What are the major conventions and functions of the classical soundtrack, and how have these been challenged by filmmakers and composers working outside of this tradition? Soundtrack in the movie industry terminology is a contraction of the term sound track. This is an audio recording which is created or used in the film production industry or in post production. The dialogue, the music and the sound effects in a film have their own separate tracks i.e. the soundtrack, dialogue track and the music track. This mixed together are called the composite track. It is what is heard in the film. When a film is dubbed into another language, a dubbing track is created. This is also known as an M&E (music and effects) track. It contains all the sound elements without dialogue. It is later supplied by a foreign distributor in the native language of the territory.
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This contraction soundtrack came into the public consciousness with the coming of the soundtrack albums in the early 1950s. The movie companies first saw it as a promotional gimmick for new films. The film is a visual medium and yet also like many of the other contemporary media it happens to be audio visual. It employs sound as an integral element of the sensual experience. The image predominance stems partly from the history of films. This was so until the mid 1920s, three decades after the motion pictures were invented that the technology became developed so as to produce films with recorded soundtracks. Film with recorded sound became standard so quickly after the first largely successful film was featured with soundtrack in 1927. We will analyze the traditional use of sound. What is the purpose and the effect of sound that is added to the image pictures? We will also analyze other alternative practices that exist and how they are used in conjunction with the common approaches to sound.
It is not surprising that sound has been used to reinforce the classical cinema mode. This has shaped the techniques that are dominant in cinematography and editing. Sound will often increase the sense of presence and the immediate need. To be able to achieve this sound and the image must be closely related. They work together to achieve a meaning or an effect. Images and soundtracks in the film are two components that are distinct and are usually produced in part separately from one another. Due to the fact that there has been technological growth in sound capabilities audio recording and playback have really expanded. There has therefore been a tendency of rely more on postproduction of sound work as there has been increased technological advancements in audio recording and playback. There has been therefore great necessity to create an impression that the sounds that are heard are natural and are produced by the actions and the environments that are shown by the film. To achieve this sound effect, it will serve to increasingly enhance the intensity of the sensual effects and also promote that sense of verisimilitude. Below are some of the ways through which the sound serves these two main functions.
The main sounds that make a soundtrack are three. There is the human voice, sound effects and music. Music and the sound effects are the two most applied in the production of the heightened sensory experience. In the mainstream cinema, the sound effects are designed so as to reinforce the narrative realism. They may appear to be natural but in the real sense, along with the other sound elements, they are crafted with care so as to focus attention on some particular aspects of the image or the action and also to influence the response of the viewers to them. We can therefore conclude that sound effects do support a sense of realism. The dense and accentuated sound emphasis are associated with the key actions or the settings and do not necessarily provide the natural production of the sound one would hear in such a situation.
In accordance to the prevailing sound film conventions, music does not follow the prescriptions of realism in similar ways. There are conventions which have background music that do not in any ways relate to the theme of the story. We in fact always expect musical score that goes hand in hand with film as a non digetic element. The academy awards do include categories for best score. If we do employ a number of the conventions and the conventions the moviegoers have planned to respond to this in a certain way. Claudia Gorbman is cited in his seminal work (Gorbman, seminal work- unheard melodies) explaining how the background music, or rather the score serves as the signifier of emotion in the cinema. A good example of this is the melodrama. A 19th century genre is an original, as suggested by the name ââ‚¬Å“melo-dramaââ‚¬ is a play that includes music as the essential element. The orchestra would be in place to accompany the play; the drama action would be interlaced with melodies that would function almost in the same way as the emotional punctuation. Any time the dramatic action would lead to a moment of sadness, the orchestra would be brought in the break in the dialogue and underscore the effects of emotion with a melody that is appropriate. When for example the drama gets to a climatic highpoint, a melody that is dramatic would come so as to help ratchet the suspense in the place. The melodramatic importance of accompanying music is now a standard technique both in the melodramatic films and for all the genres in the classical cinema.
While the crucial function may as well be to guide and also enhance the emotional responses, the scores of music will as well contribute to that sense of continuity. This is central to classical cinema. This score will indeed help to smoothen over the necessary breaks and the gaps that are in the film’s continuity such as including the cuts from one scene unto the next, or even a jump in story over a given period of time. Music may be used to fill in the gaps that exist; it may repeat the musical intents to inculcate into the viewer the significance and/or the connection existing between the various events. In any of the instances, when music actually serves its purpose it does not intend to draw attention back to itself. As Much as classical style of editing of this continuity system tries to make the breaks and the gaps not to be seen, the score of music of the classical narratives of the cinema attempts to remain inaudible.
In the instances when music functions according to these guidelines, it is following the tradition of continuity. CW serves to distinguish between the two traditions of film sound. This tradition of continuity will adhere to the principle of classical cinema, as we have realized in the topics highlighted previously, they are dominant in every area of film: an example, as the image presence is the dominating tradition in cinematography, or the temporal and the spatial continuity as primary objectives of the editing responsibility. Sound montage on the other hand will serve to free up sound from the subservient responsibility as company to the image narrative and allows it to stand in for right of itself. Instead of merging the soundtrack to narrative flow of images, the montage approach will divide the sound and let it to speak in separation, this provides distance to the story on the film, this will offer among many other things, the opportunity for a thought that is reflective or a critical analysis on the film events. We will go through the formal details of the sound, it is important to indicate how the montage techniques will work in concert with the common culture of continuity to yield a meaning or provide emphasis without altering the basic principle of the classical cinema.
The topic of sound grants an opportunity to work with some concepts that are basic of the film form. Looking at some of these cases, the concepts can actually apply to the other film elements not related to sound. These terms which are discussed here are vital for utilization in the individual sequence analyses for week two films.
This term synchronous sound refers to the parts of the soundtrack that do correspond in direct proportion and spontaneously to that which is happening on the screen. One of the most common examples of this is the normal dialogue. We do see the speaker moving their lips and the thing that is being said is usually heard at the same instance at the other end of the soundtrack. This will apply also to other sources of sound as well. The door will slam and we will hear the sound, the cannon will be fired and we eventually hear the blast. Speaking strictly, voices will perhaps be synchronous sounds although we may not see the lips moving. Giving an example, soldiers in a movie of war may be shouting and also screaming at the same time as they attack the position of the enemy. We actually do see the scene from a distant position; we do understand how to connect voices to the charging of the soldiers although we do not actually see the movement of their lips. For an example, a movie concerning journalists, we will hear the sound of the finger movement typing on the keyboard and the film will at the same time show a scene of the reporter and topic of coverage. These are good examples of asynchronous sounds.
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A point out is that some analysts will prefer the differentiation of the onscreen appearance and effects and at the same time the off-screen effects. Both sides of the set is fine, however the latter suggests the way “synchronous” is to be used in a specific sense when we are referring to the film sound. An example, in a conversation situation, the camera may be maintained on the face of first speaker although they may have already finished their speech and the present speaker is responding in an off-screen position. The man on the camera may choose to maintain the camera on the first speaker so as to show the reaction (could be the emotional reaction) to the response that is given. Though the words of the other speaker will be heard as they are uttered in narration or speech, they will come from off the screen and will technically be in consideration asynchronous of sound.
Rather than to rehash the explanation, we will refer to the instance of sound, Apocalypse Now and then let you distinguish as to whether these sounds are synchronous or asynchronous and also an example of the parallelism. Opening sequence we see Willard lying in bed and from his subjective point of view see a shot of the ceiling fan above him, while we hear the chop-chop-chop sound of helicopter blades on the soundtrack. Is this synchronous or asynchronous sound and is it an instance of parallelism or counterpoint? [You will find the answer in the larger discussion of this sequence in the essay on Apocalypse Now.
One of the other important distinctions which have wide use in the film analysis is that between diegetic and the non diegetic. Diegesis usually refers to the world of the film’s story. For example, when Annie sings a song at a nightclub, as she does twice in Annie Hall, the songs are diegetic sound. In Do the Right Thing there are several examples of diegetic music, coming directly from the radio station or from one of the various radios or boom boxes found in the film. At times, it is even hard to distinguish when the music is diegetic and when not. But a good example of when it is nondeigetic is the opening credits sequence, where Rosie Perez dances in changing settings, costumes, and lighting to Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.” The song is actually heard many (one)times throughout this movie, most often diegetically, however in the opening scene, it is strictly non diegetic. Looking the other hand, I think we can assume that the Doors song “The End” in the opening sequence of Apocalypse Now is diegetic.
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