Soundscaping New Zealand: An Aural Perspective of a Cinematic Geography
This study is an inquiry into how New Zealand’s national cinema represents the local aural geography on-screen. It concerns itself with the cinematic geography rather than actuality. The investigation proceeds in a manner that treats soundscape analysis as an activity equal to standard textual analysis of image. It is a broad view of the terrain, that ‘listens’ to a large number of films in order to establish probable, rather than possible, patterns. The material chosen is a diverse range of films from the feature, documentary, short, art, and experimental film categories. This study surveys the current literature on New Zealand cinema and outlines a brief history of sound in this national context. This finds that there is a dearth of material of an academic nature on local film sound. It therefore establishes that the study of a national soundscape is a worthwhile undertaking. An exploration of the wider areas of sonic studies is undertaken in order to bring new ideas, concepts, and theoretical perspectives to the research, and form a foundation to the analysis. The areas considered are (a) early film sound concepts, (b) sound and society, and (c) the manner and context in which audiences listen. A methodology is formed from the varied directions of the topic. Firstly, it is an inquiry into the local soundscape and what it sounds like in the national cinema. Secondly, the existing literature on local film sound indicates that there is a gap in the knowledge of our local soundscape, rather than a lack of a soundscape. A hypothesis is formed to make a possible continuum from generic to idiomatic categories of soundscape, in terms of their ability to represent the New Zealand aural environment and culture. Thirdly, issues that arise from the wider field of sonic studies provide a basis in existing scholarship for many aspects of the analysis. The model employed to analyze the filmography in this study considers as wide a range of approaches to the national aural cinematic geography as possible. Music is one of those approaches. However, this is not a purely musical analysis. Music, voice, and other sounds are treated as equally interesting components of film soundscapes. The interdependence of these film elements is regarded as axiomatic to the basic premise, that soundscapes can be segmented and interpreted as evidence of how New Zealand’s film culture represents its aural geography on-screen. This study formalizes the popular affiliation with the local soundscape and geography, as it is exhibited on-screen. It finds that a few sounds are uniquely idiomatic but that it is the way sounds behave collectively, in cinematic geographies, that forms soundscapes evocative of place and culture. This study should be viewed as the commencement of continuing research into a new field of inquiry with ramifications beyond cinema.
Advisor: Thornley, Davinia
Degree Name: Master of Arts
Degree Discipline: Film and Media
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Soundscape; New Zealand; Cinema; Cinematic Geography
Research Type: Thesis