Sound/Image Relationships in the Context of Abstraction : Towards a Typological Proposition

Abstract

Issuing from the electroacoustic music field, videomusic closely associates sound and moving image within a unified perceptual space, guided by intuitive rules that largely remain to be formalised. My Ph.D. in electroacoustic composition, more precisely in videomusic composition, focuses on the musical writing of the image from the structural and typological foundations of electroacoustic music. The work aims to propose a classification of image/sound relationships as a building bloc for an eventual grammar of the genre. Starting from established references such as Pierre Schaeffer’s TARTYP, Stéphane Roy’s functional analysis and a number of ideas floated by Michel Chion in his writings about sound in the moving image context. As a by-product of this research, we hope to provide analytical linguistic tools useful for the practice of videomusic, in a similar way that acousmatics is helped by Schaeffer’s or Roy’s analysis and typomorphological ideas.

The perceptual space of videomusic exists in a non-narrative context that is typically devoid of story. Constructed from sounds and images manipulated with computer-based processing, editing and compositing, the use of technology is at the heart of the videomusic practice. It proposes a hybrid form between the abstract and the representational where form, color and movement are the main objects of interest.

The largest part of the literature on the links between sound and image is concerned with the creation of sound at the service of the image, and its effect in cinematographic narrative. It is then mainly discussed in terms relating to instrumental music or sound design. We wish to open up new avenues of reflection by seeking counsel with electroacoustic music, and draw inspiration from its writing, its particularities and its creative processes. The purpose is to use the same kinds of organisational insights to compose moving imagery, as they are used for composing sound. Since this practice is relatively young (dating from the later half of the 20th century with the work of both filmmakers and composers), the work is often seen as experimental but, as the practice evolved, an urgent need is felt for descriptive handles to talk about videomusic. Several types of decision-making are made in the process of creating an audiovisual work, all of which are intuitive and/or deductive. We wish to examine the affect of these decisions and see how this information can be organized in a formal classification, so the work can be better understood and discussed.

I will not summarize my research here, but rather present a section on the initial outline of a typology of audiovisual relationships. The classification consists of a table formed – for the moment – of 19 relations, divided into three main categories : diegesis, synchresis, and time. These relationships make it possible to conceptualize the role played in the work by the sound-musical-visual dialogue.