Cinema and Sound
Sound is the stimulator of reality in cinema, an irreplaceable factor; it begins to set the mood in a film. Silent films were originally screened with a live orchestra; thus sound has always been recognized as an essential, setting the atmosphere, preparing or communicating things to the audience visuals can’t portray.
“A scary movie with no sound is not scary at all.”
Sound compliments visuals and acts as an auxiliary to picture. Whether it is the creaking of a door or the screeching of a car, sound adds a new dimension in the way in which you perceive something.
Sound in film makes us aware of the sounds we’re surrounded by that we usually ignore. They help us distinguish and identify distinct sounds from the chaotic “noise” we’re succumbed to everyday. We identify them, analyze them and begin to notice them far more easily.
“Silence can speak volumes.”
Movies began including dialogue since 1927, since then sound includes music, dialogue and dramatic effects, however silence continues to be an impactful part of the acoustic world. Silence in film is one of the most crucial and dramatic effects. Some of the greatest moments in cinema are without words. Silence can be eloquent and far more expressive with the increased focus on ones facial expressions and visuals.
Thus, sound has contextual and dramatic value expressed through music, dialogue and special effects, irreplaceable in film.
“A silent film is the purest way to make a film.”
The movie “ Elephant ” is based on a school shooting. Shot on a digital camera it focuses on two teenagers and how they vandalize their school. The entire movie works as a day in the life of these two boys, obviously very troubled with their mundane lives at school “ triggering ” this act.
This film has no dialogue. Throughout the film, song, effects and intertitles have introduced characters and taken them away. There are moments of action when the music gets faster and other moments of complete silence. There is a background sound and distinct sound that can’t fail to catch your attention.
At the final shooting, the two boys are seen walking through the hallway, all you can hear are the sounds of their footsteps, they enter a room with a creak in the door and one can hear the distinct sound of them loading the gun before they shoot mercilessly triggering a deafening noise followed by scared students screaming for their lives. The deafening noise repeats as they continue their massacre and the sound echoes in the viewer’s ears.
At one point in the film, all you can hear is the sound of fast paced running and crackling fire. Whether it is the sound of dripping water or the loading of a gun, the sound of chirping birds or screeching shoes, each element, so distinct, keeps the audience absolutely intrigued throughout the film. It tends to create that sense of fear, unexpectedness and surprise.
“Music in Indian cinema is unique in its cultural implications because it spells out the Indianness of cinema”
Sound in Indian Cinema is absolutely unique. It is an amalgamation of speech, music, song, noise and silence.
In Hollywood, “musicals” are a genre, introduced in the 1930’s as an antidote to The Great Depression it combines music and dance in film or theatre. Bollywood on the other hand, uses the same idea of song in a generic manner. Films break out into songs throughout the film. With inspiration from mythologies and epics, Bollywood uses song to express movement and change as a part of the film.
Dil Se, with its world famous “ Chhaiya Chhaiya “ was a song, shot on a moving train! Not only was this song brilliantly visualized and choreographed but also extremely well shot and directed by Mani Ratnam. The song truly takes the audience on a journey. Using song and dance, to show movement is an intelligent manner, keeping intact the attention of the audience. It also proves to be an enjoyment factor for the viewers, who eagerly wait for songs in films. Throughout the movie, there were songs with travel, whether it was people running and escaping from areas being attacked or even geographically travelling from one place to another. The audience is constantly moving with the actor, making it a more realistic experience and viewing. Here sound aids in the progress of the film, it creates the basis of the plot of the film, and it facilitates enjoyment. Lyrics in Indian Cinema are also representative of sound. Especially known all over the world for its songs, the movie Dil Se, is a perfect example of sound moving the plot in film, causing movement and connections through the scenes of the film.
Besides song, Dil Se is known well for its special effects. With a serious plot and parallel love story, Mani Ratnam is a true master of understanding sound direction in film.
“Some of the scariest movies of all time have gotten that way above all because of their skillful use of sound effects”
Horror films are scary only because of their sound effects. Watching a horror film on mute would cause no fear or anxiety of any sort. A perfect example of a horror film is “ The Conjuring “
The film is based on a family succumbed to ghostly encounters with a suspicion of a possession. There are hallucinations, instances and evidences of it throughout the film to realize the cause of it being a doll, Annabelle that resulted in the possession of the mother and triggered a series of disturbing events.
Even if you close your eyes during a horror film, the sound effects tend to create that sense of fear. With a constant sound of clapping, integrated with long pauses of silence, the viewers jolt and are terrified at the movement and sound of anything. There is also a constant humming and vibration sensed throughout the film expressing the emptiness and isolation of the house. There are distinct sounds of screaming and fear sensed on the screen creating and setting a mood of horror amongst the audience as well.
The sound effects create a setting that is deeply unsettling and absolutely disturbing. The sound of lighting a matchstick or even falling chairs makes the audiences’ heart skip a beat in fear.
Sound is an absolute necessity in cinema. It is one of those factors that aids in visual communication of a story and enhances the experience of the viewer to a large extent. Every film uses sound in distinct manners suited for them. A horror film will use sound effects far more differently as compared to an action film or even a Romantic movie. Skilful use of sound is a matter of deep understanding; silence in film creating drama is an art that has to be well understood and applied. Sound in film takes the audience to a different place, making the journey believable and the experience unforgettable.
“A live concert to me is exciting because of all the electricity that is generated in the crowd and on stage. It’s my favorite part of the business, live concerts.”
- Elvis Presley
With an update of an artist coming to Mumbai, I have my tickets organized as soon as they’re out. Having the same group of friends as interested in going as me, the count down to the show begins weeks in advance. It’s not about knowing the artist whose show you’re going for, but it becomes the idea of a concert that is so exciting. As Mumbai experienced one DJ after another, revisiting the city every year, the craze only grew. I didn’t know who most of them were but I would be right in front waving my hands to their music anyway.
A concert takes you to a different place; it’s almost like this vibe around you, so alive, so energetic. Electronic Dance Music or “noise” as most people refer to it as owes its origin and popularity to Goa. This genre of music, developed over time influenced by the Hippie Movement reflected a sense of rebellion and agitation through its sound. The music as part of this rebellion, made you feel like you were a part of something, maybe a part of something larger, the same feeling you get today in a concert.
Goa with its pristine beaches is the hub of rocking parties and drugs. With people from all over the world, Goa saw the origin of Trance popularly called Psytrance. Known as the party city, Goa hosts the Sunburn festival every year with different artists from all over the world, catering to an audience usually absolutely out of their minds. With drug mafias all over the city, Goa is known to satisfy all kinds of “experiences”. Most people are of the belief that being highly intoxicated for a concert is the best way to experience it; the music begins to speak to you. Sunburn in Goa, usually propagates that belief. With a widespread range of concerts throughout the country, Sunburn began spreading this fever to cities like Mumbai. Sunburn Mumbai is one of the most looked forward to events of the year where thirty or more artists come to the city and perform for an unbelievably large audience for a span of two days.
From early afternoon to late at night, people move to the beats of established artists playing their music. Held at the racecourse, I went for the festival year before last and it was one of the better concerts I had been to. I entered the ground to see a girl falling unable to hold herself up, with all the alcohol she consumed. Dodging the sloppy walkers, we made it to each and every stall selling absurd hair-do’s, neon accessories, lighting t-shirts, before we finally made our way to the first artist playing on one side of the ground.
The setting was impeccable with bright lights, confetti and crowd, moving together, dancing to the beats. The energy was impeccable, everyone singing the same lyrics, feeling the same sense of happiness being a part of the same experience. We went there late, in good time for the artist we wanted to listen to, but in bad time to find any sober people around us. With drinks flowing everywhere and the smell of smoke in the air, we barely spotted any one in their senses. Absolutely carried away with the setting, the atmosphere, the experience, people moved side by side in absolute trance as though they were completely out of their minds, in an absolutely different world.
I was not surprised, neither overwhelmed. Having been for numerous concerts before that one, I guess it’s something you tend to just expect. It’s something that I associate with a live concert, drugs and alcohol.
Yet, the question that tends to recur in my mind is that is the feeling truly different? Why can’t we enjoy something in our senses? Do we actually have to be under the influence of a substance to be a part of something or enjoy ourselves? Is it an influence, peer pressure or merely just a need? Why have we become so dependent on not being ourselves to merely enjoy ourselves?
I say “we” because we all do it, we all drink to feel absolutely care free, to not worry at all. We all decide to drink before concerts and go there already out of our minds. Still I begin to question why I make an association of alcohol and concerts? Is it just a way of enjoyment? Or an association created with time?
The feeling of being in a concert is fabulous in terms of sound. The blaring music tends to vibrate in your ears. It’s all you can hear, all you can feel; it becomes just you and the music and causes a high in itself. EDM to some may be “noise” to others it can be enjoyable. However the craze for such music has been a recent development, something that has come back after a very long time. With its origin during the hippie movement, trance has been popularized with the performances of artists now travelling to our country in the recent years. With artists coming more than four times a year, I found myself going to concerts almost too often, I was a part of that phase, that craze- concerts, alcohol and trance.