Author: Giorgio Biancorosso
Title: Situated Listening: The Sound of Absorption in Classical Cinema
Oxford University Press
Situated Listening urges us to abandon the image of the music listener modeled after the reverential concertgoer or gallery dweller. The book redefines music listening with reference to cinematic representations of listeners. Screenwriters and film directors have long been fascinated by the challenges of representing the listening experience on the silver screen. Whether they depict a character as distracted or absorbed, their films return to us an image in which we may recognize ourselves in the same situation. This is also true when a character is a parody and his or her story implausible. Even then, a film reminds us that listening is a matter of perspective and a condition shaped by unique circumstances. Cinema is also an agent in the development of new, or evolving, listening practices. Consequently, Situated Listening also addresses the spectator’s listening experience as a situation worthy of attention in and of itself. The first part argues that fictional characters are vectors in that they not only provide models of behavior but also channel our attention in the here and now of the film experience. In the second part, the focus shifts to examples in which film music is used to restrict the range of sounds to coerce the spectator to share a subjectively reconfigured soundscape. The silencing of sound via music is a legacy of nineteenth-century theater, but classical cinema has adapted it to stage a quintessentially modern condition: the short-circuiting of the attention, a process referred to here as heterological silence.