The Gulf War Aesthetic? Sound design, and the representation of asymmetrical warfare.

Marshall, Kingsley ORCID logoORCID: (2019) The Gulf War Aesthetic? Sound design, and the representation of asymmetrical warfare. In: Music and Sound Design for the Screen, 6-7 September 2019, Maynooth University.

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Abstract / Summary

Joshua Clover has described the 21st century conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria as having an “unnarratability” (2009: 9) distinctive by their use of asymmetrical warfare; new modes of conflict that can be distinguished from the “old wars” of the past in terms of their politics, use of technology, combat tactics and reportage (Freedman and Barnett, 2003; Clover 2009; Kaldor 2012).

By way of response to these challenges, I argue that filmmakers have adopted innovative production practices – sophisticated combinations of sound design, music composition and editing, cinematography and visual editing – which I characterise as a Gulf War Aesthetic, an aesthetic that emulates transmedia representations of conflict by drawing upon news media, documentary, video games and first-person
combatant-originated footage.

This paper makes use of The Hurt Locker (2009) as a case study in order to test director Kathryn Bigelow’s assertion that she wanted the film “to be a predominantly sound design movie, not score heavy, and really get the sound design to complete the image” (in Bigelow and Boal, 2009).

Drawing from interviews undertaken with Bigelow, supervising sound editor Paul Ottosson and composers Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders the paper brings together two traditions of film sound analysis – the study of a film’s production discourse through practitioner interview and the textual analysis of the intrasoundtrack, or relationship between the visual components of the film and elements of the soundtrack. (Altman, Jones and Tatroe: 2000: 339-346).

This analysis will demonstrate how, in selected sequences, an unconventional and sophisticated deployment of sound design and music is unified with the film’s cinematography and visual editing. I argue that, through emulating transmedia representations of the Iraq War from news media, documentary and emergent forms such as first-person combatant-originated footage, the film can be seen to advance
what I describe as a Gulf War Aesthetic, which privileges verisimilitude through the combination of subjective first-person visual point of view with a similarly subjective sonic point of audition.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: Film & TV > TV > British TV
Film & TV > TV > Foreign TV
Film & TV > Film > Hollywood Film
Film & TV > Film > International Film
Geography & Environment > International
Music > Sound Design
Courses by Department: The School of Film & Television > Film
Depositing User: Kingsley Marshall
Date Deposited: 15 Oct 2019 13:53
Last Modified: 15 Oct 2019 13:53


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