Giorgio Biancorosso – Situated Listening: The Sound of Absorption in Classical Cinema


Oxford University Press, ISBN-13: 978-0195374711, English, 264 pages, 2016, USA

The representation of the ‘listening experience’ in classic movies has always conflicted with the dominance of the visual and its compelling narrative. Apparently we tend to relegate sounds, music and voices to a specific layer of perception, into a sort of ‘aural space’. And probably this process takes place, as Biancorosso quotes in the introduction, because “the [naked] ear cannot choose what to hear the way the eye chooses what to see”. But the author is committed to explain how we can change our common viewer perspective, allowing a different awareness of this aural space, through an analytic methodology. What he does is introduce the reader, through detailed description of scenes from iconic movies, to a few fundamental aural and visual dynamics, closely following one character. This practice continuously trains him to expand the ability then to read the sequences through their musical characteristics, creating a different empathy with the subjects and the story. He becomes a ‘situated listener’, then, possibly perceiving the movie in multiple dimensions. A couple of explained structures are, for example, the composition of ‘epiphanies’, or the radio broadcasts and the specific psychological space they create becoming possible ‘agents’ (or an ‘anamorphic spot’). The author seems to break apart the abstraction of the soundtrack, reformulating it in the whole aural spectrum and as a series of events. The listener is then helped to deconstruct the role of sound, fully re-appropriating its subordinate position in movies.