This essay draws from queer theory and sound studies in an analysis of two sexually explicit 1960s underground films that refused synchronization: Barbara Rubin's Christmas on Earth (US, 1963), which is intended to be screened with a live radio sound track, and Andy Warhol's Couch (US, 1964), which is typically shown silently. These films are queer in that they present a series of erotic encounters that vary in gender, sexuality, and number; significantly, these works are also nonsynchronous or silent in their image-sound relations. They are recombinant in their structure, their sex, and their sound tracks; it would seem that the footage in both films might have been shown in any order, that anyone on-screen might have sex with anyone else, and that any ambient sound might score any image. In cinema, synchronization takes disparate image and sound tracks and fixes them into alignment. What this essay explores is a certain perversion of these forms of temporal matching — or what I am calling queer sound tracks: image-sound relations unfixed in ways that are not only dynamic aesthetically but that also evoke an affective, diachronic bond to the past. What is heard during screenings is always external, temporally and spatially, to the films themselves. Thus the concepts of queer temporality and orientations open up new ways of thinking through image-sound relations.
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Lucas Hilderbrand; Sex Out of Sync: Christmas on Earth's and Couch's Queer Sound Tracks. Camera Obscura 1 September 2013; 28 (2 (83)): 45–75. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/02705346-2209916
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