The Auditory Setting: Environmental Sound in Film and Audiovisual Media (book project in development) 

The project investigates the use of environmental sounds in film and audiovisual media as a narrative component. The focus is on examining the (re)construction of a setting through the production of a site and mediation of its sonic environment. In narrative works, the setting is understood as the mediated space in which a story or event takes place. Setting includes specific information about place and time and presents a backdrop for the narrative action. A careful portrayal of a setting can convey meaning through interaction with the site, and the plot. Creation of the setting within a mediated universe such as a film or media artwork requires providing information about place and time and organizing aural and visual elements to evoke intricate sights, sounds, and other sensations. The sonic environment crafted within a film and media production is mostly undertheorized. In this context, I coin the term “auditory setting” to study the mediated presence of place and space (re)constructed in film and media artworks by using a specific sound component known as ambience or ambient sound. The ambience is a standard term used by sound practitioners to denote the site-specific environmental sounds that provide characteristic atmosphere and spatial information in a media production. I focus on critically listening to the production and mediation of ambience or the sonic environments in film and media artworks. I set out to examine how ambience or ambient sound is used as a site-specific element to compose the auditory setting by rendering a spatial awareness in the production of film, media and sound artworks. Taking a critical attitude towards the notions of narration, diegesis, mimesis, presence, rendering, human intervention, transformation and representation of the environment, and technological innovations, the project questions the classical assumptions about sound in film and audiovisual media (e.g. image-based relationships), and intends to shift the focus toward the idea of sculpting a site’s presence in the diegetic world of a film and media production as a crucial narrative strategy. Studying the transformations made on site-specific ambient sounds to form constructed ambience in film and audiovisual media artworks help to understand the human agency in mediating environmental sounds, human affordances in listening to the environment, and the nature of the sonic experience in the Anthropocene.

 

Listening and viewing examples (more to be added):