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Live performance in my film, No Escape

Cox, Geoffrey (2010) Live performance in my film, No Escape. In: Cinesonika: Celebrating the Soundtrack, 12-14th November 2010, Simon Frazer University, Surrey Campus, Vancouver, Canada. . (Unpublished)

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Abstract

This presentation investigates the early historical context of the relationship between sound and image and how contemporary theorists have drawn on this to suggest new creative aesthetic modes. The latter will be illustrated primarily by DVD extracts from my own film, 'No Escape' (2009) which explores the combination of live piano music
(performed by Philip Thomas), on-screen diegetic sound and image. It draws on my collaborative work as sound designer and composer with filmmaker, Keith Marley, in which we have attempted to challenge the perceived relationship between sound and image in documentary film, a relationship seen as stratified or hierarchical in the sense that sound is often treated by filmmakers as subordinate to image and which is dominated by what Bill Nichols calls a 'discourse of sobriety'.

The initial idea for the film came from a seamless performance of Chaplin's Easy Street (1917) accompanied by Donald MacKenzie, resident organist at the Odeon Leicester Square, which led me into researches of early cinema (c1895-1907) and Tom Gunning's notion of the 'cinema of attractions'. James Lastra points out that during this time there were a great variety of sound / image relations compared to the later 'talkies'.These were dominated by live music, lectures, attempts at phonograph / projector combinations (which treated sound recording as a structural basis of the amalgam) and live sound effects. Competition between cinemas was based on the success of various sound strategies but all emphasised the performative element and 'liveness' of the film experience and films were made to motivate particular types of sound accompaniment. Particularly intriguing was the use of live sound effects performed by a skilled troupe from behind the film screen to produce 'realistic' sound accompaniment. This is translated in 'No Escape' into the manipulation of on-screen diegetic sound, also inspired, in part, by Pierre Schaeffer's musique concrète and his notion of the 'sound object', described by Peter Manning as 'a basic sound event, which is isolated from its original context and examined in terms of its innate characteristics outside its normal time continuum'. The interaction between the live piano and the onscreen sound is crucial to No Escape as is that of the piano and images which exist alone together for long stretches.

The visual content and structure if the film also draws on early film; the city symphonies of Walter Ruttman and especially Dziga Vertov whose formal experimentation, use of montage editing, startling juxtaposition of images and very rapid editing is important, as is the theoretical underpinning of his work which attracted a following of cameramen, editors etc; his kinokis ('kino-eyes'). His 'Man with a Movie Camera' (1929) is by and partially about the man with the camera and this is also true of 'No Escape'.

Extrapolating from Gunning's cinema of attractions, James Beattie's concept of 'documentary display' - a poetic, sensual and subjective approach which encourages listening and looking rather than cognitive understanding - underpins the aesthetic of No Escape (a non-narrative and at times complex montage of British rural and urban vistas) as is a belief in the supremacy of sound and of film as a performative event.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
Schools: School of Music, Humanities and Media
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Geoffrey Cox
Date Deposited: 14 Dec 2011 10:55
Last Modified: 14 Dec 2011 10:55
URI: http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/id/eprint/12072

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