Film Sound: a New Typology

Film Sound: a New Typology

Varieties of Film Sound: A New Typology

fra (Pré)Publications, Romansk Inst. Aarhus Universitet, april 1992


While the literature on film sound has grown explosively since the early 1970's,
surprisingly few attempts have been made to develop a comprehensive model
which charts, defines and exemplifies a full range of sound varieties.

The best contribution to date is undoubtedly Bordwell and Thompson's
(1979/1990),1 which provides the most solid groundwork on which to build,
beginning as it does with the distinction between diegetic and non-diegetic sound-
or sound perceived as issuing from within and from outside the story space,
respectively--and then subdividing diegetic sound into external (objectively
present) and internal (subjective) sound. These guidelines for further work are
more useful than models taking less fundamental variables as their point of
departure--such as Percheron's (1973) "syntagmatic tree" which initially bifurcates
into on-screen and off-screen sound.2

The typology proposed here will draw on a number of sources, in an effort to
gather together within the framework of a single model, concepts and distinctions
that are scattered throughout the literature on film sound. With the exception of
one minor stand I will take with regard to subjectivity, and several terms I have
had to invent because the type of sound in question has not previously been
described, I will use those terms most generally applied and in their usual sense-including
Genette's (1972) overblown but widely accepted terminology for
describing narrative voices. It is not in the way any one sound or group of sounds
is defined that distinguishes the present typology from earlier models, but rather
its scope, organization and degree of detail.

On the whole, I have tried to focus on the way in which the viewer understands
or "decodes" a given sound in relation to the fiction. For this reason, no distinction...

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