ABSTRACT

Sound provides information about the world in which we live and involves a continuous, 360 degrees summary of surrounding events, ordered, shaped and prioritized by our experience and expectation. In science fiction film, sound information can be cautiously divided between two poles. At one level, there is the allegedly objective ‘exterior’ soundscape of the presented environment; and on another, there is the subjective ‘interior’ sonic fields of our perception. Through the practice of sound design, where audio is woven into the fabric of the film world, a sense of danger can be crafted by presenting the believable threat of the former, whilst sowing seeds of suspicion about the identity, stability or authenticity of the latter. Through spatial and timbral cues, we can be convinced that there might be something ‘wrong’ with the landscape of the world we are hearing. In these instances, sound’s “added value” (Chion, 1994, 5) materializes images, projecting a believable reality into environments and events that are alien, unstable, monstrous, or spectacular. But there is an alternative to this process of audio authentication. Through sonic dematerialization (or shifting re-materialization) we can also suspect that there might be something

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g ‘wrong’ with ‘us.’ Maybe our point of audition has suddenly moved without cause. We may witness an action that should be making a loud noise but is silent. Perhaps there is a ubiquitous sound we are hearing for which there is no apparent justification or point of origin. Materialization can involve hearing dangerous things. Dematerialization and disorientation indicate a different form of danger, however. They have the capacity to undermine the certainty of our perspective, positioning the audient as other (Redmond, 2011), perhaps a clueless observer, or worse-through diminished or seemingly damaged faculties-a potentially unreliable witness to a particular unhinged moment in space and time. Whilst, at a general level, there may be “specific systems of expectation and hypothesis which spectators bring with them to the cinema” (Neale, 1990, 46), sound is at its richest when it simultaneously supports such expectation generally, whilst taking advantage of the possibilities of surreptitious subterfuge specifically. The audience may know they are in an alien world, but how that world is heard at any given point may be as uncanny and ineffable in its specifics, as it may be confident and convincing overall.