Film, a Sound Art

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French critic and composer Michel Chion argues that watching movies is more than just a visual exercise-it enacts a process of audio-viewing. The audiovisual makes use of a wealth of tropes, devices, techniques, and effects that convert multiple sensations into image and sound, therefore rendering, instead of reproducing, the world through cinema.

The first half of Film, A Sound Art considers developments in technology, aesthetic trends, and individual artistic style that recast the history of film as the evolution of a truly audiovisual language. The second half explores the intersection of auditory and visual realms. With restless inventiveness, Chion develops a rhetoric that describes the effects of audio-visual combinations, forcing us to rethink sound film. He claims, for example, that the silent era (which he terms "deaf cinema") did not end with the advent of sound technology but continues to function underneath and within later films. Expanding our appreciation of cinematic experiences ranging from Dolby multitrack in action films and the eerie tricycle of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining to the way actors from different nations use their voices and words, Film, A Sound Art showcases the vast knowledge and innovative thinking of a major theorist.

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Editorial Reviews

Film Comment
Michael Chion's books on film sound... have been revelotory syntheses of an expansive knowledge in elegant, accessible prose.

— Dell Tamblyn

Film Criticism
Exceedingly teachable and surely welcomed by instructors.... Film, a Sound Art is indubitably an asset to the study of cinema.

— Kyle Stevens

Film Comment - Dell Tamblyn

Michael Chion's books on film sound... have been revelotory syntheses of an expansive knowledge in elegant, accessible prose.

Film Criticism - Kyle Stevens

Exceedingly teachable and surely welcomed by instructors.... Film, a Sound Art is indubitably an asset to the study of cinema.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231137768
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 7/16/2009
  • Series: Film and Culture Series
  • Pages: 560
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Michel Chion is a composer of musique concrète, a filmmaker, an associate professor at the Université de Paris, and a prolific writer on film, sound, and music. His books with Columbia University Press are The Voice in Cinema and Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen.Claudia Gorbman is a film studies professor at the University of Washington, Tacoma. She is the author of Unheard Melodies: Narrative Film Music, the editor of several books, and the author of many articles on film sound and film music. She is also the translator of Michel Chion's The Voice in Cinema, Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen, and 2001: Kubrick's Cinema Odyssey.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

Preface to the English Edition ix

Translator's Note xiii

Part 1 History

Chapter 1 When Film Was Deaf (1895-1927) 3

Chapter 2 Chaplin: Three Steps into Speech 21

Chapter 3 Birth of the Talkies or of Sound Film? (1927-1935) 31

Chapter 4 Jean Vigo: The Material and the Ideal 59

Chapter 5 The Ascendancy of King Text (1935-1950) 67

Chapter 6 Babel 85

Chapter 7 The Time It Takes for Time to "Harden" (1950-1975) 99

Chapter 8 The Return of the Sensorial (1975-1990) 117

Chapter 9 The Silence of the Loudspeakers (1990-2003) 147

Chapter 10 On a Sequence from The Birds: Sound Film as Palimpsestic Art 165

Part 2 Aesthetics and Poetics

Chapter 11 Jacques Tati: The Cow and the Moo 189

Chapter 12 The Disappointed Fairies Around the Cradle 201

Chapter 13 The Separation 221

Chapter 14 The Real and the Rendered 237

Chapter 15 The Three Borders 247

Chapter 16 Audiovisual Phrasing 263

Chapter 17 Alfred Hitchcock: Seeing and Hearing 281

Chapter 18 The Twelve Ears 289

Chapter 19 Orson Welles: The Voice and the House 321

Chapter 20 The Talking Machine 327

Chapter 21 Faces and Speech 353

Chapter 22 Andrei Tarkovsky: Language and the World 379

Chapter 23 The Five Powers 385

Chapter 24 God Is a Disc Jockey 407

Chapter 25 Max Ophuls: Music, Noise, and Speech 439

Chapter 26 Like Tears in Rain 453

Glossary 465

List of Illustrations 501

Index 507

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