Category Archives: Prose

My Green Isn’t Yours, Although Socially it May Be

Throughout all of the phenomena of the world, there seems to be a handful that cannot be described in a one to one ratio fashion. One of those phenomena seems to be color. Color perception is a well disputed branch of color philosophy. One of the most convincing theories of color perception is the inverted spectrum. However, taking it a step further, the inverted spectrum doesn’t have to be so clear-cut and defining, as a one to one ratio, but that those perceptual inadequacies exist on the translation of color from perception to word.

One of the leading antagonists to the inverted spectrum theory is Hardin. Hardin is, somewhat, of a physicalist who believes that everything should be able to be explained through empirical tests. In his essay, “Qualia and Materialism”, Hardin makes an attempt to illustrate his argument. “…just as the theoretical entities postulated by statistical mechanics were confirmed by independent procedures in physics and chemistry, direct cellular recordings have established the basic opponent process mechanisms. The resulting theoretical picture may be crudely sketched in the following way:’4 Red and green are coded on one chromatic channel, which we shall call the r-g channel, and yellow and blue on another, which we shall call the y-b channel, with black and white represented on a third, achromatic channel.” (Hardin 287)

Hardin’s  view harkens back to the explanation of metamers and how certain cones are excited through seeing certain objects. If one were to see a Macintosh Apple, the red cone cells are activated leaving an impression of ‘red’. Same would go with blue and green, with a combination of cone activation when it comes to in between colors.

In essence, Hardin almost completely rejects the notion of people having their own personal disposition on color perception, and enforces a notion of universal color perception. “Though sensory experience-brain process identity, if it holds, must hold necessarily, our grounds for asserting it or any comparable reductive claim will, in the last analysis, be empirical, and the principles which guide such claims should be quite similar to those which guided the analogous claims in the kinetic-molecular theory of heat.” (Hardin 293) It is easy for one with solely pragmatic thought to completely believe Hardin’s claim. However, with the claim relying solely on the functions of the metamers and cones, Hardin completely ignores the notions of the relational qualities between the receptors and the perception and acknowledgement of the color itself. It is completely acceptable to understand the functions of the different components of color perception, but the physical properties themselves cannot start to explain the reception of the colors, other than the physical qualities of perception are near universal. It is common error to not differentiate between the physical changes that happen due to seeing a color, and the reception and acknowledgement of the colors seen.

One of the theories that start to penetrate the relational aspects between physical changes made and color acknowledged is the theory involving the inverted spectrum, a theory that Hardin tries his hardest to invalidate with his empirical and physical reasoning abilities.  Instead of making a keystone out of the physical properties of the color and the reactions it causes, spectral inversion relies more on the metaphysical perception properties that the color holds, the exact properties that we are looking for. The core theme of spectral inversion states that when the color receptors receive information from an object, a metaphysical process helps to acknowledge that the color is red, or green, or what color have you. This process of color acknowledgment is individual to the person’s own disposition of colors. When one person sees an object and says that it is red, person B could see the same object, say that it is red, but perceive a completely separate disposition from the object that person A sees. Even though both acknowledge that the color is indeed red, and the object has the physical properties of red, causing the reaction in the cones that bring forth redness, there is no say that the physical properties of the object, that cause redness, makes both person A and person B perceive, or see, the same color. For all one could know, a person that is saying that they are seeing red, could indeed be seeing what is perceived as green to another person. However, through social interaction and cultural influences, everyone would acknowledge that a Macintosh apple is red, and a Granny Smith Apple is green, although the phenomenological dispositions of those objects could be separate from person to person.

The spectral inversion theory agrees with the above argument, however only to the point that colors can be inversions, meaning the metaphysical dispositions that one object’s physical disposition could reflect upon the perceiver, is confined to only analogous colors, that is a color and its opposite. It is that very confinement that Hardin uses against this metaphysical theory. “Whatever analogies one tends to use, there is the inclination to see not only resemblance but also polarity, with red and yellow assigned a positive sense whereas green and blue are given a negative sense. If one seizes on the “warm” and “cool” terminology, one is tempted to ascribe the resemblance to obvious environmental associations, but further reflection on the character of the resemblances and differences persuades one that they are, as it were, intrinsic to the perceived colors, and that “warm” and “cool” express, rather, a deeper analogy.’” (Hardin 289) Hardin basically states that since warm colors, yellow, red, etc, cause different physical reactions than cool colors, blue, purple, etc, making it impossible for analogous colors to be able to have the same metaphysical disposition in perceived color.

In a way, everything that Hardin says is true. Objects such as a red Macintosh Apple do cause completely separate reactions within the cones and rods in the retina, but here in his argument we are still relying on the physical properties and reactions, not the perception of the color in the mind. However, what the spectral inversion theory fails to acknowledge is that the perception of the color doesn’t necessarily have to be an inversion of the actual. When person A sees a Macintosh Apple and acknowledges that it is red, person B does not necessarily have to be processing exactly what person A is perceiving. When person A says that they are seeing red, person B may in fact be seeing what person A would consider yellow, but there is a social agreement that the object is indeed red. Once again, the physical properties of the object may be the same and cause similar reactions in person A’s and person B’s eye, but the disposition of person A and B may cause them to see completely different colors, but both could acknowledge that is red. It is the process between the physical reactions in the retina and a person’s own phenomenological disposition that causes the color to be perceived. The metaphysical dispositions do not have to be confined to two analogous dispositions, but rather any separate dispositions from any two spots on the color wheel.

This theory, which I believe is my own, though may have been visited before by philosophers due to its close relationship to the spectral inversion theory, is also proven through Hume’s Missing Blue. Although we are dealing more with physical properties in Hume’s argument, the philosophy behind the argument is the same key ingredient behind my argument of dispositional perception. Basically, out of a line of cars representing every color of blue, one person would be able to come up and easily state that there is a blue missing between this one blue, and the blue beside it. Putting that in terms of metaphysical perception, all of the cars are labeled, socially, as being in the ‘blue’ family, however, might cause different perceptual distinctions within the viewer. The blue for one could be seen as a red for another, in person one’s eyes, but everything seems cohesive, socially and outspokenly. Along comes another person that sees a color that no one else has ever seen. This new person shows a swatch and calls it ‘aging forest mossed green’. From now on, the first two people will regard this new color, no matter how it was perceived intrinsically, as aging forest moss green. There is now an anchor point for this color, even though the color may be perceived differently, depending on the disposition of the individual, for each person. The color is still aging forest moss green, due to the social anchor.

Color is perhaps one of the most enigmatic properties that exist within this world. No one theory, it seems in modern thought, could be used to explain all of its complexities. All we can do is open up color into the realm of possibilities. It is evident that physicalism doesn’t do suit to the  color conundrum, and neither does spectral inversion alone. A step further than spectral inversion, dispositional perspective, seems to explain color philosophy even more. However, the riddle of the color still remains.

 

Seth Tyler Black Dec. 2010

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Appreciate Your Knowledge

Let us all start off on the same page. If you just pass a piece of artwork, it is pretty hard to be void of all emotion. After watching a film, one is likely to rank the film immediately amongst their other favorite films. When one passes a statue, it one doesn’t simply walk past it without thinking (unless one happens to live in that particular city and it goes unnoticed). Any artwork in a museum triggers an immediate response of “Oh, I will stop to look at that” or “Out of everything in this room, this one is the least appealing, so I will pass it.” All of these interactions between the recipient and the artwork trigger some sort of emotional arousal. It doesn’t take much more than the simplest pragmatic thought to be able to understand that conjecture. However, when someone does stop to look at the triptych in the National Gallery, or has a cathartic attachment to a film, or an upheaval of emotion for an artwork, whatever it be, a certain higher level of appreciation almost automatically attached to the piece. Through more and more emotional arousal, more appreciation is gained.

In order to understand this level of higher appreciation through emotion, we must first know what exactly, physiologically and cognitively, makes up have this inner feeling. According to Davies, psychologists and physiologists believe that the cognitive elements of emotion could be understood through one’s beliefs and desires. “Fear [for example] usually involves the belief that one is threatened by harm and the desire to freeze, flee, or fight. Envy [in another example] one must believe that someone has something that they [themselves] want.” (Davies, 138) Davies goes on to describe how other emotions could involve this dichotomy between belief and desire. However, despite the scientists’ beliefs, Davies believes that while some emotions, such as fear and disgust, involve a physiological response that is inherited through evolution, other more complex emotions, such as love, happiness, and sadness involve a much higher understanding of higher cognitive thought to explain, rather than just writing them off as involving only a physiological response involving the shooting of neurons and the release of serotonin.

Emotions such as love, happiness, sadness, and freedom could be felt through a variety of completely different circumstances. To give some examples, love could be felt by one in a well-off relationship, and also by one who devotes his whole life to his pursuit of making his art known. While one is more of a personal feeling between two people, the love between the artist and his work could both be categorized under the emotion, love. Just like so, feelings of freedom could be felt by an immigrant arriving at Ellis Island in the early 1900’s, but also by the bohemian independent artist who follows no one else’s beat but their own. These emotions can be felt in a multitude of circumstances that are completely different and separate. Unlike the emotion of disgust, which involves almost solely an evolutionary physiological response, responses to the more subjective feelings seem to involve a higher level of cognition. According to Davies, the evolutionist, this discrepancy between the emotions should be only explained as a “complexity and variety of [both] human natural and cultural history.” With no real definitive answer, in regards to the emotional arousal from art, it should be easily explained as a mixture between both higher level cognitive elements, as well as the physiological responses that are inherited through evolutionary lines.

So, using Davies’ disclaimer on emotional arousal, we could easily dismiss that the artwork that we simply rank lower, dislike, or disregard require the lower level or pure physiological responses more so than higher cognitive action. Artwork that disgusts us, or makes us have a fear of impending doom (take Marina Abramovic’s “Rhythm 0”, and some of her other earlier works, into account) is more easily disregarded and underappreciated. Therefore, it can be easily determined that, in regards to Davies’ argument, artwork that evoke emotions of higher cognition, Nolan’s film “Inception” and Delacroix’s “Liberty Leading the People”, is more likely to have a higher level of appreciation by the masses. However, despite Davies’ strong theory of emotional arousal, it is based solely on the theory of evolution. There is more to be explained when it comes to appreciation of art, since one could appreciate such works that evoke pure physiological responses, though it may take some training of the mind and higher thought.

One of the foundational properties that allow humans to have appreciation, through emotional arousal, is knowledge. Knowledge of a particular subject, thus having knowledge of a subject that a certain artwork represents or resembles, is a key element of emotional arousal through art. According to philosopher Kendall Walton’s essay, “Categories of Art”, “a work seems or appears to us to have certain aesthetic properties because we observe it…” (Walton, 338) If a certain aesthetic, or nonaesthetic, property goes unnoticed, then it would be impossible for one to include that property in their assessment of the piece. However, on the other side, having that knowledge, that the said subject does represent something, adds to the emotional arousal of the piece. One who identifies Icarus in the painting “The Fall of Icarus” is more likely to have a better sense of the meaning of the piece as a whole. Seeing that Icarus is just this little tiny splotch on a large detailed canvas not only tells the story of Icarus, but also the story of a major event (Icarus drowning in this case) going unnoticed by the bustle of daily life wherever the subject lives. One could take another step if he knows the story of Icarus. The perceiver could take from the painting that even if one fails in their own destined endeavors, the endeavor may be ignored by society at large. Both of these interpretations are similar, but slightly different that one requires more knowledge of the subject and what it represents within the work. The more knowledge that is known by the perceiver, the more emotionally invested they would be in the work, thus creating more appreciation. If we were to pass seeing Icarus in the painting, or only identify Icarus but do not have any more invested knowledge in the story, the more apathetic you would be towards the painting, thus having less appreciation. Only identifying the gestalt properties of the piece can only lead to a limited level of appreciation, much lower than if one were to identify both gestalt and aesthetic properties.

This notion of knowledge extends even further than the gestalt and aesthetic properties of the piece, en mi opinion. It is through taking a blind eye to the translation of the piece of an artwork by another artist that we would come up with having appreciation through only knowledge of the gestalt and aesthetic properties. In the days of modern technology, internet, television interviews, DVDs, it is very easy to find commentary by the artist on how and why they decided to make such a piece of work. Knowing such knowledge would then influence one, after the point of perception of the piece (or before if you are in a certain film or art class), to perceive the artwork in a different light, or lens have you will. Knowing that Jean Luc Godard was indeed trying to predict what was going to happen in Paris, within a few years in, while watching his one film “La Chinoise”, one would be more likely to be able to have an emotional arousal for the narrative and style choices of the film. Otherwise, one would be likely to pass it up or fall asleep (as my parents did when I made them watch it while I was writing a screenplay of the same time period).

Also, knowing the culture behind what happened in Paris in May 1968 would help with getting a cathartic reaction from the piece, and also knowing that the film was made before those events of May ’68 (made in ’67) adds to the appreciation of the filmmaker, style, and film itself as a whole. Without this knowledge, artworks that do not necessarily abide by the mainstream canon would be passed up. Could these extrinsic values be categorized as aesthetic? Not necessarily so since they are easily definable. Could they be considered gestalt properties? Well, no because they do not deal with patterns of color or what you would observe. Nonetheless, artist intention and cultural properties cannot be looked over, as they add a tremendous amount of implicit emotion arousal and further the appreciation of the piece.

However, taking some of Walton’s other writings into account, he states that the emotions aroused by this fictional piece of artwork can only involve emotions in an imaginative sense. Walton calls these emotions “make-belief quasi-emotions”. Using Walton’s terms, it sounds as if these emotions go away after you leave the art. However, being a free-thinker applied ideas, one must understand that this is not necessarily true. According to Walton, these quasi-emotions do not prompt any behavior, although they may cause the same type of physiological reaction. (Walton)

When thinking of Walton’s argument, we must take the art of film, and hyperrealistic documentary film, into account. If one watches the film “Yes Men Fix the World” it is hardly possible for one to walk away without having the art of their documentary impact your own behaviors. In the film, the Yes Men use the loopholes within the hegemony of America in order to expose the horrific truths about American business and policy. They pretend to be associates of large policy making companies, the ones that are responsible for the rebuilding of New Orleans and the extortion of oil, and hold large conferences with high-ups in order to document the death-causing and ridiculous policies that they have in place. This art is most likely going to cause behavioral action after the credits role. Whether or not one is moved to stop buying oil from a certain company, or stop buying pesticide chemicals from a manufacturer, emotions were aroused to the point of behavioral action, and thus created an appreciation for what the Yes Men had to say.

So we arrive to this point, the point that we were trying to come across through all of these theories and examples, how does this emotional arousal through pieces of art cause for more appreciation of a piece? One would be blind to just accept the evolutionary and aesthetic philosophies of Davies, or the categorical “fictional” philosophies that Walton puts on the table. What we need is a more solid ad definitive answer, what brings on appreciation? Through the study and analysis of all of the above, one can determine that the number one factor that enhances the emotional arousal of a piece, and thus enhances its appreciation, is knowledge.

Through knowledge, of any or all of an artworks properties, one is able to fully appreciate, to whatever limit the known knowledge allows, the work. Knowledge allows the perceiver of the artwork to have more of an emotional arousal, due to the perceiver not only understanding the gestalt properties that, through evolution, cause autonomic reactions, but also knowledge of the aesthetic and intention/cultural properties. Having knowledge invested within a piece of art automatically gives you emotional connections that increase appreciation. If an artwork, like Marina Abramovic’s “Rhythm 0”, is presented to you, you may at first fear for her life, as she could be stabbed or eve shot. However, after that initial fear, one could realize the relationship between Marina and the perceivers, that she was the object and it is up to the onlookers to change and make the art, in other words putting the art in their hands. That relational knowledge adds more emotional appeal to the flat physiologically induced fear that one feels, thus appreciating it more with the knowledge than one would with just the fear. We could go on and on, stating more and more by having more and more levels of analysis, down probably down to the clothing that Marina wore during the performance.

The old saying knowledge is power is no lie. Having an emotional response to a work of art goes far beyond the pragmatic sense of the word emotion. When talking about art, we talk about how the art makes us feel, a gesture that goes to the innermost depths of the human heart and phenomenology. Being moved by a piece is only furthered through the knowledge of more and more fact about it. All of a sudden, not only are we appreciating the artwork itself, abut appreciating the intentions and cultures around it that help to make the artwork come to life. Layers upon layers of knowledge, layers upon layers of emotional attachment and investment, leads to layers upon layers upon layers of appreciation.

– Seth Tyler Black Dec. 2010

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A Beauty’s Sequel: A Critique on Hitchock’s Rebecca

Without a doubt, Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca is a film that is both enticing, and filled with references that filmmakers and artists use still to this day. The film has many innovations for the medium at the time that Rebecca was produced, including the use of a female as the main protagonist instead of just vasolined eye candy (something that I thought was unheard of before Varda’s Cleo 5 to 7). However, instead of using this space to talk about the surface-level phenomena that Hitchcock uses within the film, I’m going to take my initiative and speak about some interesting parallels that I saw between Rebecca and another film classic.

I do not know if this tale was used as a reference for Hitchcock while making Rebecca, a reference the screenwriter used, a reference for the original author, Daphne de Maurier, or just not a reference at all. I also do not know if it is the other way around, Rebecca influencing the many film adaptations of this tale post 1940, but Hitchcock’s Rebecca has numerous parallels to the children’s classic tale Beauty and the Beast.

Before I go into explanation, I must warn everyone reading that the Beauty and the Beast adaptation that I will refer to while analyzing is the 1980’s Disney film that most people associate Beauty and the Beast with. However, I must remind everyone that the tale came about in the 1700’s, so it is plausible that either Rebecca was partly inspired by the tale Beauty and the Beast, or what was depicted in the Disney classic film as the tale Beauty and the Beast was partly inspired by Rebecca.

To start off the comparison we must look at the two castles, Madalay and the Beast’s castle, which both see little to no visitors. Both huge, both isolated, and both inhabited by a man who could be seen as deceitful and reliant upon his housekeepers. The ‘beauty’ of the two stories, Rebecca and Belle, reside in the East Wing of the castle while her lover, take it the Beast or Mr. Dewinter, resides in the West Wing. Both have libraries, where the beauty can go to enjoy her studies and conduct work, Also, amongst the housekeepers, there is a dominant female (Mrs. Potts vs. Mrs. Danvers), a regal doorman (Lumiere vs. Butler in Rebecca), and a dog that seems to follow the beauty around the castle. There is also a huge rose vase in the middle of Mr. Dewinter’s room, like the sacred rose in the compared tale.

However, it would be completely ignorant to just look at the superficial levels of the characters, and the castle, and just claim inspiration. The feelings and actions of the characters in Rebecca also reflect the nature of the characters in Beauty and the Beast. Firstly the beast, Mr. Dewinter, makes claims that Rebecca should have “never come back”, and he even gets angered when Rebecca comes to the great hall, reminiscent of the great hall in Disney’s film, wearing a dress that is reminiscent of his dearest Rebecca’s (I still believe he loved Rebecca and inflated their arguments) gown, which is extremely similar to the gown worn by Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Rebecca often says things like, “I want things to be the way they used to be!” which often is Belle’s same attitude. There is also Gaston, a man coming inside through a window that is trying to seduce Rebecca.

All of this put together leads me to believe the story of Rebecca could plausibly be a sequel to the classic tale of Beauty and the Beast. Since the plot of Rebecca revolves around the second Mrs. Dewinter trying to emulate Rebecca, that could explain the parallels between her story and Belle’s story. If the second Mrs. Dewinter is Rebecca, and Rebecca is Belle, then the second Mrs. Dewinter’s story would be paralleled with Belle’s story. There is even a “Kill the Beast!” scene during Mr. Dewinter’s stint of guiltiness during the trial. The only major difference between the two pieces of work is that Mrs. Potts, Mrs. Danver, has “gone crazy” between the two time periods that the diegesis of Beauty and the Beast and Rebecca take place. And Mrs. Danver’s going crazy is completely plausible because she was obsessed with Rebecca, just as Mrs. Potts was obsessed with Belle.

The tale came first, and then de Mauriers novel, then Rebecca, then the film adaptations of Beauty and the Beast. I’m not arguing that Hitchcock’s film was partly inspired by the tale, or that the tale’s film adaptations were inspired by what was depicted in Rebecca. I am arguing that the plots and depictions of the two stories have plausible bidirectional influences. Beauty and the Beast is a tale that has been around for centuries, and there have been numerous adaptations of it, and numerous works inspired by it. Putting the years aside, it is safe to say that today, Hitchcock’s 1940 film could be released under the title Rebecca: A Real Life Sequel to Beauty and the Beast.

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Theatre or Reality (a critique on The 39 Steps)

Without any long dissertation on his films, it is definitely safe to say that if anyone mentions the name “Hitchcock” to a person on the street they will get a quick label of “film genius”, “pioneer”, or “the guy that did Psycho…and The Birds”. Hitchcock is just one of those figures that almost every American, and otherwise, filmgoer knows, even without seeing any of his films. For his time, which spanned through many eras when film was still getting established as a relevant medium, Hitchcock was definitely one of the pioneers that got film up on its own feet. In one of his early films, The 39 Steps, Hitchcock used his narrative to implicitly explain the infinite possibilities of the film medium.

In 1935, when The 39 Steps was released, little was known to the public about the mechanics and technicalities of film. Despite coming a long way from patrons running out of theatres thinking that a bullet was going to fly out if the screen and hit them in the face (The Great Train Robbery), film was seen by many as an equivalent to the older mass entertainment, theatre. Theatre hopefully was, and is, seen as a reflection of a reality shown through acting, which is obviously ends up with fake reality. This superficial relationship between the actor and audience member adds permeable layer of separation between the two. At the end of the day, both the actor and patron will leave unharmed and unaffected. At the end of a film, audience members left, and unfortunately sometimes still do leave, unaffected. It’s entertainment.

Hitchock took that reality in The 39 Steps and redefined it for film, showing that film has the potential to be a more intimate medium than any other previous art forms. One of the first shots from The 39 Steps has a curtain opening onstage and a magician/memory man starts performing his act. Even before we meet the main character, we are given acting within the diegesis. This instance of double acting probably has little to no effect on the audience since stages have been used in film before, dating back to the Jazz Singer and arguably Melies’ Trip to the Moon. The film takes this double acting image further by having many of the key characters acting in one way or another.

Some of the notable instances of when double acting can be seen include: Hannay’s numerous aliases that require him to act in many different ways other than himself, the farmer’s wife who loves her husband to face but really values affairs younger men that are closer to her age, and the spy’s wife who nonchalantly asks how long her husband will take before coming downstairs for dinner (?) all while the spy is holding a gun to Hannay. There is even an instance of triple acting when Hannay ends up onstage during a political convention while trying to evade the police. The film is full of these instances, making seemingly every character an actor in some fashion, but as Hannay’s first encounter puts it after guessing that she was an actress, “Not in the way you mean.”

So what all does this mean? Who cares if there are actors who are acting while acting? The entire film seems to be a big play in a film. Audience members are left wondering what the real story is. If what’s happening diegetically is an act, then what is the truth of the film? Does it matter what is real, this delineation between the reality and theatre of the film?

Hitchcock definitely achieved a level apathy for reality in his film The 39 Steps. Through this whole process of double and triple acting, audience members lower their “fake” guard. It is almost impossible to follow the “real stories” of the characters within The 39 Steps. Hitchcock’s characters are constantly acting in a different manner than is their own. All of this creates a well-deserved apathy for the real reality of what is happening during The 39 Steps, and its surface reality is suddenly more tangible because of the apathy for delineation within the film. One of the final shots of the film is of a curtain closing onstage, bringing us back to the real reality of the diegesis during the very last seconds.

At the end of The 39 Steps, the audience members leave with a new-found appreciation for the, now, infinite possibilities of film. It was all Hitchcock. Try making every actor in a play act like they are acting, and make a reality out of it.

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Sound Innovation (a critique on Bande à Part)

Grand themes, wall-to-wall  scoring, and subtle leitmotifs. These are all techniques that could be considered quite common in studio-era Hollywood, and even silent film, productions. Up until the sixties, film scores showed little, to no, innovation from its operatic predecessors when it came to the use of sound within a film. Even through the jazz era in film scoring, sound did almost nothing other than raise the tension and depict a character’s love through a melody. Like writing, filmmaking, and painting, it took film composers a little while to come up with different uses for their medium. Jean Luc Godard’s 1964 film Band of Outsiders (Bande à Part) takes film scoring and brings it to the avant-garde in order to redefine the role of sound within film. Band of Outsiders takes the role of musical scoring from being grand and objective, to being subtle, individual, and subjective.

Band of Outsiders is a 1964 French New Wave film that used innovation in nearly every aspect of the film. With a French name that literally translates to “doing something apart from the group” (Wiki), it is not a far stretch to understand why the sound department decided to follow no one else’s lead but their own. One of the first sound tricks that Band of Outsiders used were short music cues. Like the composers that preceded him, Michel Legrand, composer for Band of Outsiders, used the leitmotif to describe implicit situations, such as the short ragtime cue in the beginning, which symbolizes the intertwined emotion dance that the main characters, Franz, Odile, and Arthur, metaphorically went on, with each other, before the start of the diegesis. A simple emotion that one would feel, described through the first musical cue of the film.

Most of the musical cues are very short and minimalist, using repeated notes and patterns. However, instead of attaching these cues to the main action in the diegesis, Legrand uses the cues as a mimetic look of the individual character’s emotion at a given time. One of the most used cues within the film is the slow and hypnotizing  ¾ cue that closely resembles a waltz. Whenever this phrase is played, the characters are acting in a repetitive, been-there way. The cue is used during times of car driving, as well as just walking into a house. Any instance where the action was apathetic and automatic, or slow and socially influenced, the ¾ cue can be heard. This particular cue could be considered a leitmotif for this emotion of repetition.

Another one of the short cues that is very present throughout the film is the swing themed spy-like cue, which is used during the scenes that take place where, and when, the robbery happens. This cue is centered around the individual thoughts of Odile going through with being an accomplice to a robbery. Diegetically in her mind, Odile hears this repetitive swing beat that entices her into performing her role in the heist to her best. The cue is not longer than five bars, repeated, suggesting that it is under the social influence and not the notion of faire bande à part (to be discussed later). If the process was entirely influenced by Odile’s own actions, the cue would be non repeating, suggesting that it is an action that is entirely individual and not a repeated measure from another character or previous action.

The individualistic nature of cue use comes to the forefront with another cue, one that shows up in chapter 9, after Odile finds the stash of cash and she is running to Franz and Arthur to tell them about it. The scene cuts between the stream, where Franz and Arthur are waiting, and Odile running to the stream to tell Franz and Arthur about the hidden money. Cuts of Odile, who is now feeling on top of the world after her find, feature a cue that is fast paced and jazz influenced, mimicking how Odile must be feeling, fast and upbeat and accomplished. The cuts of Franz and Arthur depict them talking about the news, having no relation to what Odile just saw and is now feeling, with no soundtrack backing the dialogue of the characters. This combination of cutting back and forth, through both the image and soundtrack, depicts the individual nature of the leitmotifs that Legrand was trying to accomplish.

Besides in the cues within the score for Band of Outsiders, the dialogue track uses innovative techniques in order to further illustrate the implicit thoughts and nature of a particular character. One of the first scenes that this could be seen that depicts this innovation within the dialogue track is the “Minute of Silence” scene, found approximately in the middle of the film in chapter 11. The three partners are sitting at a café table. In order to capitalize on a moment where no one has something to say, Franz suggests a minute of silence in order to organize their thoughts and motives. During this “minute of silence”, all sound on the soundtrack are muted. There is absolutely no diegetic sound or accompanying cue, where in actuality there would be the clanging of dishes and ambient conversations within the diegesis. This “actual” diegetic noise can be heard before and after the moment of silence, but not during.

This innovative use of the soundtrack helps the argument of the sound being used as a malleable medium in order to help describe the individualistic nature of one’s own thoughts, the notion of faire bande à part which the entire film is based off of. The absence of any soundtrack during the minute of silence symbolizes the thought process without outside influence, or a faire bande à part. Franz’s decision to take a moment of silence in order to gather and concentrate one’s own thoughts, is extracted from the film’s diegesis and put onto the laps of the viewing audience by the non-use of any diegetic or non-diegetic sound. The minute of silence is not only for Franz, Odile, and Arthur, but also for the audience to realize what unmediated thought feels like. Both Godard and Legrand must have collaborated in this effort to unveil a feeling that was never seen, or necessarily tangible, within the films prior to 1964.  This is a large innovation within the use of sound in film, since the soundtrack used to be meant as a mediation, and method of diegetic interpretation, between the image track and the viewer.

The minute of silence is not the only instance where this innovation in sound is utilized. For similar effects, the scene immediately following the moment of silence, “The Madison” scene where the trio dance to a song that is playing on the jukebox, also uses the absence of sound in order to express feelings that are nearly intangible to the much of the viewing audience.  Obviously, the diegetic sound from this part includes the music cue that resonates from the jukebox, as well as the sound of the clapping, snapping, and dance steps that are involved in the dance that goes along with this scored musical cue. However, like this scene’s predecessor, the minute of silence, the diegetic sound does not stay constant throughout the whole scene. The soundtrack for this section of the film is also cut, this time intertwining the diegeitic Madison song with the mentally diegetic thought process of Franz.

However, unlike its sister scene, the soundtrack cuts in this scene only cut out the music score and  ambient noise, leaving the diegetic sound of the dance steps and Franz’s voice-over, which is used sporadically throughout the film to convey his thought, in the soundtrack.  This method not only opens up the conversation to intangible emotions, like the minute of silence, but also helps to depict the individualistic nature of one’s own thoughts, as discussed earlier. True, logically there is much sound in the diegesis, but cuts within the soundtrack help to extend Franz’s minute of silence, as he is still alone within his mind, still sorting over his thoughts with no mediation, other than the dance which becomes rather repetitive. The repetitive nature of the cut up musical cue, added to Franz’s thought voiceover, added to the silent cuts, makes a philosophical stance that individual thought is separate from the semi-forced, automatic actions that are influenced by groups, or society. Once again, Godard is throwing around the idea of faire bande à part, the main theme of the film, through the use of sound innovations.

Band of Outsiders is really a work of its own individual accord. This film takes its namesake, faire bande à part (notion of acting outside of the group), and utilizes the theme within every aspect of the film, especially within sound. Before Godard filmed Band of Outsiders, almost every film soundtrack either mimicked Sunset Boulevard’s score, or the score aspirations of Laura. It is safe to say that the main interest in the studio era, even though Band of Outsiders is unaffiliated to Hollywood film at that time, was to gain money. It is not a far stretch that a French New Wave would take up the notion of faire bande à part and express it through, not necessarily the plot, but the sound.

Band of Outsiders’ soundtrack shows little to no resemblance to its Hollywood counterparts. The notion of faire bande à part is this film’s platform to act outside of other films, or to act away from the group which could be considered Hollywood film. The soundtrack did just that by using short and minimalist cues that are repetitive in times of repetitive or influenced action. Also, the non-use of the diegetic soundtrack within the minute of silence, as well as the depiction of the individualistic thought process seen in the Madison scene.

Film composer Legrand made certain not to follow the standard when it came to scoring this film. Instead of matching cues to actions, he matched them up to individual thoughts and mindsets. Faire bande à part. It is interesting to note that in the beginning of the film, there is a caption that advertises Legrand’s film score for Band of Outsiders as the “last (?) film score”. This could mean a variety of things. This film was made in the early 60’s where film scoring was on the down and out as jazz scores and pop tunes took over. Even though the score for this film was jazz influenced, it was completely original and did not nearly take to the same form as the scores for earlier mentioned films. Also, one might be hard pressed to even consider Legrand’s score as an actual score for a film, since it is so sparse, minimalistic, and hidden. If one were to listen to Band of Outsiders soundtrack record, you would probably only hear about five songs at two minutes a piece. So it is very legitimate to consider Legrand’s score as the “last (?) score for film”. In the year 1964, the film scores were on their way out, and if Godard got his vision of faire bande à part across to everyone in the audience, social influence would also be on the down and out. If his thesis held true, there would no longer be a “film score” or classical way of creating one. There would just many ways to add sound and music to film, none of which would be following a theory of music, but rather creating to the beat of a single drum.

When it comes to film scoring, almost all scores are composed of flowing themes and obvious leitmotifs. However, taking the spirit of the film’s thesis, faire bande à part, Legrand achieved innovation within the use of sound within a film’s soundtrack. From the individualistic nature of short cues, to the non-use of diegetic sound, Band of Outsiders seems to defy the rules of film scoring and still succeed at conveying a strong and dominant message. Faire bande à part, longue vit.

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Übermensch

“Chaos is the order of nature, and order is the dream of mankind (Adams).” This famous quote by Henry Adams seems to be the best way to describe the making of art, as film. Throughout the history of film, there has been an underlying motive when it comes to filmmaking, and that is to play God. From Birth of a Nation and Nanook of the North to Verotov’s Man With a Movie Camera, this notion of playing God is seen and well practiced.

No matter how it is recorded, film will never be one hundred percent documentary. Film must, naturally, be edited down, and through that editing the filmmaker creates a story. Such can be easily seen in Flaherty’s Nanook of the North. Being considered the first feature length documentary, Flaherty still chose exactly which aspects of Nanook’s life to show, creating a portrait of how he sees Nanook. Flaherty played God to showcase Nanook and his family’s struggles. What Flaherty chose to capture is now an archive of how we see that tribe of the north. Through playing God, and choosing what to show and capture, Flaherty got the public to believe his view of the Inuit tribe.

Since documentary film is not documentary, in the purest sense, it is hard to ever decipher what is real and what is edited to look a certain way. In Vertov’s Man With a Movie Camera, the man edits a Russian city to his liking, even bringing it close to destruction at one point. The “God” figure that the man, or filmmaker, plays is not very well hidden from the public eye. There are shots of action around the city, and then there are shots of a filmmaker splicing away and editing his film. There are also some images of the city falling in upon itself, when two sides of the frame start tilting and overlapping each other. All of this culminating in a superimposed shot of the man with the camera in the sky, looking down on the city and recording, as if he were a puppeteer or the image of Jesus in Birth of a Nation.  The image is almost imperial, making the filmmaker the most influential person of the city. The Russian city pulsates to every move of the movie camera, which is controlled by the God-figure himself, the filmmaker.

No matter how ethnologically accurate one tries to make a film, there will always be a skewed perspective in which the filmmaker has full control over. During The Wizard of Oz, the filmmaker/director had full rights to cut to Auntie Em’s house during Dorothy’s trek down the yellow brick road. He also had a right to show the house or castle that Glinda lives in. The filmmaker/screenwriter/director, however, decided against showing those things in order to show what he saw fit. Ultimately, the filmmaker, has the final say in what should be depicted, and therefore interpreted.

Nowadays, however, there seems to be an even higher up übermensch that gets to have final say, and that is the studio executives, if the filmmaker chooses to take that route. But even nowadays, a film in its purest form is completely controlled by the filmmaker. Playing God is something that the filmmaker must be accustomed to. Breaking hearts, breaking lives, and controlling the story are things that the filmmaker does every day during a project. The view and take of the project lies in the hands of this one übermensch. Every artist has a niche for playing God, editing the world down to their perspective.

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Obsession

Obsession isn’t just for fans of football and The Cure. Obsession shares the same definition as a delusion, fascination and passion. The largest factor that shares those descriptors in my life is my obsession towards my work, my projects, my art. Every day I kill for the betterment of my repertoire of work. I jot down quotes in my Moleskine notebook as people give lectures. I fascinate myself with the movement of a shadow on a scrim behind a teacher in front of a projector. I watch videos upon videos of successful artists doing their work. All in order to garner inspiration and somehow absorb the artist’s talent out of the computer screen. All of this preparation molds the work as I sit and write out every inspiring piece of the day, making a beautiful poem or scene in a screenplay in a fashion that closely resembles pen masturbation. Obsessing over the little intricacies and fantasizing of what the project will ultimately end up being, and where it will take me. Ultimately this repeated obsession, happening every day, will fold into a life-changing project, one that I can only fantasize about now. That is the feeling I am striving for. It would be the ultimate orgasm, as I would be filled with joy, satisfaction and pleasure, but that word alone is extremely hard to justify the ultimate feeling that I kill everyday to achieve. This feeling would, hopefully, last longer than a few seconds, for the feeling would be felt every time the public views the amazing imagery that I will have created. I picture myself crying constantly in order to cope with this intense feeling of satisfaction, no, joy, no, happiness, not exactly. I would be all of those things, but the feeling is not something that one word would be able to describe. The obsession with the hard work, the need to be the best, the need to liberate, will ultimately end up with a feeling that will never be describable in human words within a short period.

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