One of the most profound things I learnt from last term’s Visual Anthropology Theory module and the films we watched was how sound in a film is really just as important as the images.
Films such as David MacDougall’s Schoolscapes where multiple dimensions of visual and auditory representations of space are created to make the viewer feel involved in the daily life of the people on film. Simon Feld’s A Rainforest Acoustemology is one of the most powerful insights into the importance of sound in the constitution of ideas of personhood. His experiences of recording the rainforest environment in which the Kaluli people of the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea live, reveal the depth of which anthropologists can appreciate sounds to better understand a place and the knowledge systems of people.

A visual representation of sound
(Dr John Wynne of the Sound Arts department and the CRiSAP Research Centre at LCC)

A central aspect of Korean church services is a soundscape which often begins in silence and speech which accumulates into contemporary Christian ballad-style hymns that have the power to evoke deep emotions that often move people to tears. These sounds then progress into vocalised prayers which sometimes involves shouting and crying, biblical readings spoken in unison and for a large proportion of time the pastor’s voice speaks alone. There are crescendos and fluctuations in sound that are typical to a Sunday service and indicate particular stages in a ritualised process. Sound is an uncontrollable and unexpected sense and I have tried to portray the significance of sound through various shots where people’s bodies are reacting to sound.

Here’s an example of an emotive hymn at a church service in Korea:

Some Sound reading:

Nicholas Harkness
Songs of Seoul: An Ethnography of Voice and Voicing in Christian South Korea (2013)

Feld, S. 2003. A Rainforest Acoustemology. In The Auditory Culture Reader (eds.) M.Bull & L. Back. Oxford: Berg.

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