Saturday, February 3, 2018

Reba Wissner on Hearing the Unseen

On The Avid Listener (W. W. Norton's in-house blog), Reba A. Wissner writes about "Hearing with Your Eyes: Science Fiction Television and Hearing the Unseen": link. Her video examples include a spooky scene from 19th century composer Carl Maria von Weber's opera Der Freischütz and three scenes from TV sci-fi shows (The Invaders, The Outer Limits, and The Twilight Zone).

Although she doesn't use the term, Wissner is writing about what Michel Chion calls the acousmêtre, an unseen agent "embodied" by sound (Hearing the Movies, second edition, pages 74-75), but she also discusses actions (physical attacks) carried out by these agents and also not presented onscreen (Hearing the Movies, chapter 3, describes and illustrates a number of types of offscreen sound).

As with Jonathan Godsall's Avid Listener post that we recommended a few days ago (link), Wissner's post has discussion questions at the end. These, however, assume fairly substantial student knowledge of television repertoires. One might complement or substitute for those questions an exercise that compares/contrasts techniques and effects in the TV clips with those in a feature film scene, perhaps from one of the films mentioned in Chapter 3, one of the versions of The Invisible Man, or even a teen horror flick (some films in that genre have achieved a kind of cult status and might well be familiar to many undergraduates; your current writer has found that students may seem a little embarrassed about their own knowledge of this repertoire, but one has only to ask and they will quickly come up with titles and also be enthusiastic about the chance to make presentations to the class).