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High Definition

HIGH DEFINITION (J Neo Marvin-Davis Jones-Frank Lev-Michel Chion-John Storey)

(Cool, this is really kind of a nice book! “Silence of direct sound…”)

“The fans find it necessary to locate their pleasure in relation to the ideology of mass culture. They ‘internalize’ the ideology, they ‘negotiate’ with the ideology, they use surface irony to defend their pleasure against the withering dismissal…”

“A sound recording’s definition, in technical terms, is its acuity and precision in rendering of detail. Definition is a function of the width of the frequency band (which allows us to hear frequencies all the way from extreme low to extreme high) as well as its dynamic range (amplitude of contrasts, from the weakest levels to the strongest). It is particularly through gains in high frequencies that sound has progressed in definition; high frequencies reveal a new multitude of details and information, contributing to an effect of greater presence and realism.”

“The arena of conflict was mass-produced urban culture: movies, advertising, science fiction, pop music…”

(Yeah, break up the sing-song)

“I am speaking of definition (a precise and quantifiable technical property, just like definition or sharpness in a photographic or video image) and not of fidelity. The latter is a tricky term; strictly speaking it would require making a continuous close comparison between the original and its reproduction, which normally would be difficult to physically arrange. Someone who listens to an orchestra on a sound system in his living room is not likely to be able to compare it with some orchestra playing at his doorstep. It should be known, in fact, that the notion of high fidelity is a purely commercial one, and corresponds to nothing precise or verifiable.”

“The values, images, myths, and styles will be different depending on whether for example it is blues, country, dance, folk, heavy metal, jazz, rap, rock and roll, 60s rock, or soul. At the very least each genre of music would produce different political articulations in terms of class, gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality and generation.”

“However, it happens that today definition is (mistakenly) taken as proof of fidelity, when it’s not being confused with fidelity itself. In the ‘natural’ world sounds have many high frequencies that so-called hi-fi recordings do capture and reproduce better than they used to. On the other hand, current practice dictates that a sound recording should have more treble than would be heard in the real situation (for example when it’s the voice of a person at some distance with back turned). No one complains of nonfidelity from too much definition! This proves that it’s definition that counts for sound, and its hyperreal effect, which has little to do with the experience of direct audition. For the sake of rigor, therefore, we must speak of high definition and not high fidelity.”

“There was a blacksmith in a village who had committed a capital offense. The court decided that the crime must be punished. But as the blacksmith was the only one in the village, and was indispensible, and as on the other hand there were three tailors living there, one of them was hanged instead. In this example, the chain of association and effect has shifted dramatically.”

“In the cinema sound definition is an important means of expression with multiple consequences. First, a more defined sound, containing more information, is able to provide more materializing indices. And second, it leads to a more lively, spasmodic, rapid, alert mode of listening, particularly to the agile phenomena that occur in the higher frequencies (e.g. , a feeling of temporal acceleration, very distinct in recent films.”

“She likes to read short pieces about people who have had certain problems, and how such a problem can be solved: ‘I like to read about how people deal with things. You learn a lot from other people’s problems, and the advice they give.’”

“What is rendered is a clump of sensations. Why is this so, and why should sounds ‘render’ their sources all by themselves—a belief that sound effects people are obviously completely disabused of? No doubt because sounds are neither experienced objectively nor named, and through a magnetism related to all the vagueness and uncertainty surrounding them, sounds ‘attract’ affects for which they are not especially responsible.”

“It might be believed that the question of rendering boils down to that of translating one order of sensation into another. For example, in Truffaut’s sequence, rendering would involve ‘transliterating’ tactile sensations into auditory sensations: the rustling of nylon stockings would have to render the touch of legs sheathed in silk.”


© 2014 J Neo Marvin, Davis Jones, Frank Lev, Michel Chion, and John Storey (BMI)
(Text from Audio-Vision by Michel Chion and Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: An Introduction by John Storey)