Image melancholy and the symbolics of sound

I’ve been wondering about my next post for quite a while. I simply didn’t know what to write about. Suddenly the subject appeared right before my very eyes. If you had ever visited the Alerton Building at the Frederic Road Campus of University of Salford you might know what I mean, if not, then please do read on regardless. The Alerton building looks like the older version of University’s new building at The Media City.  The similarities are so obvious that seeing the study area made an impression I can’t shake off. Portal 2. The experience, the feeling of melancholy and inevitability of passing time is what makes this game what it is. For those who never played- I am sure you’re all familiar with the feeling of getting older that we all get from time to time, and the regret that the 1990’s will never return (although my 10 years old clothes are back in fashion- nice money sever).

Let us get back to the point. I started wandering how people react to images and how we all interpret the visuals by the prism of our own experiences. For people who have never seen the Media City building seeing the older version of it wouldn’t matter, it’d be just yet another building like so many others. On the other hand there are examples of behaviour common to all, regardless of how different our personal histories are. The need to find sense and meaning in even the most random events.

It is said that an experiment was once performed. Unrelated, random images have been edited together and shown to people with a bed of music. Music was not synchronized to the pictures, the pictures were not related in any way, but the audience were convinced that the film shown to them is a work of art and conveys meaning, an important message from the artist, even though their own interpretation skills are not enough to grasp it. Another cinematic trick, which makes use of our investigative nature, is that the more we look at a single image on screen, either shown continuously or in short glimpses, the more interesting and mysterious it becomes; especially if it is seemingly unrelated to the events of the film.

Viewer would often increase his/her concentration in order to understand what this image means and how it relates to the artist’s/director’s vision. Imagine doing this trick with sound. Sound, as symbolic as it can be, is instantly recognizable by the audience. Even the most eerie, unnatural sounds are not distracting the viewer from the film’s plot. People know their role and why they are used there. It’s an almost subconscious reaction. But what if we are to place an unrelated, mystical sound in the middle of our film, a sound seemingly unrelated to the plot? Would this technique keep the audience on the edge of their seats craving to know more about the meaning of this random sound effect? At best they might think about it for a second, get a bit distracted by it and then go back to the film’s action. At worse they will feel that the film is poor quality and the sound effects disappointing. Sound is only symbolic in a commonly known ways, created through the history of film cannon of meanings, instantly recognizable by every generation of cinemagoers. Image, on the other hand, can be mysterious, symbolic and loaded with elegiac pathos if used in a new, controversial way. Think of all the home videos people record over the years. How haunting the images would become if found 60 years after, in a basement of a ruined house? How more interesting the film would become if the identity of the family was unknown? It is the nature of film itself, it’s melancholy and the way it freezes time for future generations….

So, why not commence a #videoexperiment? Let us try to crate meaning out of a seemingly meaningless pulp of video and still pictures. I dare you to sent short videos, stills and graphics; accompanied by a number (the number will represent their place in the edited film). The only requirement for all the images is that they need to be artistic in their nature, enough to capture our imagination.

Send them via Dropsend, Transferbigfiles, or any other, trusted file sharing site, to :

Thank You

Image melancholy and the symbolics of sound

8 thoughts on “Image melancholy and the symbolics of sound

  1. In support of your experiment I have offered my contribution which you will find on my blog (read the post and then use accordingly), I feel this is going to be such an excellent chance for people to offer their own ideas. I have also added a link to this page on my blog.

  2. This reminds me of the compositional concept known as ‘implied harmony’. The cunning composer relies on our cache of short term musical memories and the involuntary search for meaningful patterns in order to represent a theme through harmony rather than plainly stated

  3. Fascinating post Alicja – as always. I love the way you get us thinking about things in different ways, making such strong contributions to the group. Really excellent.

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