EMS Proceedings and Other Publications

Imaginary Listening

Julio d’Escriván

Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK


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The definition of the four listening modes by Schaeffer presupposes that sound is encountered and that composers react to it. This explanation seems to cast the composer or sound artist in a passive role. What the modes don’t seem to deal with is the sound which is dreamt up in order to accompany a visual image or an evoked mental image; a sound with no real source. Through reviewing cinematic instances such as the nightmarish sound world created for the transformation of Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde in the 1931 film by Reuben Mamoulian and the electronic sounds of futuristic space age machines in Maetzig’s Spaceship to Venus (1960), amongst others, this paper seeks to show how the work of sound artists in film precedes and then shadows the work of electroacoustic composers as they endow their sound creations with causal and semantic cues, through imaginary listening.