How do sound and image combine to make meaning and what other potential functions of sound are there? Motion pictures and television are audio-visual mediums and so of course engage both our visual and aural senses. The meaning and emotion of a piece is commonly thought to come from the image and that the sound at best just duplicates the meanings from the image. For example Aaron Copland has said that a composer can do no more than' make potent through music the film's dramatic and emotional value.' (web) Sound does however perform much more important, intricate and complex functions then commonly accepted. Sound combines with moving pictures in various ways to create meaning but is diverse and has numerous other uses. This essay will show ways that sound enhances and creates meaning in combination with moving image as well as showing some of the many other possible functions of sound use combined with this medium The sound track is produced separately from the image and includes three ingredients: Dialogue / voice , sound effects and music. The three elements of the sound track can work together and independently to create meaning and to produce different effects.
Music combines with, adds to and enhances moving image in many ways. It can heighten and refine emotion as well as meaning. Music, through tone and instrument selection can create the mood of a piece and of and towards its characters. Music is commonly used to give a sense of continuity and unity to a production and to possible sequels. Music can give a sense of time and place as well as to help create the ambience or feel to a piece. Another function of music is to create, replicate and increase or decrease the sense of rhythm to and of a piece.
Music can act as a precursor to events in a story and also to direct the audience to a particular part / s of the image. Finally music can work independently and in combination with sound effects to give a sense of genre, time and setting. One way music combines with moving images to create meaning is through leitmotifs. A character, group of characters or action has a motif that explains who the good guys or bad guys are or that a specific type of situation or action is about to unfold.
In Star Wars the rebels have a powerful, uplifting victorious sounding leitmotif that combines with the clothing worn by the rebels and other parts of the mise n-seen to inform the audience these are the good people and the people we should be supporting. In Indiana Jones the motif of Jones indicates he is going to save the day and in The Good The Bad and The Ugly the films motif, through repetition of being played as the same type of action unfolds, goes on to indicates a shoot-out is about to happen The tone of music can be used to create meaning and generate mood in a scene or in a production as a whole. In The Empire Strikes Back the rebels attempt to flee from the empire. During this sequence Darth Vader's and the rebels leitmotif is heard. Vader's motif is played at an increased tempo and higher pitch to normal. The function of this change is to show the imminent danger of the empire and Vader's likely success in capturing the rebels.
The rebels leitmotif is played but does not contain the opening and perhaps most identifiable phase. The tone is slightly deeper, the pace slightly slower and is mixed up in and slightly drown out by other sound effects. The function of this use of sound is to put the out come of the situation in doubt and make the rebels attempt at escaping unlikely. When the rebels do escape the distinctive opening to their motif is played at normal pitch and tempo and without the distraction of other sounds. This functions to signal their success but also the finality of the scene.
The leitmotifs and the tone of the motifs are used to guide the spectator through narrative change. Sound effects have a few main functions. Sound effects simulate reality, create illusions and help to create mood and ambience. Sound effects are made up of synchronous and asynchronous sounds. Synchronous sounds are the sounds that match the image and the function is to contribute to the realism, to create atmosphere and even to create and refine meaning.
For obvious reason the guns and glass used in productions are not real and so the sounds they make are not real either. Adding sound effects for these things during editing give the actions a sense of realism. Sound effects can create illusions in different ways. Crowd Walla can be used to give the pretence of many people being present in a scene when in reality there may only be two or three people. The cost, time and additional problems of employing extras can be avoided. Sound effects are commonly used to create ambience and the sense of time in history and setting.
If you have a scene set in a churchyard the sound effects may include church bells chiming and birds singing for example. The sound effects used will create the atmosphere appropriate to the setting and narrative. In a film where a cowboy is sat by a fire an owl may hoot. This could be used to show the loneliness and isolation of the character. The image without the sound shows a man sat by a warm fire and not much else. Asynchronous sound effects, those that do not match a visible source can produce an appropriate nuance as well as to aid the sense of realism.
A police siren wailing while a couple argue highlights the severity of the situation whilst also adding to the realism of the situation and setting. Sound effects can inform the audience of off-screen movements or situations. This is commonly used in horror films and thrillers to inform the audience to impending danger and to build up tension. A very important function of music and the other parts of the sound score is to provide a sense of continuity to individual scenes, in bridging one scene to the next and the continuity of the production as a whole. Without sound the cut of shots is more noticeable and when there is a montage of shots in particular the audience would become very aware of the cuts and the scene would not flow. Music, and sound in general, make the cut from one shot to next seamless.
Often the sound score over laps from one scene to the next and again this is to make the change seamless and let the production flow. An important function of sound is to draw attention to specific and most relative part / s of the image. In The Lord of The Rings, The Two Towers there is a huge battle scene. In one part of the scene the audience hears the sound of many flying arrows.
This draws attention to Legolas's subsequent arrow shot. In the opening of taxi driver there is a loud sound of cars and horns and this indicates the genre of the film is a drama. Then the sound switches to a sleazy jazz music that tells the audience that the setting is in a city. A common use of sound in television and film productions is that of a pre-cursor. In Taxi Driver when Travis is home alone, driving his taxi and walking down the street, percussion instruments are played to build up tension. The percussion's also indicate through the speed, tone, rhythm and similarity in sound to that of guns firing that there will be a shooting.
This functions to create anticipation and to build up the emotion to an eventual climax Often sound contradicts the image, some times to pre-cursor a travesty or fall from grace. Moving images can show a person happily and successfully going about their business. The sound could indicate this is a false sense of confidence and success and so the audience is made conscious of the impending fall of this character. Without sound present the change in circumstance would seem very sudden and the audience would find it difficult to understand. Sound used in this way can help the film develop seamlessly and assist the audience in following the narrative. The movements in images have a rhythm as does the editing.
The rhythm of sound usually works in tandem with the rhythm of the images and editing to re-enforce the feeling they give. Disparity in the rhythms of these components can cause different effects. Fast, positive music played over an image of a person alone or looking on at but separate from a crowd can be a powerful and poignant way of showing the isolation and loneliness of a person or character. Many other effects can be achieved through doing this, possibly to simply give an air of mystery or even to show the distorted, drug / alcohol affected mind of a character. During the course of a production the rhythm of all components vary from time to time and they are significant in building up emotion and climax. Music and sound rhythm are used in combination with the editing and image movement to play on the viewer's emotions and to create the overall feel and balance to apiece.
When sound arrived, filmmakers were full of negative opinions, towards dialogue, 'ancient human bondage.' (Rene, C. , 1951 page 141). They feared that speech may mean the end of camera movement and that speech would be used excessively to propel the action. Dialogue means less pictures are required for audiences to find meaning and to understand the narrative. More sophisticated thoughts can be projected, Hamlets soliloquy can be expressed on screen. Dialogue basically authenticates the characters as real people rather then an imaginary creation.
It does this simply by being there. In everyday life we communicate through speech and so without dialogue, without sound the audience has to immediately accept the piece is not real or not a realistic representation. When an actors voice texture fits well with their gestures and body language the combination of sound and image work incredibly well to create a realistic and 3-dimensional persona. Through words the narrative can be understood and developed with ease. If a director is unable to find a shot they need to further narrative or produce a theme, dialogue can be used instead. You can also hear voices of screen, which could mean less shots are needed or to bring significance to the image or character on screen.
The use of voice-overs has many useful functions. In Train Spotting the voice over introduces the films protagonist Renton, explains whom he is and that he takes heroin. It also gives insight into his character, he is cynical, has a dry sense of humour and a philosophical look at life. It makes the audience think about capitalism and explore vales, life choices, and life in general. Voice over can also take the audience to any point in time and place, sometimes through flashbacks and flash forwards. Visually these things can be difficult and even impossible to show due to cost, logistics and other reasons.
Dialogue can give the director more technical, stylistic and narrative possibilities. People generally tend to assume that sound is simply an accompaniment to the moving image. This essay demonstrates that sound actively shapes how we interpret the image and is very powerful in manipulating audiences emotions and perceptions. Sound is an integral part of modern television and film and refines adds meaning and emotion to their productions. Music and sound in general can be used to underline or create psychological refinements and show things like the thoughts of a character or the unseen implications of a situation. The combination of image and sound provides an attitude towards a narrative and/ or of and towards the characters depicted.
Sound effects and music often foreshadow change in mood and circumstances. For example, dissonant music may indicate an approaching but not yet seen danger. Salient ideas or themes maybe repeated through music motifs to help viewer understanding and also to link scenes. Directors appreciate the importance of sound to create continuity and unity, especially when there is a montage of shots. Sound gives moving image productions more depth and a greater sense of reality. Genre, setting and time can be established with relative ease.
Sound can create emotion and meaning where the image alone cannot. Sound gives directors more options and devices to create meaning and to give audiences understanding of narrative development. The reason why the role of sound is often understated is because it often works on the subconscious. We often do not notice the music or sound however, we certainly do and would notice when no sound is present. The variety of functions, the great impact and the differences of use make sound and the combination of sound and image an integral part of modern moving image productions. Finally, it is also important to note that there is a corollary: image can have an impact on the understanding and appreciation of sound.
Composer Leonard Rosen man said,' There is a symbiotic catalytic exchange-relationship between the film and the music that accompanies it... musically unenlightened people comment positively on a score after seeing the film. I have played these same people the same score without telling them that it came from the film they had seen. Their reactions ranged from luke-warm to positive rejection...
.' (web) Bibliography Bordwell, D, Thompson, Kristin. , (1990), Film Art, McGraw-Hill Bordwell, D. , Thompson, K. , Stagger, K. , (1988), The Classical Hollywood Cinema: film style and mode of production to 1960, London, Routledge, Blandford, S. et al.
(2001), The Film Studies Dictionary, London, Arnold. Gibbs, J. , (2002), Mise-en-sc " ene, London, Wallflower Rene, C. , (1951), Reflexion faith: Notes, Paris: Galliard. Stam, R. (2000), Film Theory: An Introduction, Oxford, Blackwell Publishers.
Web References: web web hawks lane/575 /dialogue-and-sound. htmFilmographyThe Empire Strikes Back The Two Towers Indiana Jones The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Taxi Driver Train Spotting.