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Around Sound

Does the spectator ever succeed in exhausting the objects he contemplates? There is no end to his wanderings. Sometimes, though, it may seem to him that, after having probed a thousand possibilities, he is listening with all his senses strained, to a confused murmur. Images begin to sound, and the sounds are again images. When this indeterminate murmur–the murmur of existence–reaches him, he may be nearest to the unattainable goal.

Siegfried Kracauer

According to an ancient legend, a Chinese painter was imprisoned because the noise of the waterfall he had painted in the palace’s great hall did not let the emperor sleep. Whether this is true or not, this tale tells us of the artist’s ability to represent nature with a brutal realism, but also with the complexity of the senses and how certain experiences are constructed and completed between the eye and the ear.

Although the verb “imagine” betrays our inclination to let visual representations take centre stage, we can also construct or mentally recreate auditory impressions. In this way, although cinema began as entertainment for the eye, listening was already implicit in the images. It is difficult for it to not to resonate in us, as clearly as the waterfall in the sleepless emperor, the sound of grating iron, the whistle or the busy hustle and bustle of passengers getting on and off when we see the legendary arrival of the train to the station filmed by the Lumière brothers. It's those noises, and not the music or the voices, that assault us when we witness scenes like this.

The development of devices capable of catching and reproducing sounds and moving images will bring the colophon to the 19th century. What until then seemed completely out of reach, catching the transient and the fleeting, paraphrasing Baudelaire, would become a true cultural revolution, although both ways of recording and representing reality would take a few years to finally discover.

Cinema is not just seeing and hearing, but rather something that happens in the middle of both senses. If the images are projected onto the screen, sound is the way that the cinema must project onto us, to expand and fill the space by placing us in the centre of it and not in front of it, creating an immersive topography. However, for a long time, audio has played a secondary role to accompany the contemplation. It was an addition that came later and that served to enhance the stories, to emphasize instants or to string together continuities.

Fortunately, more and more creators who, understanding cinematographic work, discover a resource in it, which is not only effective in “sewing” shots, but also necessary in the development of structures and narratives and, above all, in the reaffirmation of its nature as a responsive experience. As Alberto Cavalcanti said, while “the images are clear and specific, noises are vague” and “speak directly to the emotions”.

Noises in which that “indeterminate murmur” is made that reaches us between beams of light that will be the protagonist of this new edition of Curtocircuíto, in which sound takes centre stage. It pursues the illusion of being caught by placing us on the outside all around it, when in fact it always on the inside surrounding us.

These meeting points want to be a space open to dialogue about sound as an axis of expression and a road to knowledge. To affirm the tympanic site together with the retina, focusing on aspects such as field recording, ethnography, sensory immersion, synesthesia, performance or landscape and sound design, being an interdisciplinary meeting point for reflection and debate.

Xoán-Xil López