Art in noise : an embodied simulation account of cinematic sound design

  • Mark Ward

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Sound and moving pictures share over a century of entwined history yet the dominant visual narrative accounts of cinematic sound lack explanatory power. This thesis responds by developing a novel conceptual framework using the paradigm of embodied cognition. An embodied cognition approach provides a means to analyse the functional architecture, meaning-making capacities, and aesthetics of cinematic media in ways not afforded by conventional media theory. The framework deploys embodied simulation theory (Gallese 2005) to emphasise the affective aspects of Feeling of Body (Wojciehowski & Gallese 2011) and puts into play the concept of embodied meaning (Johnson, M 2007b) which asserts all human meaning and abstract conceptual thinking have basis in our sensorimotor interactions with the world. In the context of cinematic media, embodied simulation theory suggests the stylistic crafting of sensory-perceptual content not only elicits affect but shapes cognition. Specifically, a four-tiered conceptual framework is advanced using embodied simulation theory to contain, integrate and structure three extant models for the elicitation or representation of affect at discrete levels of description. A strength of the four-tiered framework is a highly granular and scalable capacity to describe how cinematic sound may produce embodied meaning. To illustrate the explanatory power of an embodied simulation account of cinematic media, I examine the design strategies used in my own cinematic sound work – specifically, Jane Campion’s In the Cut (2003) – and the work of other sound designers. Lastly, the implications of an embodied simulation account of cinematic media are discussed in relation to investigating the body-mind nexus, bridging the cognitive sciences and Cultural Studies, and informing institutions involved in media education and cultural policy.
Date of Award2020
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorRoss Gibson (Supervisor) & Mitchell Whitelaw (Supervisor)

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