MPSE Wavelength

Summer 2023

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72 M PS E . O R G (Levinson cited in, Bordwell and Carroll, 2012) How is this sensorial exposure providing perpetual access to the film world the reader might ask? If all the film soundtrack had was white noise, which is "a special type of random noise where the energy content is the same at each frequency" (White and Louie, 2005), we would be sensorially exposed to the film indeed, because our ears would pick up that noise but because white noise is so uninteresting to the brain, it would not engage us perceptually and this is known as sensory adaptation. We often don't perceive stimuli that remain relatively constant over prolonged periods of time. What we're doing as sound designers is providing the audience with perceptually coherent information so that their brains can aurally perceive and process the film world the way the filmmakers intended. To put it in the words of Jerrold Levinson; "The presenter in a film presents, or gives perceptual BY JAVIER QUESADA MPSE BY JAVIER QUESADA MPSE Perception "refers to the way sensory information is organised, interpreted, and consciously experienced ." (Dumper et al., 2017) lthough it is tempting to segmentate the process of human hearing to analyse the different stages our hearing goes through, our auditory system is more complex than that. "Like other sensory systems, the auditory system can be thought of as a processing cascade, extending from the sensory receptors to cortical areas believed to mediate auditory-based decisions. This "feed-forward" view of processing underlies much auditory research. As in other systems, however, feedback from later stages to earlier ones is ubiquitous and substantial, and in the auditory system is perhaps even more pronounced than elsewhere in the brain." (Wixted and Serences, 2018) Let us talk about sound as a sonic perceptual enabler of the film world. I want us to think for [ PA R T 2 O F A 5 - PA R T S E R I E S ] Film Sound as Perceptual Access to the Diegesis A a minute on something Jerrold Levinson acutely pointed out which is that "the presenter in a film gives perceptual access to the story's sights and sounds; the presenter in a film is thus, in part, a sort of perceptual enabler." (Levinson cited in, Bordwell and Carroll, 2012) And that the director or cinematic narrator is our perceptual pilot through the film world. It is the job of the sound depart- ment, the photography department, art department, costume, makeup, and every department involved in the construction of the story world to be perceptual enablers for the audience. As sound designers in particular, we decide how much of that world, and why, the audience gets to perceive sonically. As Levinson points out, narrative is not constructed by visual means alone. "The notion of a presenter, whose main charge is the providing of perceptual access on the fictional world, is simply the best default assumption available for how we make sense of narrative fiction film."

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