[-empyre-] sound / desire

John Hutnyk john.hutnyk at gmail.com
Mon Sep 28 20:44:34 EST 2009

Thanks Gabriel for thoughtful responses.
I think they do get towards a discussion of what I would like to hear.

I mean, from the outset, I sought to introduce a disruption, a little
distortion, an echo of criticism in the framing... IF we were to rewind and
start again I would like to begin less with the issue of perspective, than
to question the very idea. I think to start with perspective again
privileges vision as the first move - and I wonder, talking to myself no
doubt, if the tenor of discussion might be quite different if our metaphors
were not from the first fixed in the visual.

There is often a more critical register in sound metaphors (tone, tenor,
questioning), such that I wonder if we made the effort to re-attune the code
in which we speak about film, then the trinket could not be so
easily isolated and fixed, the dialectic of mediation might not be thought
of in terms of two sides, and the cinema hall and the city would not only be
a space. Can we hear film otherwise - the ear of the other, otobiographies
(Derrid(a)issonance again) -, perhaps our concerns about translation could
govern the way we speak of circuits maybe - could this 'lead' us
'elsewhere'? or rather would this sound us a variation, or distract us, via
declension, into something new and distinct, if not informed by a
diagnostic, at least argumentative and resonant? Could we then change our

I don't know. I offered it as an experiment. Maybe a haiku.

So, can I add a little graffiti to make sure the city is kept 'off' topic?

What if we could translate everything that has been said of the city into
a different code - would we, like Borges' map-makers, then live elsewhere?
Be in a different movie?

I am first of all against translation as it is mad, its impossible,
it cannot ever be true to origins,
its a kind of violence,
it is always political,
it transforms,
it is creative,
it is heroic to try,
it is the essence of communicability,
it is exchange,
it disrupts parochialism,
it is the foundation of internationalism,
it is what we all should be trying to do,
it is the most revolutionary activity,
it is social,
it is life itself,
I am for it.
(November 2005)


On Sun, Sep 27, 2009 at 10:39 AM, Gabriel Menotti <gabriel.menotti at gmail.com
> wrote:

> Now, on with the 'offtopics':
> >Sound recording is fraught, often forgotten – and we have become very
> >much accustomed to images, they seem easy (sure, they are not,
> >but…), well, sound is not of equal import in the discourse on film, and
> >that’s just the problem. [John Hutnyk]
> I still think it is a matter of perspective. Maybe the theatre
> audience doesn’t pay attention to the importance of sound, but isn’t
> that expected? Ever since earlier forms of spectacle, the role of
> sound is not to be /noticed/, but to be (for the lack of a better
> term) incorporated. If you are listening to the score, that means it
> is not working as it should. The soundtrack should not be perceived as
> a detached thing, but (on the contrary) collaborate to congruity of
> the whole audiovisual piece and its correspondence to the mediatic
> experience, creating mood, presence – producing visuality, in a way. A
> good deal of the gruesomeness of movies such as Texas Chainsaw
> Massacre and Audition is pure sound design! Sound produces stabs that
> never happened (and sometimes compensate bad montage - e.g.
> pornography).
> It really is a shame that critics followed the same lines of the
> spectators and “became deaf” even when they are out of the theatre.
> However, as you have pointed out, the /moviemakers/ are always very
> critical about sound. Sound may not have that much importance on the
> discourse /on/ film, but it is preponderant to the discourse /of/
> film. First and foremost, voice is, both in the form of dramatic
> dialogue and of the disembodied voice over narration - which even
> before the sonorization of film was used to give meaning (order) to
> silent images.
> Moreover, sound is used to foster the illusion of correspondence
> between image and abstracted space, cheating the process of
> abstraction (that is why I personally think it is complicated to bring
> sound to the discussion, when trying to understand similarities
> between different process of spatial abstraction). For instance, you
> said that the movies you made “could have been a whole lot better” if
> you had good sound recording equipment, but why is that so? Because
> they would have sounded better? Isn’t it that just a technical
> judgment, following the ideal of representational aesthetics? =)
> >Without mediation between the image and the production apparatus,
> >there are only reified fixations – on the image, on the auteur, on the
> >screen mechanics, even on the circuit. I like to call this trinketization
>> >a limiting fascination with abstracted and isolated components of a
> >system that cannot be grasped without a theory of mediation. [JH]
> Ha, indeed! But I wonder if cinema (and media in general) has ever
> being treated as anything but a trinket (posing a problem to
> constitute a theory of mediation in the first place).
> >It appears that not much has been said about movement and sound,
> >but I felt immediately, John, when you started writing, that hearing has
> >something to do with breathing, and moving listening  (we are not
> >static, we are not still […] [Johannes Birringer]
> Yes, good point. However, we can perceive in cinema precisely the
> effort to fixate bodies to a certain extent. This process is necessary
> to the representational logic – to put the audience where its gaze can
> correspond to (and henceforth be substituted by) what Anne Friedberg
> calls the machine’s “mobile virtual gaze”. But I wonder if technical
> audio (in correspondence to technical images) really escapes this
> logic. Isn’t there anything like a “mobile virtual ear” always at
> work?
> In cinema, at least, sound comes from a set of speakers strategically
> positioned, and the soundtrack has to be mixed and equalized
> beforehand in relation to this system, in order to reproduce the
> diegetic spatiality of sound. What I mean is that the actual
> soundtrack (the information) is different depending if you have a
> stereo or dolby system, even though they are intended to produce the
> same aural perception in the audience.
> Therefore, I’d say that cinema, as a system of spatial disposition,
> process image and sound in very similar ways. Of course, when you
> consider dancing for example, you have a very different situation –
> but dance music is different of soundtracks in the same way vj gigs
> are different of feature premieres.
> >It seems that an important element to consider in Denied Distances is
> >the activity of desire, what is denied and what is let in, how does the
> >denial amplify our wanting, and how does the rhetoric of the removal of
> >distance from everything in the contemporary world actually add
> >distance, when that which seems to be closest to our skin is farthest
> >away. (Micha)
> Definitely, if on the one hand the public is positioned to identify
> with the machine and let it fulfil its perception, it is in a place
> where it’s kept excited. Thinking through this tension using Metz’s
> idea of the double voyeurism, we might find that this excitation comes
> from the identification with the image / diegesis. So the public
> chooses to be safe within the mechanism to feel the thrills of the
> story – and that’s where the distances are denied? Is mediation always
> this double-sided process?
> Best!
> Menotti
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

Professor John Hutnyk
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