Spending one week on sound in an Introduction to Film course can be a daunting task. So much vocabulary, and so many new issues to discuss, with only a class or two to dwell on them. What to do?
I like to take this week to introduce the concept of synesthesia—the “bleeding” of one sense into another that results in sensations in one sensory modality being interpreted as impressions in another. It’s a phenomenon that has been studied from the era of classical Greek philosophy up through modern neuroscience, and it has provided inspiration to artists for nearly as long. For understandable reasons, it was something that was on a lot of filmmaker’s minds during the transition to sound cinema. Turning to this topic allows us to rope in stalwarts of classical film theory such as Eisenstein and Vertov, and to freely intermingle experiments in feature filmmaking with more radical experiments in the avant-garde.
In this particular lesson, I focus on music. If one’s spending two days on sound, this leaves another class for sound effects, if one so desires. Continue reading