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Audiovisual metaphors

January 26, 2014

Still researching metaphor…

Kathrin Fahlenbrach writes: “Every time we perceive persons, objects, and space in audiovisual media, we are unconsciously guided by acoustic cues: the voice-pitch of a speaking person, the dull or sharp sounds of a moving object, the reverberation or frequency of a space. On the one hand, these acoustic cues transport physical and spatial qualities, such as the mass and materiality of bodies or the expanse of spaces. On the other hand, on a mostly unconscious physical level, they depict narrative meanings of spaces, objects, and of the characters. Especially the emotional effects of audiovisual figures and spaces are fundamentally [-p.86] influenced by sound. Sound design refers to deeply embodied gestalts that guide our perceptive, cognitive, and emotional experience. Due to its perceptive qualities and functions, sound can activate broad networks of bodily and cognitive associations.
In this article, I show that the sound design of narrative films explicitly makes use of these associative networks in order to produce emotional profiles of figures and spaces on the level of their audiovisual appearance – that is, in pictures and sound. The acoustic quality of audiovisual objects and characters is intentionally linked in sound design with complex narrative, symbolic, and emotional attributes.” (pp.85-86)

“The starting point for the emotional analysis of sound design and audiovisual metaphors for me,” writes Fahlenbrach, “is the presumption of the multidimensionality of emotions.” (p.86) She goes on to discuss emotions in terms of three levels of response. “The second dimension of emotional communication are associative schema,” for example. “Emotional communication on this level lies in the activation of emotion scripts. Fisher, Shaver, Carnochan (1990) define emotion scripts as cognitively generalized structures that include the knowledge about prototypical emotion cues as well as affective schema of emotion reactions and coping strategies. They assume that each primary emotion is linked with a script that schematically memorizes prototypical reaction schema and social events that typically characterize one specific emotion (e.g., [-p.88] fear or disgust) (Fischer et al. 1990: 92).” (pp.87-88)

“The theory of cognitive metaphors, established by Johnson (1987), Lakoff (1987), Kovecses (2002, 2003), and others, assumes that we conceptualize in our thought and experience abstract concepts (such as time or death) and complex experiences like emotions on the level of conceptual metaphors. Accordingly we continuously use in our thinking and feeling metaphorical strategies in order to concretize such complex and invisible concepts and states. Thereby we refer to physically rooted image schemata that conceptualize, for example, emotions as a ‘physical force’ or time as a ‘path.’ Thus we are able to metaphorically seize, diffuse, and abstract domains on a pre-symbolic level.” (p.88)

Ref: Kathrin Fahlenbrach (2008) Emotions in Sound: Audiovisual metaphors in the sound design of narrative films. Projections 2(2)Winter: 85-103

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