Cinemas' Sonic Residues

Barber, Stephen (2014) Cinemas' Sonic Residues. In: Gandy, Matthew and Nilsen, BJ, (eds.) The Acoustic City. Berlin, Germany : Jovis. pp. 138-144. ISBN 9783868592719


This essay in the field of visual culture and urban space, argues that the sound of film infiltrates and refigures the city. It suggest that, for many decades, a pivotal experience during the course of urban walking was to pass the foyer or side-doors of a cinema and abruptly hear a blurred cacophony - film-dialogue, noise or explosions from films of conflicts, music - expelled from that space. Especially in summer heat, with the opening of windows, doors and emergency exits, that sonic eruption into the adjacent urban environment, from cinematic orifices, was accentuated. The walls of a cinema auditorium form the carapace reinforcing the concentrated experience of the film-audience, exempted, for a few hours, from the imperatives of exterior urban space; that experience, especially in its corporeal dimensions, was primarily a sonic one, amalgamated from the elements emitted from the cinema’s sound-system, together with the voices and noises of spectators which - in such environments as all-night cult-movie screenings or those occupied by audiences culturally oblivious to any need for spectators to watch a film in silence - formed an incessant counterpoint to film-soundtrack elements: voices of seduction, voices of outrage, voices of adulation.

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