Sound: An Acoulogical Treatise
Michel Chion is a composer, filmmaker, teacher, researcher, and the author of several books, including Film, A Sound Art; The Voice in Cinema; and Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen.
James A. Steintrager is Professor of English, Comparative Literature, and European Languages and Studies at the University of California, Irvine; he is the author, most recently, of The Autonomy of Pleasure: Libertines, License, and Sexual Revolution.
Sound and Its Cause: Causal Listening and Figurative Listening
This chapter focuses on how what we hear relates to the material cause of the sound heard. Some sounds are rich in what the author calls “materializing sonic indices,” that is, sonic information about a given sound’s source. Other sounds are much less informative about the nature and even location of their provenance. There is a tendency to counteract the causal vagueness of many sounds by anchoring them visually. Such spatial magnetization of sounds—linking sound to source via vision—can lead to various distortions in listening. When it comes to analyzing sounds in themselves, there is a tendency to overemphasize cause (causalism). Acousmatic listening can serve to balance or correct this tendency. On the other hand, causal vagueness can help when the goal is to use sounds to figure forth or render images, objects, and affects. This is particularly true of the use of sound in cinema, although it extends to the use of sound for evocative ends in music as well.