Monday, 6 May 2013

The Sound of Silence

A new blog by our new blogger. Enjoy and let us know what you think.


by L.J. Spence


This is what goes through my mind from time to time...

You can make a film in a many ways. It can be made on film, or on tape. It can be in colour, or black and white. It can be in 2D, or 3D. It can be shown on a giant screen, on a television, or on your phone. It can have mono, stereo, or surround sound. It can even be live action, or animation.

But would you make a film without a soundtrack? I thought not.

Warner Bros' "The Jazz Singer" (1927) ended thirty years of "silent" filmmaking in the United States, despite being mostly "silent" itself. In it, the performer Al Jolson invented film sound, not those that made the technology, which was originally intended to provide a musical performance where a cinema could not afford a live band.

The moment Jolson finished his first song, and used the words he often said on stage, "wait a minute, wait a minute, you ain't heard nothin' yet," films had to be made with sound, or risk being ignored by the general public. Warner Bros. didn't advertise it as their "Supreme Triumph" for nothing, as other studios scrambled to catch up.

It wasn't the novelty of hearing someone speak, it was hearing someone speak as if they were speaking to you. When Jolson later performs for his "mammy" at home, the improvised chat is revolutionary in how natural it sounds.

Even absence of natural sound is unnatural - it is what you expect to hear, just as the notorious musical piece "4' 33"", by John Cage, is not really that time of silence, it is the sound of human beings trying not making a noise for an unnatural amount of time.

Which brings us to "Blazing Saddles" (1974), the first Hollywood film to feature people farting. Which studio did it come from? Warner Bros., of course...


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