Symposium Schedule

Friday, November 13th, 2015

1:30-3:00 pm: Variations on the Voice: History, Politics and Poetics
Location: Television Studio, Room HN436
Participants: Priyanjali Sen, Mark Street, Jim Supanick
This panel will bring together three discussions of the formal qualities and functions of voice in relationship to image and in relationship to other sounds, through a range of non-fiction work. Priyanjali Sen will theorize the politics and ethics of voice-over in Louis Malle’s epic documentaries Calcutta (1969) and Phantom India (1969), films in which the voice-over does not merely guide the audience or impose the filmmaker’s opinion on them, but marks the complex ways in which ideology is disseminated. By using the diary film as a jumping off point, Mark Street will examine what’s concealed and revealed in the use of direct address, voice-over or ambient soundscapes. Jim Supanick will present a formal analysis of Patrick Keiller’s Robinson Trilogy, whose density of narration makes a sustained (though implicit) argument about the limits of the image’s ability to alone communicate complex historical ideas.

3:15-3:45 pm: #Rushes: A performed voice-over and text piece by Jason Livingston
Location: The Lang Auditorium, Room HN424
A work always-in-progress, #Rushes began as a silent, 16mm in-camera edit of the 1 year birthday/funeral of Occupy Wall Street in downtown Manhattan. Livingston presents this visual material with a performed voice-over, as a way of exploring the theatrical conventions of sound-image relations, and how those sound-image relations may be considered as social relations, a kind of medium-based allegory for matters beyond the site of cinematic exhibition…If voice-over, traditionally conceived, locates the voice as primary—in the mix; as the top; the director of meaning—then what would be a voice under? Is it possible? Ontologically, categorically, politically?

4:00-5:00 pm: The Seeing Ear, the Hearing Eye: Synesthesiac Technologies
Location: Television Studio, Room HN436
Participants: Jenny Perlin, Andrew Demirjian
How do the ear and eye work together? How do they pull apart? This panel will examine several technologies, both historical and contemporary, that attempt a kind of sensory cross wiring. Using excerpts and textual elements from her film work-in-progress, provisionally titled Toward the Flame, Jenny Perlin will explore the invention of the color organ in the 19th and early 20th centuries, its eventual fall from favor, and the ways in which its fusion of sound and light were absorbed into cinema, and later, into today’s brightly glowing, colorful, and resolutely individual pocket (and wrist)-sized rectangles. Andrew Demirjian will examine the methods and aesthetics of image sonification and survey both its historical context and its contemporary practice, while drawing from five years of artistic research creating audiovisual installations whose sonic content originates from non-fiction video and photography as source material.

5:15-6:15 pm: What’s the Score: Contemporary Sound Design in Documentary Cinema
Location: Television Studio, Room HN436
Participants: David Barker and Pacho Velez
This presentation proposes to develop distinctions within the category of ‘sound design’ in order to articulate in more precise terms some of the ways that sound affects image and how this relationship has altered over time. Barker and Velez trace some recent developments in cinematic image-sound relations. They begin with the distinction drawn in classical narrative film between sound design and score. Most contemporary documentaries, taking their cue from this distinction, rely on score to heighten emotion, increase tension, and emphasize pace and rhythm. In contemporary fiction, however, designers and directors have begun eschewing such scoring and, instead, use sounds and sonic textures to broaden meaning. This revolutionary change in cinema’s relationship to sound is only beginning to gain currency within non-fiction circles. Through a close analysis of some recent documentaries, Barker and Velez ask “what openings do these changes offer for creators of non-fiction media?”

6:15 pm: Opening Reception

7:30-9:00 pm: Keynote Presentation by Ernst Karel
Location: The Lang Auditorium, Room HN424
“Multichannel sound, cinema space”
Karel will present and discuss two recent projects: Morning and Other Times (30 min, 5.1 audio only) and Ah humanity! (made in collaboration with Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor, 23 min, video + 4-channel audio).

Saturday, November 14th, 2015

10:00-11:00 am: Enunciative Acts: On the Materiality of the Voice
Location: Television Studio, Room HN436
Participants: Irina Leimbacher, Pooja Rangan
What does a voice say in the act of saying? This panel brings together two approaches to the material qualities of the voice. Irina Leimbacher will examine films by Beryl Korot and Steve Reich, Juan Manuel Echevarria, and Avi Mograbi that emphasize the saying over the said through their attention to the sonorous and musical qualities of speech. Pooja Rangan’s presentation, focusing on the work of Lebanese filmmaker and artist Mounira Al Solh, will seek to complicate the subversive status accorded to the disembodied female voice in the experimental and documentary tradition, by attending to the “skin” of the disembodied voice, that is, to the embodied materiality of the unseen voice that is scanned for auditory evidence of the speaker’s identity.

11:00 am-12:00 pm: Strangers on a Journey: Mimetic Sound, Synchresis and the Attraction of Foley
Location: Television Studio, Room HN436
Participants: Leo Goldsmith, Jacqueline Goss
Image and sound have a kind of magnetic affinity for each other, “like strangers who make acquaintance on a journey and afterwards cannot separate,” in Robert Bresson’s famous phrase. This panel explores some of the ways that this acquaintance of image and sound can be deployed in non-fiction film. Leo Goldsmith will examine the use of voice, music, and foley in Andrei Ujica’s film The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu, with particular attention to Ujica’s understanding of voice and representation, and of sound’s complementary and subversive relation to image. Jacqueline Goss will take as her starting point Michel Chion’s term “synchresis,” meaning the mental fusion of sound and image, and will present and discuss several examples of foley in non-fiction filmmaking that support and possibly challenge notions of synchresis.

12:00-12:30 pm: Live Foley Performance by Kelly Kirshtner, with interactive programming by Daniel Robert Kelly
Location: The Lang Auditorium, Room HN424
Kelly Kirshtner will perform a live foley soundtrack to a short video loop, adding additional sounds on each pass of the loop, leading to the gradual completion of a “full” accompanying soundtrack. After recording a predetermined number of sounds, the older tracks begin to decay, dismantling the soundtrack even as new sounds are recorded. The work of the piece then becomes to perceive and maintain a balance between sonic creation and decay, and to both reinforce the original narrative (sounds of actions seen onscreen) and to invent an alternative narrative (sounds for the space off screen).

1:30-2:30 pm: Make Strange the Senses: Asynchronicity as Method and Argument
Location: Television Studio, Room HN436
Participants: Kevin T. Allen, Jen Heuson, Marit Kathryn Corneil, Asbjørn Tiller
Two presentations that interrogate the synchronicity of ear and eye in non-fiction practice and explore what can be uncovered by their unlinking. Using examples from their own filmmaking practice, Kevin T. Allen and Jen Heuson will propose asynchronicity as a conceptual and practical way to challenge the historical sedimentation of “sync and/or non-sync” methods and to investigate the political and ethical implications of standardized modes of non-fiction media making. Marit Kathryn Corneil and Asbjørn Tiller will examine the use of everyday sounds in some newer experimental documentary and ethnographic films, with an eye (and ear) toward the type of dialectical image/sound relationship proposed by Dziga Vertov and realized most fully in his film Enthusiam: Symphony of the Donbass. Their presentation will emphasize the ways in which sound elements are used to structure narrative or rhetorical arguments and/or create thick descriptions of reality.

2:45-3:45 pm: Audition and After: Crushing Mimesis/Exploding Atmosphere
Location: Television Studio, Room HN436
Participants: Melissa Ragona, Abigail Child
This panel looks at noise/music/text and image as  an aggressive, but unpredictable force in relation to image— interrupting, stretching, and shredding the recorded documents of the culture industry.  Ragona will lay out terms for film sound established by Child in her Born For? series, and trace the legacies of her experiments across the works of Martha Colburn, Jacob Ciocci, and Takeshi Murata. Child will argue for disruption not as nihilistic but as an element of the contemporary and indeed part of a politics of poetic form. She will focus on meaning through multiple points of view and overlapping voices, on decay, partiality and error.  Referencing work from Godard, Tanaka and her own recent filmic collaborations with poets, Child will mark technological changes and their effects,  as she embraces a maximalist and textual approach: creating  a cacophonous crosscut of image/sound/word that remains alive to the social.

4:00-4:30 pm: SOUNDFILM, a film performance by Roger Beebe
Location: The Lang Auditorium, Room HN424
Roger Beebe will present his new six-projector 16mm film performance, which is centrally focused on the various ways in which sound is represented as image. Composed primarily of fragments of 16mm educational films stretching from the 1940s through the 1980s, the performance creates a complex visual and sonic space in which these fragments, starting with a compendium of elementary sound primers, coalesce around various key moments and strategies: representations of the vibrations of air particles, anatomical animations of the middle and inner ear, noise and hearing protection, and the technologies for representing sound (optical tracks, oscilloscopes, etc.). Simultaneously, however, the film explores and plays with a certain degree of abstraction that happens in these representations, at times liberating sound and image for their sensual qualities alone. In these sections it also references American minimalist composition with phase shifts and repetitions that recall the work of Steve Reich.

4:45-6:15 pm: Sound and Image At Play Together: Sound Design as Collaboration
Location: Television Studio, Room HN436
Participants: Irene Lusztig, Maile Colbert, Melissa Dubbin, Aaron S. Davidson
This panel will present two approaches to the collaborative process of sound design. Irene Lusztig and Maile Colbert will talk about Lusztig’s film, The Motherhood Archives, and about the sound design that Colbert created for it. Archival montage, science fiction, and an homage to 70s feminist filmmaking are woven together to form this haunting and lyrical essay film, excavating hidden histories of childbirth in the twentieth century. Melissa Dubbin and Aaron S. Davidson will present some versions of their project Sound Design for Future Films, which inverts the hierarchy and workflow of typical film production, starting with a two-and-a-half minute sound design for a scene in a film that doesn’t exist. This sound design, composed with sounds drawn from sound libraries and proposing an oblique narrative, served as the primary source material in collaborations with 20 other artists, each of whom were given complete control concerning their visual contributions.

7:30-9:00 pm: Keynote Presentation by Deborah Stratman
Location: The Lang Auditorium, Room HN424
“A Space Where There Is Nothing”
An aural-visual rumination on the usefulness of gaps.

9:00 pm: Closing Reception