Alphaville: Journal of Film and Screen Media. Issue 03: Sound, Voice, Music

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It is a moment of rupture, when we become aware of the potential of film sound to reveal, and break out of, the apparatus to which it has been assigned. This special issue of Alphaville aims to be just one such moment, in which film sound, voice and music are singled out by the analysis in ways that both reveal their profound imbrication in the textual whole and shed light on the apparatus. Edited by Danijela Kulezic-Wilson, Christopher Morris and Jessica Shine, University College Cork.


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 5 of 16
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    Film Festivals: Culture, People, and Power on the Global Screen, by Cindy Hing-Yuk Wong
    (Film and Screen Media, University College Cork, 2012) Lee, Fiona; Murphy, Jill
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    Cultural innovation and narrative synergy in R. Kelly’s Trapped in the Closet
    (Film and Screen Media, University College Cork, 2012) Literat, Ioana
    This article analyses the narrative conventions of R. Kelly’s serial “hip-hopera” Trapped in the Closet, exploring the manner in which the artist’s chosen narrative strategies have shaped the generic reading of the series. Specifically, I discuss how Trapped in the Closet re-appropriates the conventions of the soap opera and the music video, to create a wholly original product that both evokes these schematas and simultaneously challenges their traditional narrative norms. Looking at R. Kelly’s chosen promotional strategy, I argue that the convergence of genres and narrative influences, as evident in the series’ content and style, parallels the convergence of media channels—radio, television, internet—that characterised its release and distribution, highlighting the increasing importance of a transmedial approach in the conceptualisation and dissemination of cultural texts.
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    When is the now in the here and there? Trans-diegetic music in Hal Ashby’s Coming Home
    (Film and Screen Media, University College Cork, 2012) Hunter, Aaron
    While it would be a stretch to classify Hal Ashby as a postmodernist filmmaker (with that term’s many attendant ambiguities), his films of the 1970s regularly evince post-Classical stylistic and narrative strategies, including non-linear time structures, inter-textual self-references, open endings, and nuanced subversions of the fourth wall. Ashby’s most consistently playful approach to form comes by way of his integration and development of trans-diegetic musical sequences within his body of work. Music in Ashby films creates a lively sense of unpredictability, and each of his seven films of the 1970s employs this strategy at least once. Moreover, trans-diegetic music in Ashby’s films becomes a device that allows the director to elide moments in time. It functions as an editing tool, creating a bridge between often disparate events. However, it is also a narrative device that both compresses and stretches time, allowing for an on-screen confluence of events that at first appear to take place simultaneously or sequentially, but which actually occur over different moments or lengths of time. Yet while Ashby is not alone as a Hollywood director interested in exploring the formal possibilities that trans-diegesis might bring to his movies, film studies has begun only relatively recently to explore and analyse this technique. After briefly discussing the current critical discussion of trans-diegetic music and explicating patterns of its use in Ashby’s career, this paper explores an extended display of the strategy in the film Coming Home (1978). By interrogating its use as both narrative device and formal convention in this instance, the paper attempts both to understand trans-diegesis as a key component of Ashby’s filmmaking style and also to forge ahead in expanding the discussion of trans-diegesis within film studies.
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    Beneath sci-fi sound: primer, science fiction sound design, and American independent cinema
    (Film and Screen Media, University College Cork, 2012) Johnston, Nessa
    Primer is a very low budget science-fiction film that deals with the subject of time travel; however, it looks and sounds quite distinctively different from other films associated with the genre. While Hollywood blockbuster sci-fi relies on “sound spectacle” as a key attraction, in contrast Primer sounds “lo-fi” and screen-centred, mixed to two channel stereo rather than the now industry-standard 5.1 surround sound. Although this is partly a consequence of the economics of its production, the aesthetic approach to the soundtrack is what makes Primer formally distinctive. Including a brief exploration of the role of sound design in science-fiction cinema more broadly, I analyse aspects of Primer’s soundtrack and sound-image relations to demonstrate how the soundplays around with time rather than space, substituting the spatial playfulness of big-budget Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster sound with temporal playfulness, in keeping with its time-travel theme. I argue that Primer’s aesthetic approach to the soundtrack is “anti-spectacle”, working with its mise-en-scène to emphasise the mundane and everyday instead of the fantastical, in an attempt to lend credibility and “realism” to its time-travel conceit. Finally, with reference to scholarship on American independent cinema, I will demonstrate how Primer’s stylistic approach to the soundtrack is configured as a marketable identifier of its “indie”-ness.
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    Emotion capture: vocal performances by children in the computer-animated film
    (Film and Screen Media, University College Cork, 2012) Holliday, Christopher
    The customary practice across both feature-length cel-animated cartoons and television animation has been to cast adults in the vocal roles of children. While these concerns raise broader questions about the performance of children and childhood in animation, in this article I seek to examine the tendency within computer-animated films to cast children-as-children. These films, I argue, offer the pleasures of “captured” performance, and foreground what Roland Barthes terms the “grain” of the child’s voice. By examining the meaningless “babbling” and spontaneous vocalisations of the aptly-named child Boo from Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. (2001), this article offers new ways of conceptualising the relationship between animation and voiceover, suggesting that computer-animated films celebrate childhood by emphasising the verbal mannerisms and vicissitudes of the unprompted child actor. The calculated fit between the digital children onscreen and the rhythms of their unrefined speech expresses an active engagement with the pleasures of simply being young, rather than privileging growing up. Monsters, Inc. deliberately accentuates how the character’s screen voice is authentically made by a child-as-a-child, preserving the unique vocal capabilities of four-year-old Mary Gibbs as Boo, whilst framing her performance in a narrative which dramatises the powers held within the voice of children.