Music and sound on (and off) screen

It seems a long time since I visited the books on screen sound, but my exciting new second supervisor Beth said I should check out one of the foundation texts. This is Michel Chion’s Audio-vision: Sound on Screen. The first thing that grabs my attention is his pointing out that while “the image” in cinema… Continue reading Music and sound on (and off) screen

It seems a long time since I visited the books on screen sound, but my exciting new second supervisor Beth said I should check out one of the foundation texts. This is Michel Chion’s Audio-vision: Sound on Screen. The first thing that grabs my attention is his pointing out that while “the image” in cinema is framed by the edges of the screen. “What is specific to film is that it has just one place for images – as opposed to video installations, slide shows, and other multimedia  genres, which can have several.” (He talks about how little, since the very earliest days of cinema, directors have attempted to change the edges of that frame, and “the rare experiment” of changing the aspect ratio within a film. There’s a lot more on that “rare experiment” in this blog. The one I’ll always remember fondly is in fact the two aspect ratio changes in Galaxy Quest.)

But this is to preface a point that sound in cinema has no frame.

Luckily for the makers of films with sound in the first four decades, our human need to mentally connect sounds with what we’re looking at tricked audiences into believing that sound came from (for example) the feet of our protagonist walking across the screen, when in fact there was just one speaker behind the screen. With the arrival of Dolby, Chion says, directors and their audio designers are able to create soundspaces that exist beyond the borders of the screen. Gorbman (who by the way also translated this book) introduced me to diegetic and non-diegetic sounds – those that happen in the world of the film (dialogue, music that seems to come from a radio on screen), and those that happen outside that world for the audience’s perception only (the rousing orchestral piece as the cowboys gallop across the plain). Chion splits diegetic music into two: visualised sound that happens on screen, and off-screen or acousmatic sound, which happens offscreen but is still part of the story world.

However he admits that this split has been criticised for being oversimplistic. Where does the adult voiceover representing the internal voice of the baby in Look Who’s Talking go in this model? And is that radio on-screen? Or, given that its transmitting sound from some distant studio in the movie world does that count as offscreen? So he ends up with a model that includes: onscreen; offscreen; on-the-air; internal; ambient and nondiegetic.

I am also interested in a earlier chapter which describes three listening modes.

  1. Causal (not casual) listening is where we listen to a sound in order to gather informational about its source. Chion says this is the most common form of listening (but without evidence for that claim).
  2. Semantic listening is where we listen to a “code or language” to interpret a message. Chion points out that Casual and Semantic listening can be employed at the same time.
  3. Reduced Listening  – This is the intriguing concept coined by Pierre Schaeffer, for the listening mode that focuses on the traits of the sound itself, independent of its cause and meaning. It seems hard to do: participants in reduced listening experiments constantly seek cause or meaning. He goes on to say that, though its hard to concentrate on reduced listening, we all do a rudimentary form of it when “we identify a pitch or tone or figure out the interval between two notes.” However, a full description of the sound can not be achieved in a single hearing. So it must be fixed, a recording, not a live performance. Intriguingly, Chion says that such sounds “thereby acquire the status of veritable objects”

Whats interesting about this last form is the relationship between reduced listening and acousmatic sound. Chion says Schaeffer “thought that the acousmatic situation could encourage reduced listening.” But he disagrees. Our first instinct will be causal, he argues, seeking the source of the sound. But a “seasoned auditor” he argues  “can exercise causal listening and reduced listening in tandem.”

I feel there is something in this. Chion isn’t writing about games, but in my reading of Red Dead Redemption especially I realised I was learning to listen to the repeating sound loops in a different way. At first I was reacting in a causal way, swirling my point of view around, seeking the source of every cue. As I grew more “seasoned” I was listening in a different way. I am not sure it it was Reduced or Semantic, but it was more than Causal. Of course, that might have something to do with the other distinction Chion makes, between Active and Passive perception.

There is something here I feel that might help in better evaluating immersive audio experiences in heritage.

See you at Ostia Antica

As part of a series of monthly meetings “Vediamoci a Ostia Antica” (See you at Ostia Antica) organised by the Parco Archeologico di Ostia Antica, on the 11 September 2018 at 5pm Simon Keay, Cinzia Morelli and Renato Sebastiani will be speaking about “The Imperial port”. Download the programme

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As part of a series of monthly meetings “Vediamoci a Ostia Antica” (See you at Ostia Antica) organised by the Parco Archeologico di Ostia Antica, on the 11 September 2018 at 5pm Simon Keay, Cinzia Morelli and Renato Sebastiani will be speaking about “The Imperial port”.

Download the programme

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Personalised

I am in Amsterdam, staying in a VERY EXPENSIVE HOTEL, because all the hotels in Amsterdam are VERY EXPENSIVE. We are here on a cultural city break, to take the kids to Anne Frank’s house, and the Van Gogh museum, among others. We pre-booked for those two because we had heard it was difficult to… Continue reading Personalised

I am in Amsterdam, staying in a VERY EXPENSIVE HOTEL, because all the hotels in Amsterdam are VERY EXPENSIVE. We are here on a cultural city break, to take the kids to Anne Frank’s house, and the Van Gogh museum, among others. We pre-booked for those two because we had heard it was difficult to get tickets on the day. Yesterday, as we were packing to leave, I got an email from the Van Gogh museum. It contained a link to a “welcome video”. And I would like to share a few frames from that, you’ll see why.

The first impressive thing that happens, is a member of museum staff, shuffling sideways onto the screen carrying a placard, like a taxi driver at the airport, with my name on. This has never actually happened for me at an airport, but here it is happening, through digital jiggery-pokery, on an actual video. The email had mentioned it was my personal welcome video, but I hadn’t realised how personal.

Then, was the staff take their branded coats off, and hand then in at the cloakroom (I would have thought they had their own facilities, but there you go) the screen displays the weather forecast on the day of my visit. There is also a none-too-subtle hint that I should become a friend of the museum, which purports to show an interpretive wall vinyl:

This is the first time that I have seen digital technology actually used with by a museum for true specific personalisation. Ok, so it’s only my name, and weather data for a specific date, and actually it’s not that much more complex than those picture books that were advertised twenty years ago with “Your Child’s Name Here”. But it is being used to every pre-booked visitor, which at this time of year means pretty much every visitor. How long will it be before interpretation panels like the one in the last picture are actually personalised?

Numinous

I’ve been head down, completing my upgrade package for weeks and so you have seen very little form me on this blog. But that package was submitted last Friday, and this week, I am at the University’s Hartley Residency, which is a refreshing opportunity to just learn and think. Yesterday we had a seminar, and… Continue reading Numinous

I’ve been head down, completing my upgrade package for weeks and so you have seen very little form me on this blog. But that package was submitted last Friday, and this week, I am at the University’s Hartley Residency, which is a refreshing opportunity to just learn and think.

Yesterday we had a seminar, and then a lecture form Steven Rings, of the University of Chicago. I always thought I was a bit a fraud in the archaeology department, but now I am in the music department (Did I tell you I have transferred to the music department? That’s another story.) am I listening to stuff I know nothing about. “But,” as they say, “I know what I like.” So thank the stars that Steve was talking about liking music, and writing academically about music that we like. He kicked of with his talk, quoting Max Weber, who, correct me if I am wrong, accused modern thought, secularism, science and academia of  “disenchantment of the world.” Rings argues that there is an academic pressure to distance oneself from the music one studies, to analyse it scientifically, reducing it to numbers, or socio-politically, reducing it to a series of choices made within a dominant ideology. In a way, to destroy it – to remove from it any sense of aesthetic pleasure, or “enchantment”.

All this talk of enchantment, reminds me of a couple of papers I read months ago, but didn’t blog about. To be honest, and didn’t think either contributed much to my thesis either. But they are in my mind because I recently went back to them and added a couple of bits from as least one of them to my draft. Keirsten Latham writes about “the Numinous Museum”, and something about enchantment, and secularism made me think about that term. In the 2007 paper, The Poetry of the Museum: A Holistic Model of Numinous Museum Experiences she says “Numinous experiences (also referred to as reverential, pivotal, profound) with any museum objects/exhibits are akin to aesthetic experiences with objects of art and encounters with the beautiful.”

“Reverential, pivotal, profound…” is this the same, or similar to “enchanting”? She goes on to say that “Numinous experiences are seen as a deeply felt, connective encounter with any object not just artistic works or beautiful things and can happen anywhere and anytime, depending on the coming together of many things at one point in time.” Which is interesting because it potentially equates the mundane with the spiritual. For example, visiting Crete recently, I was was intellectually stimulated by my day-trip to Knossos, but my own numinous experience was at a less visited palace at Malia. There, it was the act of looking down at threshold stone as I stepped on it, that gave a profound, emotional feeling of stepping on the same stone as someone had thousands of years ago. I understood it a Knossos but I hadn’t felt it.

Latham explains the term she uses comes, via Catherine Cameron and John Gatewood, from Rudolf Otto who, in his book, The Idea of the Holy used the word numen to describe a religious emotion or experience that can be awakened in the presence of something holy.

Which brings us back to secularisation: are we reluctant to talk about music (or anything) we love in terms of enchantment, for fear of being seen to worship it?

Photogrammetric modelling of the Grandi Magazzini di Settimio Severo

The large brick building known as the ‘Grandi Magazzini di Settimio Severo’ lies at the heart of the port complex at Portus, at the head of the canal that opened into the Trajanic hexagonal harbour. Traditionally identified as a warehouse of the later second-century AD, its central position within the port, as well as its size (190m x 130m x …

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The large brick building known as the ‘Grandi Magazzini di Settimio Severo’ lies at the heart of the port complex at Portus, at the head of the canal that opened into the Trajanic hexagonal harbour.

Traditionally identified as a warehouse of the later second-century AD, its central position within the port, as well as its size (190m x 130m x 25m) suggests that it may have had several functions. The presence of a series of ramps connecting it with the Trajanic harbour and a staircase at the western end reveal that the building was built over at least three floors.

The building appears in plans of Portus as early as 1827 (Luigi Canina) and follows a similar format in both the drawings of Gismondi (1933) and Testaguzza (1965), as a U-shaped structure that opened on to the Canale di Imbocco al Porto di Traiano as well as the hexagonal harbour. The most recent detailed plans of the building (Parco Archeologico di Ostia) were used as the basis for an initial series of 3D visualisations that investigated both the southern façade and internal movement (some of these models can be seen in the project’s photostream on Flickr). More recently, other variations of the layout and height of the building have been investigated as part of an overall reconstruction of Portus (see the work of Artasmedia).

In 2017 an initial photogrammetric survey was made of the external southern façade of the building to provide precise scaled model of the standing structure which can be integrated with the earlier 3D modelling. Using the photogrammetry software Agisoft  several hundred photographs were taken, providing the initial framework for the model.

Subsequently the interiors of several ground floor warehouses were also recorded as the standing building survey showed that there were a number of different types used throughout the structure.

The photogrammetry will continue this summer during the 2018 Portus Field School with the aim of recording the northern façade of the building.

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New investigations of the northern mole of the Claudian harbour

Excavations of the northern mole of the Claudian harbour began in 1957 with the construction of the international airport of Leonardo da Vinci at Fiumicino (for a news report of 1959 see Archivio Storico Luce). The work was recorded in great detail by Otello Testaguzza (Portus: illustrazione dei Porti di Claudio e Traiano e della citta di Porto a Fiumicino) …

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Claudian mole
Photo: Stephen Kay

Excavations of the northern mole of the Claudian harbour began in 1957 with the construction of the international airport of Leonardo da Vinci at Fiumicino (for a news report of 1959 see Archivio Storico Luce). The work was recorded in great detail by Otello Testaguzza (Portus: illustrazione dei Porti di Claudio e Traiano e della citta di Porto a Fiumicino) revealing both the different types of construction technique used to build the mole as well as it’s trajectory westward into the open sea. Over 800m of the mole was revealed, parts of which are still visible outside the airport today.

More recently research has been conducted by the Parco Archaeologico di Ostia Antica (ex Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici di Ostia) to trace the continuation of the mole towards the hypothesised location of the great lighthouse. Published in the BSR monograph Portus and its Hinterland in 2011 , the work involved a series of cores in the area of Pesce Luna (immediately to the west of viale Coccia di Morte) and was successful in locating a spread of construction material westward from the road.

Photo: Stephen Kay

In 2016 the Portus Project conducted a first season of geophysical survey in the same  locality with the aim of using Ground-Penetrating Radar to follow the course of the mole, as indicated by the earlier research. The GPR survey did not record a single continuous anomaly as had been hypothesised, but rather a series of interspersed concentrations, suggesting the possibility of later spoliation or a different form of structure.

A second season of geophysical survey was undertaken in 2017 using the technique of Electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) to further investigate at a greater depth the discontinuous anomalies recorded by the GPR. A total of 24 straight profiles were collected, divided equally in two areas of investigation. Each profile measured 128m with a linear spacing of the electrodes at 2m and a traverse spacing of 4m. The results of the pseudo-sections were then used to guide the placement of 3 new geo-archaeological cores to test the results, one directly above a large feature recorded by the ERT.

The combination of the techniques revealed that the northern mole is preserved at a depth of approximately 9m and continues to a depth of 15m. This spring a final season of ERT will be conducted with the aim of completing the coverage from Viale Coccia di Morte westward towards the lighthouse. Whilst the earlier work of Morelli et al (2011) had provided the approximate location of the mole, the aim now is to understand whether the mole was one continuous structure or perhaps built with a series of arches resting on piers.

Bibliography

Morelli, C., Marinucci, A. and Arnoldus-Huyzendveld, A. Il Porto di Claudio: nuove scoperte, in S.Keay and L.Paroli (eds) Portus and its hinterland, Archaeological Monographs of the British School at Rome 18, 2011: 47-65.

Testaguzza, O. (1970) Portus: illustrazione dei Porti di Claudio e Traiano e della citta di Porto a Fiumicino. Rome, Julia Editrice.

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Portus now forms part of the Parco Archeologico di Ostia Antica

Administratively, Portus now forms part of the Parco Archeologico di Ostia Antica, as a consequence if the recent cultural heritage re-organization by the Franceschini reforms by the Italian State.
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The post Portus now forms part of the Parco …

Administratively, Portus now forms part of the Parco Archeologico di Ostia Antica, as a consequence if the recent cultural heritage re-organization by the Franceschini reforms by the Italian State.

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Portus Field School 2018

The Portus Field School will run again this summer, between June 18th and 29th. In the two weeks we plan to reveal a section of the norther facade of the Palazzo Imperiale opening towards the port of Claudius, as well as finish the photogrammetry of the Severan warehouses. All those interested should get in touch with me- please see the …

The post Portus Field School 2018 appeared first on Portus Project.

The Portus Field School will run again this summer, between June 18th and 29th. In the two weeks we plan to reveal a section of the norther facade of the Palazzo Imperiale opening towards the port of Claudius, as well as finish the photogrammetry of the Severan warehouses. All those interested should get in touch with me- please see the Application Process tab for details of how to apply.

Portus Field School 2015

The post Portus Field School 2018 appeared first on Portus Project.

Portus Field School 2018

The Portus Field School will run again this summer, between June 18th and 29th. In the two weeks we plan to reveal a section of the norther facade of the Palazzo Imperiale opening towards the port of Claudius, as well as finish the photogrammetry of the Severan warehouses. All those interested should get in touch with me- please see the …

The post Portus Field School 2018 appeared first on Portus Project.

The Portus Field School will run again this summer, between June 18th and 29th. In the two weeks we plan to reveal a section of the norther facade of the Palazzo Imperiale opening towards the port of Claudius, as well as finish the photogrammetry of the Severan warehouses. All those interested should get in touch with me- please see the Application Process tab for details of how to apply.

Portus Field School 2015

The post Portus Field School 2018 appeared first on Portus Project.

Navigating the Harbours and Canals of the Portus Romae

Professor Simon Keay will present at the The Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies an May 15th, 2018.  Title of the lecture is: “Navigating the Harbours and Canals of the Portus Romae: new approaches” Read more

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Professor Simon Keay will present at the The Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies an May 15th, 2018.  Title of the lecture is: “Navigating the Harbours and Canals of the Portus Romae: new approaches”

Read more

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