Discussing Hollywood sound technician George Lewin writing in 1931, technicians recorded characteristic effects for stock sound to be used for dubbing purposes. For Lastra, this is symptomatic of the move from the fidelity of the original to a constucted representation of reality. "Sound space, no longer theoretically defined by the passive perceptions of a securely located (and physically real observer), is now shot through with the hierarchies of "dramatic" relationships." Added by: Mark Grimshaw|
|p.215 "Rather than records of perceptually specific events, sounds here are signifiers of an absent, but inferred, narrative." Added by: Mark Grimshaw|
|pp.77-84 Semiotic signs (indexical signs apparently) can be used to trick and hoax people. Added by: Mark Grimshaw|
As an example of the heterogeneous nature of, or the dialectic relationship between, technology and aesthetics, Thomas Edison's choice of recording artists is presented. Where other companies chose artists of public reknown (e.g. Victor had Caruso), Edison chose unknown singers whom, he claimed, had voices better suited to (the characteristics of) his phonograph. This meant no tremolo, enunciative clarity, pure unadulterated tone. Performers wishing to be recorded came to realize that, in some cases, they must adapt to the technology. Lastra decries the equation of the microphone's passive listening to the notion of the camera's click -- an absolute duplication -- and argues for the term 'representation' rather than 'recording' when dealing with both image and sound. It is impossible to separate process from performance -- hence the dialectic between technology and aesthetics.
See notions of phonogeny (Chion, 1994, pp.101–104)
Chion, M. (1994). Audio-vision: Sound on screen C. Gorbman, Trans. New York: Columbia University Press. Added by: Mark Grimshaw
|pp.99-101 A digression into the "illustrated song" popular from the 1880's (still images - slideshow) to the 1890's/1900's (still + moving images) where the image was subordinate to the sound yet audiences still expected a good match (Lastra refers to this as a form of synchronization) between image and sound. Also, "travelogues"/lectures with spoken voice over scenic images. Added by: Mark Grimshaw|
|p.102 Points out that many early attempts at synchronizing image + sound required the image/performance to be fit to a pre-recorded soundtrack. Added by: Mark Grimshaw|
|pp.108-111 Discussing trends in sonic accompaniment to 'silent' films: instead of picking out every single visual cue and rendering it as a sound effect (as some did), performers were increasingly encouraged to foreground just one or two visual cues within a hierarchical visual space that itself was dominated by a conception of narrative. Thus, in cinema, did sound become subjugated to image through the teens and 1920's. Added by: Mark Grimshaw|
Discussing the development of sound recording in Hollywood 1926-34, describes the notion of the 'invisible auditor' with an experience similar to that of a listener in a concert hall (able to discriminate every nuance of sound) -- hence close boom miking (to provide this discrimination but seemingly incompatible with the concert goer in the middle of the audience).
Added by: Mark Grimshaw
|p.167 With the development of talkies, sound engineers were forced to discard their goal of duplication sound on a shot by shot basis in favour of narrative continuity over several shots/scenes (e.g. unchanging background noise) and adopt a role as representors or constructors of sound/reality. Very different to music recording (at the time). Added by: Mark Grimshaw|
|pp.178-179 As sound engineers adapted to the aesthetic demands of Hollywood, the concept of 'invisible auditor' (based on a concert hall listener) gave way to the 'ideal auditor' and a jettisoning of any attempt to faithfully capture the original sound. Added by: Mark Grimshaw|