Introduction: Sound.Music.Image

Editor's Note:

[Added October 2016]

In Divergence Press's original format articles were grouped into issues. The following text was supplied as an introduction to issue 2 (published 1 June 2014), entitled Sound.Music.Image. The issue comprised the following articles, which are still available to read on our site:

  • Sound and image relations: a history of convergence and divergence - Luísa Ribas
  • Electroacoustic Movies: A visual music practice and its contexts - Nick Cope
  • A direct link to the past: nostalgia and semiotics in video game music - Sarah Pozderac-Chenevey
  • Jerry Goldsmith and the Sonification of the “Monstrous-Feminine” in his Science Fiction Scores - Elizabeth Fairweather

The idea of compiling artistic research together with more traditional academic research is not new, but in my view is not practiced enough either. In the case of music these days, composers tend to have a university education, often at graduate level, which allows for a more fluid conversation with musicology and other text-based (as opposed to object-based) forms of research in music. This issue of the Divergence Press journal was called with the intention of enabling this conversation to take place particularly within the field of audiovision: music, sound, and the moving image.

In this issue we have two enquiries into audiovisual composition, a theoretical one by Luísa Ribas which arguably comes from a position of critical reception, and a practice-based one by Nick Cope very much from the position of the creative artist, essentially from a poietic point of view. The other two articles are more musicological in nature, Sarah Pozderac-Chenevey investigates semiotics and nostalgia in games, and Elizabeth Fairweather looks at the representation of the “monstrous feminine” through the music of Jerry Goldsmith. Taken together, all four articles illustrate both the process of audiovision and aspects of its musicology and in this sense present a pleasing selection for this Sound.Music.Image issue of the Divergence Press Journal.

Luísa Ribas is an academic; her PhD is in Art & Design at the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Porto. Ribas is interested in digital art and design, audiovisuality, interaction and sound-image relations in digital interactive systems.

Luísa Ribas guides us elegantly through the relationships of sound and image and their convergence with technology. Ribas tests the idea that current audiovisual work reshapes this relationship, given that media like games enable new forms of interaction. She also examines how “procedural” or algorithm based audiovisual work may determine sound-image issues. In her article, Ribas takes us through the earliest instances of audiovisual correspondences (various implementations of the clavecin oculaire idea) to the convergence of the visual-dramatic and music into a holistic concept like that of Wagner’s Gesamtkunstwerk. Examining Kandinsky and Klee, Ribas uncovers a deep-level correspondence between visual art and sound in a very engaging manner. These correspondences become evident in the film work of Ruttmann, as moving-image aspires to the structural freedom of music that is gifted to it by its abstract nature. But as often happens, meaning is never efficiently excluded by abstraction. Arguably, issues of narrativity need to be considered whenever there is a human receiver, and Ribas comments on Chion’s ideas of synchresis. The practice of film, itself, shows how easy it is to establish that one-to-one correspondence of image-sound, which makes audiovision possible. An exploration of key examples, illustrate these ideas. Following this, Ribas questions how the image-sound “injection” works in digital media and compares it to her earlier comments about this in analogue media. Finally, she discusses how the three main elements of her discourse, namely sound versus image, art forms, and media technology have converged and diverged in recent history, and what this means for us as theorists and practitioners.

Nick Cope is an experienced filmmaker and academic, now working in Suzhou, China, lecturing in digital media production at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, where he is Associate Professor in Communication Studies. The article we publish here discusses his collaboration with electroacoustic composer Tim Howle, Professor of contemporary music at the University of Kent. This work is published on a DVD entitled Electroacoustic Movies. Cope locates his contemporary visual music practice within current and emerging critical and theoretical contexts in his recent PhD by publication and tracks back the history of his practice to initial screenings of work as part of the 1980s British Scratch video art movement. Cope has worked professionally in the media industries as well as in academia, bringing the benefit of his experience and practice to his students. He is also currently active in film-based artwork.

In “Electroacoustic Movies”, as a practitioner, Cope explores audiovisuality from the "other side of the camera", as it were, from the valuable theoretical positions presented by Luísa Ribas. He adds a practitioner’s concerns to thinking about how to “paint with light”, considering as his tools not only the image itself in movement but its framing and development in time and the post-producer’s acts of intervention from editing to compositing and motion graphics. This gives him a unique insight into notions of visual music and a “cinema of affect”. Further, the various choices he makes in collaborating with Howle are practical strategies for the poiesis of audiovisuality, from ideas of what could be defined as “sublime mickey-mousing” (since for the term to be historically valid, the images must not only be synchronous but narratively diegetic) to the creative challenges of visualising electroacoustic music through film-making. Although briefly, Cope does recount one of his collaborations with composer Robert Mackay which illustrates one interactive instance of his ongoing audiovisual experimentation. Throughout, Cope contextualises his collaboration within the wider theoretical frame of writings on film and sound but always with the magical insight of the practitioner.

Sarah Pozderac-Chenevey is a PhD student in musicology at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Pozderac-Chenevey’s research interests include diva studies, critical editing and historiography, the music of Reform Judaism, and, of course the subject of her article, video game music.

Whilst Ribas and Cope deal with the phenomenological and ontological aspects of the creative audiovisual experience, Pozderac-Chenevey complements this knowledge by looking at semiotics; i.e. her paper looks at the construction of meaning emerging from creation and reception. In particular, Pozderac-Chenevey focuses on the issue of music-enabled nostalgia in videogames. But first, she traverses the thorny path of defining nostalgia and bringing us a fresh appraisal of the term. She then explains to us how a continuum may be found between purely ludic games and narrative-serving gameplay. In examining games like Bastion, Fallout and Zelda, Pozderac-Chenevey argues for processes of signification which privilege nostalgia as the emotional motor that binds the game experience.

Elizabeth Fairweather is a musicologist with a strong interest in the music of science-fiction film. Fairweather holds a PhD from the University of Huddersfield and is a part-time teacher in the department of music. She has written on soundscapes in Sci-Fi films and the representation of “otherness”, as well as the meaning that emerges from repetition and how sound, emotion and image become composited.

Fairweather is concerned with the semiotic process in audiovision, examining another aspect of the emotional and meaning-making power of music, close in this regard to the work of Pozderac-Cheveney. Arguably, given the consideration of narrative in games, the latter author approaches a cinematic conception of music that can link with Fairweather’s view. Specialized in the music of Jerry Goldsmith and looking at how he used his musical language to portray the “monstrous feminine”, Fairweather brings us an alternative discourse; that of the unusual feminine, the menacing feminine, the femininity we do not traditionally expect. By looking at instances from the film music of Goldsmith, and in particular his score for Alien, Fairweather presents an engaging and thorough account of what makes this music work at the service of the image fantastic.


About the author:

Dr Julio d’Escriván is Senior Lecturer in Music for the Moving Image at the University of Huddersfield. He is also Director of the Sound-Music-Image Research Centre within the School of Music. Julio was previously Reader in Creative Music Technology and University Learning and Teaching Fellow at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge between 2005 and 2012.

Since 1992 Julio has worked extensively in music for commercials, TV branding and both feature and documentary film in the Americas. Julio is active as a composer, laptop performer, video artist and improviser. His recent work includes ensemble work with Iñigo Ibaibarriaga (FUSIL), conducting the Bilbao Soundpainting Ensemble (in Spain) and as video artist in an electronic music duo with Monty Adkins.

Julio’s recent written work includes his book "Music Technology", Cambridge Introductions to Music (Cambridge University Press, 2012). He is also co-editor of the "Cambridge Companion to Electronic Music" (2007) and  co-author of the chapter on Composing with SuperCollider for "The SuperCollider Book" published by MIT Press (2011).