Week 1

Week 1

In the first class of Sound Design, we are introduced what Sound Design actually mean, from these well-known practitioners: David Sonnenschein, Michel Chion, Juslin & Sloboda and David Huron. 

David Sonnenschein

David Sonnenschein’s Sound Design: The Expressive Power of Music, Voice and Sound Effects in Cinema book leads to an introduction of how to hear sounds, how sounds affect us emotionally. “This book pulls together theory and background on sound generation, psychoacoustics, music, voice, image and narrative. The sources are wide and sometimes very technical or esoteric, but the purpose of this text is to be user-friendly and practical.” This book is a great way to know how to achieve “sound design” mainly to film space.

He also wrote an article concerning the idea of “Sound Spheres Model”, a psychospatial model about how sound offer “unexpected sonic reflections of human culture.” It is how to differentiate the experience of “Did I hear that, or was that my imagination”.

Michel Chion

Michel Chion is well-known for the idea of audio vision. He developed the idea of Materialisation and Dematerialisation exploring the idea of materialising sound indices. Materialisation is the sound giving the image depth to the diegesis. According to Chion, “MSI are the details in sound that supply information about its conditions of the sound’s sources. It has high materialising sound indices. The number of MSI’s provided by a sound often depends on the quality of the sound recording.” Materialisation makes the visuals to feel more authentic. For example a high-quality sound recording carries a higher number of SMI’s compared to dull sound recordings.

The opposite is Dematerialisation where in some cases, there may be no sound effects at all. The sound is off, metaphorically why some scenes is silent or blurted out. It could be a lower recording, which sounds are muffled or smeared. This can lead to a perception of the characters and story as ethereal, abstract and fluid.
He also wrote a book “Audio Vision: Sound on Screen”  where it explains the functions of sound in its work where “it aspires to provide insights into the perceptual processes underlying “audio-vision” and its effects.” There are two sections of this book, the first explains the foundations of film sound “based in introspective rationalisation of the perceptions of the filmmaker.” The second is “the discursive beyond sounds and images” explaining the analytical side of sound in film. He further explained that sound has “added value” to the moving image, and how “empathetic and unempathetic sounds” affect moving image.

“Empathetic sound” is music or sound effects whose mood matches the mood of the present action or scene. For example, a sad song is played during a depressing scene. This type of sound can enhance the tone of the scene. It spices up the character’s inner feelings, creating more depth and meaning to the scene.

On the other hand, “Unempathetic sound” acts the opposite way; where music or sound effects contrast and exhibit of the scene. For example, a happy song is played during a depressing scene. Usually, this type of sound works in horror films, it enhance a sense of tragic apathy and insignificance as when a radio continues to play a happy tune when a character dies, as if nothing happened.

Another Chion theory is synchresis where the sound and moving image is in-sync, it is in perfect alignment, occurring at the same time. He further explained that this impact on meaning, the gesture of the sound and the moving image can be exaggerate and give more weight. This review article by Nicola Phillips further explains that “It is claimed that the perception of a synch point is connected with gestaltist phenomena. This area of the theory requires detailed elaboration if it is to accepted as providing persuasive account of how this process may function specifically in the different aural modalties.” It can give the meaning of authentic or decorative.

Juslin & Sloboda

Juslin explains the reason why people listen and value to music, the reason is due to emotions. This article, “Emotional responses to music: The need to consider underlying mechanisms” elaborated that we listen to music because music makes us feel happy, sad, weary, excited and other sorts of emotions. They explained “researches have studied musical emotions without regard to how they were evoked, or have assumed that the emotions must be based on the ‘default’ mechanism for emotion induction, a cognitive appraisal.” 

Meanwhile, Sloboda explained more on the “music cognition” exploring the music psychology when listening to music. The article, “Music and Emotion: Seven Questions, Seven Answers” elaborated, “‘cognition’ and ‘emotion’ might not be as far apart as one think. Indeed, emotional responses to music require cognition. Slobodan would later be one of the researches who helped to bring ‘music and emotion’ to the forefront, as a primary topic in music psychology.” 

David Huron

David Huron took another difficult side of music psychology, which is called, “Misattribution”, where the memory involves source details retained in memory but erroneously attributing a recollection or idea to the wrong source. From what I read from this article based on David Huron’s book, “Sweet Anticipation: Music and the Psychology of Expectation”, it is defined as “the positive feelings that arise from conscious thought about future event”. We put emphasis on the positive feelings to give the music’s ability to invoke pleasure.

Turn Down For What – DJ Snake, Lil Jon

We watched this “Turn Down For What” music video with and without music. I prefer the one with music because without music, I just feel very disturbed. I learnt how sound controls the perception of tone and mood for the audience. The sound influences the reading of character’s emotions. When there is no music, the sounds from the characters, watching the visual content is far more disturbing. Mr. Darrin describes as “the internal logic to the music serves as an anaesthetic to this progress, meaning that we do not need to watch it thoroughly as we already know what is going to happen.” According to Michel Chion, the music actually dematerialise the meaning of the music video although the genre, electronic dance music, gives a hard and definite materiality to join in to dance. The music makes the audience to dance, however the music also gives less of disturbance. When there is an absence of music, and the presence of characters’ sounds, it actually makes it more disturbing. The music here creates a blur, creates dematerialisation. If the audience only listen, they would not even think the song is disturbing. The visual video is the primary cause of the disturbance as well as the characters’ voice.

Mary Poppins

The Mary Poppins video created a different version of Mary Poppins. Instead of the fun-loving, caring Mary Poppins, the video created Mary Poppins as a haunted person. They showcased as a horror movie. There is a disjunct between the feeling of the music and the knowledge of the visual context that leads to humour. Like what Don Hertzfeld claim that this is a spatiotemporal disjunct, they purposely created the trailer to be horrific and scary. The wind sounds that the trailer makes creates the empathetic sound – corresponding to the actions that the kids made. For example at 0:35, the shriek and wind sounds corresponds to the kid that is being pushed by the wheelbarrow. It matches the mood of the scene.

Overall, what Juslin is trying to teach us is that the music can emotionally affect the frightening feeling towards the audience. The visual image is dark, and the stares of Mary Poppins and the scared look of the children’s faces. It corresponds to the haunted sound.

The circumflex model of emotion

This is a model of emotion where it is represented as valence or arousal. It is how the music or sound, the pitch, the rhythm, the tempo, the timber affect emotion.

The Vow

This ‘The Vow’ clip has definitely made the audience tear up. At the beginning of the clip, it does not have any background music to accompany the mood of the scene as dialogue is already enough to spice up the anger that the characters have brought up. Once the characters started to feel sad and gloomy, the background music started playing gradually. Not only the music build up the sadness emotion from the characters, we feel the pity and sadness towards the characters. The calming and soft sound that the movie uses shows empathetic sound where the mood matches the scene. It seemed that the instrument of piano, the score always help to create a calming and sad emotion. Juslin addresses “Emotions are relatively brief, intense, and rapidly changing reactions to potentially important events (subjective challenges or opportunities) in the external or internal environment – often of a social nature – which involve a number of subcomponents (cognitive changes, subjective feelings, expressive behavior, and action tendencies) that are more or less ‘synchronized’ during an emotional episode.” This ending scene is the whole two hour movie to a two minute scene, it acts like the bomb; the explosion, where the character tells how they feel, after all the struggles throughout the movie. Finally, they exploded with tears and sadness. The music helps to synchronised the feeling of sadness from the character.

La La Land

To differentiate “The Vow” with “La La Land”, “La La Land” uses only score as the background music to spices up the mood of the scenes in the trailer. With “The Vow”, it started out with dialogue then the score behind it. It is clear that “La La Land” is non-diegetic, where you cannot see the sound being made, but you can hear it. It is definite that the song at the background of the trailer, the score drives the emotional perception of love. The audience feels the happiness of love towards these characters. Like what I have mentioned, slow ballad of piano sounds makes the mood to be either sad or feel loved. In this case, the audience feel the love chemistry that the characters have.

“Synchronization is most easily observed during intense emotions, and seems to be stronger between feelings and expression, than between feelings and physiology”

At 0:13, there is diegetic sound where Ryan Gosling is whistling, you see the synchresis sound from the score and Ryan himself. The whistle sounds tend to be louder when being in-sync as the creator wants the audience to focus on Ryan.

At 0:16, there is synchresis where Ryan stops whistling and the screen turned black. Then, the piano sounds corresponding to the image – there is diegetic sound again, you can see the sound that is playing.

This trailer shows that all they need is the score to spice up the mood of the scenes; it doesn’t need any dialogue to accompany with. The score itself gives a suture – a flow to the other – it helps to accelerate the pace of one scene to another. It also feels like it is telling the story, where we are being told something, just by listening to the score while watching the trailer.