Influence of sound on the perception of time in the image
One of the most important effects of Added Value relates to the perception of time in the image, upon which sound can exert considerable influence.
Three aspects of Temporalization:
Sound can animate an image to a greater or lesser degree. Sound's temporality combines with the temporality already present in the image. Sound and image may move in concert or slightly at odds with each other, (in the same manner as two instruments playing simultaneously.)
In the silent cinema, shots do not always indicate temporal succession, wherein what happens in shot B would not necessary follow what is happening in shot A (Some shots were perceived as happening simultaneous.) The addition of realistic, diegetic sound impose on a sequence a sense of real time, like normal everyday experience, and above a sense that time is linear and sequential. [ more >]
Sounds orient the images toward a future, a goal, and create feelings of imminence and expectation. Many visual movements in a film may be played in reverse such as images of characters who speaks, or plays the piano. Sound on the other hand are more oriented in time and hard to play backwards. Sound make the shot going somewhere. [ more >]
Temporal animation factors are..
A smooth and continuous sound is less "animating" than an uneven unfluttering one. Try accompanying an image first with a prolonged steady not on the violin, and then with the same note played a tremolo made by rapidly moving the bow. The second sound will cause a more tense and immediate focusing of attention on the image.
A sound with a regular pulse (such as a basso continue in music or a mechanical ticking) is more predictable and tends to create less temporal animation than a sound that is irregular and thus unpredictable - the latter puts the ear and the attention on constant alert. The dripping of water in Persona as well as in Tarkovsky's films provide good examples - each unsettles our attention through its unequal rhythm. A rhythm that is too regular cyclical can also create an effect of tension, because the listener lies in wait for the possibility of a fluctuation in such mechanical regularity.
How the soundtrack temporally animates the image is not simply a mechanical question of tempo. A rapid piece of music will not necessarily accelerate the perception of the image. Temporalization actually depends more on the regularity or regularity of the aural flow than the tempo in the musical sense of the word. For example, if the flow of musical notes is unstable but moderate in speed, temporal animation will be greater than if the speed is rapid but regular.
A sound rich in high frequencies will command perception more acutely - this explain why the spectator is on alert in many recent films.
The sound of the spoken voice, at least when it is diegetic and synched with the image, has the power to inscribe the image in a real and linearized time that no longer has elasticity. This factor explains the dismay of many silent filmmakers upon experiencing the effect of "everyday time" at the coming of sound.
Synchresis is a powerful factor in linearizing and inscribing images into real time.
Now let us take some sound to go with the shot - location sound recorded during the the filming, or a soundtrack mixed after the fact: the woman's breathing, the wind, the chinking of the bamboo chimes. If we now pay the film in reverse, it no longer works at all, especially the wind chimes.
Edited excerpts Chion's AudioVision p 13 - 20
Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen is available at Internet book stores as Amazon books Highly recommended
Other Books by Michel Chion
Michel Chion Links:
- Claudia Gorbman writes about Michel Chion
- by Nicola Phillips Faculty of Music, University of Cambridge
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