From Practice To Theory: A Start of Chion – Added Value

I have spent the past couple of days working with Andrew working on the sound design for A Journey To Paradise, so much so I felt I was missing something. Now we have decided on the chosen scenes we wish to both show and articulate on, I felt the need to go back to theory and try to recuperate the main reasons why I love sound design. I felt myself being pulled into the practice of sound design instead of finding a unique way in driving and adding depth to the narrative, I had to retreat to my books.

I have a collection of sound books booked out from the library all revolving around the theory of sound, thanks to my third year this couldn’t be better timing. Books that discuss sound and it’s importance, touching upon different aspects, voice, ambiance, SFX, space. Each one as important as the other. A number of which by Michel Chion, as I have already stated the bulk of my work will focus on his ideas.

I turn to Michel Chions work in hope of a number of things. I really wanted some insight into the synergy of sight and sound. I feel that maybe I have been doing it wrong lately, I have been acting almost as a defender of sound, yelling at the rooftops its power, what it can do that visuals can not,  this isn’t the way, I do not want to become those who I don’t understand, by this I am talking about the people who dismiss sound as a second thought or an asset that needs no thought or inclusion. In Michel Chions – Audio-Vision (Chion, Gorbman and Murch, 1994).

michel chion audiovision

He expresses his need to educate and show that one does not simply exist without the other, both visuals and sound work alongside each other in a contractual bond, not built from natural harmony but a contract. Although he does make an attack of the small thinkers who believe visuals are all and nothing he does make it clear that he respects both tools of film.

Is the Notion of cinema as the art of the image just an illusions? Of course: how, ultimately can it be anything else?

Chion addresses this need for one another as added value,

Added Value

“Whatever virtues sound brings to the film are largely perceived and appreciated by the audience in visual terms – the better the sound, the better the image”

Added value is the term Chion uses when describing the relationship between visuals and audio, in this he explains how sound enriches a given image, this of course works both ways. By this I am talking about how both image and audio have the ability to work off each other and allow a chance to manipulate the given image/audio. Taking the time to look at this further, Chion tells us that sound can change the everyday image, and image can change the everyday sound.

Looking for an example I came across a certain scene from Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers. (The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, 2002). The dinner scene is made to be a uncomfortable scene to watch, this is down to the visuals and the sound working together.

We are made aware that Faramir is evidentially riding to almost certain death, under his fathers commands. When riding towards the Orc ranks the Father sits and feasts on red meat and an assortment of other food. The sound of chicken legs snapping, tomatoes being split in half with his teeth are shown over imagery of Faramir riding. Without one another not only would we be unable to understand the full connection, the disappointment his father holds, we would also lose the unease of the whole situation, the barbarity and sickness of it. Without seeing blood, death or loss, we hear it. It’s in this that we are attacked on a more personal level, a level that everyone can recognise and connect to.

This idea of Added Value, and the notion that image and sound can work together to create a third meaning is later on in the book touched upon again. Synchresis takes this idea further, looking at how a combination of possible images and sounds can create multiple meaning. This however will be looked at in another post.

 Whilst reading through the book however, something was happening. Thoughts, ideas, theory! All running in my head, I finally found that much-needed push in the right direction.

When carrying out the post work on A Journey To Paradise I couldn’t help but feel I was going through the motions, to worried about making it sound big, realistic (although these factors do matter), but Michel Chion’s work gave me an artistic stroke when thinking around sound design, so much so I know exactly what it is I want to be looking at, as well as what I want to show in my 15 minute talk.

The reality of being able to go through all 4 books of Chion and write about them extensively is naive, however I wish to touch on several of his chapters both connecting them with my work and others. In hope that I can produce a cohesive practical piece, as well as a theoretical one.

I have found several chapters already that link to both screenings and my film, I wish to tackle, research, show and finally understand each one through the remaining days of my hand in, I will carry my research on after in theory that it will help my dissertation project in the third year. I will do this by dedicating a blog post to each subject, linking in several films including my own.

So here’s to you Chion!


Chion, M., Gorbman, C. and Murch, W. (1994). Audio-vision. 1st ed. New York: Columbia University Press.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. (2002). [film] New Zealand, United Kingdom, USA: Peter Jackson.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s