The emergence of the audiovisual essay as a vehicle for theoretical and critical thinking about film has brought along a new eye (or ear) for the role of sound. Often neglected in earlier, written studies that sound now comes to the fore in the work of several video essayists – and rightly so. Cinema studies professor Tracy Cox-Stanton adds to this growing body of work with this valuable contribution, Film Noise, Material Thinking, and Videographic Writing.
This video essay takes its cue from Michael Chion’s concept of “reduced listening”, radically eschewing the visual to better appreciate the auditive. For most of the video’s ten minutes runtime the screen remains black, forcing the viewer to become first and foremost a listener. The detail and fabric of each of the (well-chosen) sound excerpts gain clarity in the absence of imagery. When the dark is broken, Tracy Cox does so with a scene from the most fitting of films (Jan Švankmajer’s Darkness, Light, Darkness) or with apt quotes from fellow film academics. The result is a conceptually elegant auditory experiment in the search for sound’s role as the “sensual scaffolding of a film”, as this essay so eloquently puts it.