The Schizophonic Imagination: Audiovisual Ecology in the Cinema.
PhD thesis, Concordia University.
- Accepted Version
This dissertation examines a set of films that deal with narrative issues of ecology using innovative formal approaches to sound/image relationships. The guiding concept for these analyses is "schizophonia": a term coined by R. Murray Schafer to refer to the split between sound and source by electroacoustical transmission, an aspect of modern soundscapes that Schafer ties to increasing alienation of the people that live within schizophonic environments. Although problematic in its implied anti-technological bias, I argue that the term schizophonia can be used as an analytical tool for addressing how sound in film can evoke ecological issues pertaining to alienation. I re-cast the “split” between sound and source to the technical division between sound and image inherent to sound cinema. This technical split, although conventionally obscured, informs the ideologies that govern approaches to synchronization. Thus I address sound/image relationships in film by way of acknowledging their separation, a strategy that I refer to as audiovisual ecology.
I argue that schizophonia is best understood as the subjective experience of mediation, and I develop the idea of environmental engagement as the awareness of mediation that allows for the synchronization between interior psychological experience and the external world. My chosen films present characters in various stages of achieving this environmental synchronization, developing themes of alienation and engagement through reflexive approaches to audiovisual synchronization that foreground the mediation at work between sound and image. The films under discussion are: Jacques Tati’s PLAY TIME (1967); Andrei Tarkovsky’s STALKER (1979); Peter Mettler’s PICTURE OF LIGHT (1994); Gus Van Sant’s ELEPHANT (2003) and LAST DAYS (2005); and the films of Sogo Ishii (1976-2005). In my analyses I bring the field of soundscape research to bear on film sound theory, exposing productive points of intersection through which established terms in film studies are enriched through comparison with relevant concepts from acoustic ecology. I argue that these films eschew conventions of synchronicity in order to emphasize the schizophonic nature of sound cinema, engendering a form of audience engagement that I call reflective audioviewing in which schizophonic experience becomes a model for understanding sound/image relationships in the cinema anew.
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