Monash University

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Reason: Under embargo until Apr 2017. After this date a copy can be supplied under Section 51(2) of the Australian Copyright Act 1968 by submitting a document delivery request through your library

The void of experience: moments of musical rupture in cinema

posted on 2017-01-30, 23:18 authored by Letizi, Roberto Galliano Edward
If we are only able to say one lucid thing about the way we experience cinema, it might be that beyond its representations, its material qualities, its narrative structures, and its complex system of identifications, cinema moves us. We may conceptualise this in several ways, although the most profound feature of this experience is the sensation that regardless of the nature of our responses, they exist in that moment and never return in equal measure if we attempt to recreate the experience by revisiting the film and its affective moment. We become lost in cinema's propulsion through time in the duration of these experiences due to the medium's uncanny ability to communicate aspects of our existence that remain hidden in our ordinary interaction with the world. However, we cannot so easily determine how this occurs or from where. This does not diminish the substance of our experiences or discourage our innate desire to investigate these instances, but instead, our perceptive powers have become heightened and trained in the art of cinema's distinct ability to create this ecstatic and subjective moment. Music also shares this ability to move us, yet its format and our relationship to it unfolds in a manner dissimilar to cinema. First of all, unlike cinema, which revels in its capacity to express itself through visual terms, music exists in an invisible world beyond our reach. While music performance goes some way as a substitute for this missing visual representation, the extent that our understanding of music increases through these means is debatable. As an element of cinema, music finds a visual context in which to distil its abstract and figurative expressions, but crucially, despite the advent of conventional structures that seek to normalise it, music is often not bound to the film image in the manner commonly promulgated by the majority of film music scholarship. This digression holds significant repercussions not only for how we conceive of film music, but also how we come to understand and define the nature of our extraordinary experiences of cinema, which until this point have remained subject to the imperatives of cinema's visual realm. Consequently, this thesis seeks to reflect on the inexplicable moments of musical rupture in cinema, where a particular kind of musical presence reorders conventional film hierarchy and initiates a profound response within the subjective perceiver. These moments are transitory and ephemeral, and we move through them, only recognizing their existence retrospectively and in contrast to the undifferentiated haze of other less ecstatic moments. Yet despite our innate desire to possess these moments and somehow grasp the material reality of such experiences, we cannot account for them in this way because they exist not solely at the site of the text or the perceiver, but instead in a void somewhere between these two sites of opposition. As they flash before us and instantaneously fade into the past, the only solace we can take from this loss is that each ruptured moment transitions in this chronology to become a fragmented memory that informs our future experiential expectations. The foundation of this study is the explication of these moments through a detailed analysis of music’s intrinsic qualities and its relationship and interaction with the film image. The development of these ontological and textual notions will eventually take us into an extended investigation into the phenomenology of experience, drift, and the moment, where this study will mediate between the positions of both the perceiver and the text. Finally, we will come to terms with these experiences through the context of cinema's current digital form, which reconfigures the philosophical implications of these sublime moments and redefines how we will come to consider them into the future.


Principal supervisor

Deane Williams

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Department, School or Centre

Film and Screen Studies


Doctor of Philosophy

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Faculty of Arts

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