This introductory chapter situates Michel Chion’s work on sound in relation to his cultural and intellectual milieu, focusing on his adoption and development of key notions from the seminal French sound theorist and founder of musique concrète: Pierre Schaeffer. It shows how Chion has taken up the concepts of “acousmatic listening” (listening without being able to see a sound’s source) and the “sound object” (an objectification of sound enabled by recording media) and has simultaneously extended and challenged them. Schaeffer was guided by media that separate sounds from original sources temporally or spatially (radio and phonography) and by the phenomenological quest to bracket perceptual analysis from questions of causality. Chion adds the medium of film in particular, which emphasizes the interaction of the auditory and the visual, as well as a poststructuralist approach that privileges language, construction, and the impossibility of attaining pure sound objects or purified listening.
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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.