Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Microphone on Film: Sound Collection and the Visual
by Kirshtner, Kelly V., Ph.D., University of California, Irvine, 2011, 236; 3457460
Abstract (Summary)

Despite the microphone's central role in sound collection, dominant practices for its use in the fiction film have pushed it to the visual periphery, excluding it from the frame and establishing a real and conceptual distance between image and sound production. The question of keeping the microphone out of the picture was posed in acoustic science and radio long before film ever encountered the device. Normally receding into the greater social and technological systems that it supports, the microphone is also a highly recognizable cultural artifact, and practical operations towards its visual or conceptual suppression occurred alongside social operations of its disclosure as a tool for cultural progress. The microphone eventually fell into a conceptual impasse between conflicting goals of visibility and disappearance that framed it according to context as both fundamental and taboo, essential and threatening. It is perhaps best defined by the discursive conflict it inspires, as well as by the pattern of ambivalence regarding its visualization as a tool, object, image, and symbol for sound collection and recording.

Examining the historical precedents for the positioning of the microphone at the threshold of the visual, this dissertation formulates an aesthetic approach to the microphone that addresses the complexity of its role as a discrete cultural object. The dissertation begins with an account of the microphone's inevitable material trace in the sound field, and historicizes its development and reception from its origins in acoustic science, to its positioning in early film sound experiments, to its implementation in radio, to its highly debated incorporation into Hollywood cinema. The subsequent chapters move to a study of the theoretical, aesthetic, industrial and performative concerns regarding its audiovisual perception in film, investigating the perception of its role as a sound collection device and generative figure in relation to the shot, image, performer and audience. The dissertation concludes by considering the value of the microphone's conflicted status as an image onscreen, proposing how various “images of audibility” have the potential to dismantle the blind spot instilled by dominant cinematic practices regarding the microphone.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Rony, Fatimah Tobing
Commitee: Hilderbrand, Lucas, Lim, Felicidad Cua
School: University of California, Irvine
Department: Visual Studies - Ph.D.
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 72/08, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Film studies
Keywords: Bow, Clara, Feminism, Film, History of technology, Microphone, Sound, Sound collection
Publication Number: 3457460
ISBN: 978-1-124-67981-5
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