(DEAR READERS, THIS PIECE “DIVISION OF LABOR,” IS A WORK IN PROGRESS. I WILL BE UPDATING IT OCCASIONALLY OVER THE NEXT FEW WEEKS.)
It’s a cliche to say that film sound is underappreciated as an art, but it’s also true.
WHY IS IT TRUE? HOW DOES IT HAPPEN? CAN IT BE CHANGED? SHOULD IT BE CHANGED?
Let’s just admit right off the bat that the visual sense tends to be dominant. It’s the sense we are most aware of. We are more analytical about visual images than we are about sound. Our vocabulary for describing visual images dwarfs our vocabulary for describing sounds. The fact that our eyes move, and the muscles around our eyes move, conveys a sense of dynamism to the act of looking that is nearly absent in the act of hearing, if hearing can even be called an act. As Walter Murch has pointed out, the lexicon for describing the act of looking is vast: we peer, glance, stare, we bore into, gaze, glower, look wide eyed, look inquisitively, beam, scrutinize, glimpse, ogle, gawk, gape, look piercingly, stare icily, study, inspect, shoot daggers, scan, regard, watch, peep, spy, etc., etc. Hearing, on the other hand, is passive. Or is it?
More people say they would prefer to keep their sight than their hearing.
Let’s face it, eyes are more attractive than ears. The eyes are the “windows to the soul.” Our ears are windows to wax. We can read someone’s emotions and intentions by looking at their eyes. By looking at someone’s ears we can speculate how much they will regret their piercings in a few years. In short, our eyes think they are in charge, and they have us convinced that they are in charge, that they rank higher than our ears. But do they?
The image comes to mind of a traditional, unfair, male-dominated marriage. The man seems to be in control, and in many ways IS in control of the family. But behind the scenes, often without the man or onlookers being aware, the woman exerts her power.