Sound, image and the making of meaning.

We’ve come to accept the idea that the score is merely a supporting part to the main event of the moving image when it comes to film. In the Fifteen Question interview we often ask the artist about the relationship between image and sound. Some recent responses to this question…”music is but one small part of art. Arguably, the most disposable of disciplinesRadwan Ghazi Moumneh from the JIMH project, Uwe Schmidt’s replied that “everybody who has listened to music with his eyes closed, knows how much our other senses influence sound” and Buzz Ozborne from The Melvins thinks that “movies have everything, story line, visuals and music.” But lately I’ve discovered that it’s not always black and white.

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I’ve been obsessed with the latest QOTSA album, Like Clockwork… It’s been a long time since I’ve had one record on high rotation, in my car, in my headphones and on the stereo. It’s also one of the rare occasions where I’ve felt the lyrics were especially important to the overall impact of the music. I know this is a blog about music without words, but bear with me. Due to this current obsession, I spent last weekend watching movies with the sound off. Instead of listening to the films, we’ve been listening to the QOTSA vinyl and I was amazed at the difference this made to the experience. Instead the film being watched, it was simply looked at, the narrative got completely lost as my attention was dragged away by a conflicting, more powerful audio presence.

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It seems obvious, I realise, but it made me appreciate the importance of the audio track in context of film. In fact, I came to the conclusion that the film depends upon the audio track in terms of words and music to tell the story and if you haven’t got the sound telling the story of the film, then the film stops making sense. Even if you take a silent film, it will still lose meaning and narrative flow if you play a contrasting sound, record or song at the same time. However, if you take a film score and remove it from the original context, it retains it’s meaning so strongly that it can even transfer its meaning. Consider the rampant use of the Dracula theme from Wojciech Kilar’s iconic score.  Marketeers will use that sonic clip to create a sense of dread, tension and horror. If you take an image, moving or still from a film, it’s unlikely you’ll get the same intensity of transference. While Scorpio’s maniacal face still managed to give me the shivers, when silenced and viewed with the latest QOTSA album, Dirty Harry lost all meaning and Antonio Banderas’ Desperado was reduced to mediocre eye-candy.

Could it be perhaps that the image is the supporting role after all?

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