Logic & Dimensionality in Film
catalogue introduction & notes
for unpublished talk delivered @ Sound In Space, Museum
of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 1995
audio-visual continuum (be it an object like a film or a
space like an installation or even an event like a radio
broadcast) self-generates narrative. Something starts; stuff
happens; eventually an end comes. And during this, you hear
and see or picture things.
the history of literature has elaborated structural, poetic,
formal, psychological and textual ways in which the passage
of time can be disinterred and atemporally configured (traces
and tropes of plot, character, theme, meaning, symbolism,
statement, authorship, etc.), there is a more appropriately
temporal way to experience, follow and become conscious
of the dynamic happening of any audio-visual continuum.
That way is through perceiving the dimensionality of the
is a term I use here to describe the imaginary space created
and shaped by narrative. And 'imaginary space' is the realm
you psycho-physically inhabit while experiencing the audio-visual
continuum. You might be sitting, walking, interacting -
it doesn't matter. You'll be caught up in a confounding
mix of physical, psychological and cultural sensations.
is a realm where the senses engulf each other. Sonically,
it is where breathy flute is a label; bass is a blanket;
a fuzz-wah is a concept; the ocean is architecture; and
the voice of Jack Palance is pure abstraction. Such sensations
and experiences occur whenever the cerebral gives way to
the sensual. To put it soncially once more: when the throb
of nightclubs bathes you; when talkback radio anaesthetizes
you; when crowd noise at sports arenas erases you; when
ambient silence alienates you.
all these sensations swirl in a disembodied void, your temporal
experience provides you with an identifying place within
their dimensionality. That 'place' is forever shifting and
unfixed, governed by the dynamic changes continually occurring.
It is these 'dynamic changes' that become epicentral to
the creation and shaping of those components we call sound
design and film score.
such, an awareness of the primary, ancillary and compound
surges which drive any narrative construction will best
suggest ways in which to compose sound and music for an
audio-visual continuum. Primarily, the sound designer and
film composer are involved in creating and shaping a sonic
space within which the viewer/listener finds their place.
Spatial logic then is not necessarily 'spatial' nor 'logical'
- because when watching a film, for example, space is more
imaginary than actual, and the logic of its narrative is
more invented than determined.
of Philip Brophy examples of sound design & film scores
(1986): DAT audio tape
Example 1: ID #5 part 1
Example 2: ID #5 part 2
1. Live stage sound score based on the removal of all acoustic
presence. In place - amplified and displaced acoustic sensations.
2. Sounds chosen for their textural sensation (memory trigger
of physical presence) and recorded with emphasis on their
spatialization (their performance across the stage of their
3. The sound score is more a fusion of recorded events-in-spaces
than a montage of sound effects.
4. Overlapping spaces are accentuated in the construction
by the interlocking an 'cross-talking' between different
microphons and different microphone placement.
SALT SALIVA SPERM & SWEAT (1988): VHS Hi-Fi video
Example 1: opening sequence of SALT
1. Film soundtrack based on the blurring between music score
& sound design with emphasis on bodily textures (flesh
slaps & rubs; fist thumps; hand claps; various breath
sounds; guttural noises; internal low-frequency rumble simulations;
2. Sound effects sampled and triggered in musical rhythm
- the one tempo and beat for the whole film
3. 'Music cues' based on deconstructed mixes of 6 key themes
(each derived from the one tempo/beat.
4. Concept: one core total and encompasiing body rhythm
for the film's 'body' whose rhythm is modulated by daily
pressures: atmopsheric changes, dramatic shifts; psychological
5. All body foley recorded live with 8 microphone perspectives
(3 stereo pairs & 1 binaural pair) to enhance the hyper-subjective
effect of the viewer/auditor 'being' the body of the film.
BODY MELT (1993): VHS Hi-Fi video
Example 1: opening sequence through to court smash
Example 2: Cheryl drops placenta through to her womb eruption
1. Sound design for film based on creating 2 distinct zones:
(1) the sound of the social body as expressed through the
music score, where consumer musical styles typify a character;
and (2) the sound of the individual body as expresed through
a fantasmagorical injection within the physical body's domain.
2. The 'themes' or musical fragments which make up the score
are essentially a landscape of stylistic traits which are
attached to the character's in certain situations. Various
submixes of these 'themes' reflect variations of their situations.
Cliches are deliberately explored in keeping with the generic
base of the film. These musical fragments were composed
first as 'songs' then broken down to perform as thematic
3. The body sounds were composed by accentuating physical
sensations and textures (much like STILLS). Principlas of
movement were important as the sound had to be both performed
and animated to suggest weight, mass, density, flow, rupture,
stretch, surface, etc. To this end, a variety of sound textures
were assigned specific relationships to the various bodily
collapses throughout the film. On top of this, a series
of wind movement dynamics were overlayed for more precise
4. Further defining the diffrence between these two zones
- when the musical parts happen, they tend to occur 'within
the film' when the body sounds occur, the film tends to
occur within them.
5. Technically, specific track laying of sound effects and
sound elements were sent to surround channels to enhance
the extra-spatialization effects of the 'inner body' moments.
BODY MELT (1993): ASR10 digital sound demonstration
Note: DPOV WIND and DPVO TEXTURE to be loaded separately
Note: DPVO-TEXTURE FX to be loaded
Note: HCTC1-INST-3 contains choral voice instrument
1. Drug sounds and textures
2. Textures for bodily dimensions
3. Wind movement dynamics
4. Breakdown Carrera's theme (HCTC-1)
ONLY THE BRAVE (1994): ASR10 digital sound demonstration
1. Music score based on textures represneting the dynamic
relations between the key characters:
Alex - a column of air in wood; smooth rounded and wooden;
breathy with bass resonance;
Vicki - harmonic distortion and feedback from string tension;
screeching an screaming.
2. Emphasis on the creation of digital instruments to embody
the above traits, so that ultimately melody is the excution
of a primary note with occasional movement away from and
back to the primary note.
3. The dramatic space between the two key characters always
changes, so too does the textural dynamics between the two
created digital instruments shift.
4. Aspects of memory and loction also used for further embellishment
of the instruments texture (eg. the suggestion f an out-of-tune
upright piano played in a school gymnasium; the rebellious
intonation of the grundge guitar; etc.).
5. Memory - botj lost and repressed - cues within layers
of the digital instruments, particularly in the samples
of Alex's mother: her memory is materially and phenomenologicailly
shaped by the texture of her mother's recorded voice.
1. Breakdown of main theme
2. Breakdown of dream sequence
MAIDENHEAD (1995): VHS Hi-Fi video
Example 1: Another Passerby