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Sync: Stylistics of Hieroglyphic Time

James Tobias
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    InSync,James Tobias examines the development of musical sound and image in cinema and media art, indicating how these elements define the nature and experience of reception. Placing musicality at the center of understanding streaming media, Tobias presents six interwoven stories about synchronized audiovisual media-from filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein'sAlexander Nevskyto today's contemporary digital art and computer games-to show how these effects are never merely "musical" in the literal sense of organized sound.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0203-5
    Subjects: Performing Arts, Film Studies, Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  5. 1 Ciphers of Hieroglyphic Time
    (pp. 1-35)

    Cinema or the digital interface: We consider these time-based expressions to be, variously, “technologies,” “media,” or perhaps, when thinking of these technical industrial expressions in specific historical contexts, “institutions,” “discourses,” “practices,” or “forces.”Syncbegins from the observation that such complex exhibition installations are, very generally, something more like queer clocks: devices that diagram, express, and interpret unfamiliar temporal relations. This observation that time-registering devices, such as cinema—or telephony, phonography, radio, television, or the World Wide Web—equip us with situations for expressing and interpreting time is a weak one. It may mean that temporal, temporalizing media devices may...

  6. 2 Eisensteinʹs Gesture: Breaking Down Alexander Nevsky
    (pp. 36-75)

    For Soviet director Sergei M. Eisenstein, changing technologies were secondary to the social meanings of a historical totality that had been politically transformed by war. That Eisenstein’s cinema became, even in his own time, an emblem of transformed technological media standing in for historical transformations occurring in political terms is surprising in many ways.

    From Walter Benjamin’s 1927 defense ofBattleship Potemkin(1925) to designers of novel interfaces for streaming media in our own time, Eisenstein’s montage cinema has been repeatedly configured as a signal instance of art-technological innovation representing historical continuity in terms of technological change instead of political...

  7. 3 For Love of Music: Oskar Fischinger’s Modal, Musical Diagram
    (pp. 76-108)

    Throughout Oleg Kovalov’sSergei Eisenstein: Autobiography(1998), a veritable catalog of modernist experimental cinemas is edited into a quasihistorical semifictional account of Sergei M. Eisenstein’s travels through industrial modernity. Fragments from Dudley Murphy and Fernand Léger’sBallet mécanique(1924) or Oskar Fischinger’sLiebesspiel(Love Games; 1931) are cut into the work, suggesting that Eisenstein’s montage is a way of seeing modernisms as much as or more than the creative response to postrevolutionary Soviet modernity the director himself describes in his own writings. Here, long marginalized by art histories of the modernist avant-garde, visual music becomes a kind of flowering patch...

  8. 4 Hanns Eislerʹs Dialectical Stream: Sync, Dissonance, and the Devil
    (pp. 109-145)

    In previous chapters, Sergei Eisenstein’s and Oskar Fischinger’s distinct resolutions to the problem of synchronizing the creative labor of production with cinema’s automated technical presentation and the interpretive labor of the audience provide two crucial exemplars of stylizing the complex temporalities of time-based industrial media in what I have termed “modal cinemas.” Hanns Eisler’s film-scoring practice clarifies a third classical stylistic of audiovisual media synchronization. Eisler’s use of post-Schoenberg musical insights; his political engagements; his wide range of scoring activities for documentary or narrative features; his seminal Rockefeller Foundation–funded experiments in cinema music composition in the Film Music Project...

  9. 5 Black Relationship: Improvising a Black Pacific
    (pp. 146-174)

    In the preceding discussions of Sergei Eisenstein’s “charmed” montage, Oskar Fischinger’s spiraling musical animation, and Hanns Eisler’s administrative synchronization of sound and image as dissonant, dialectical stream, I have identified three classical stylistics for synchronizing audiovisual exhibition as a relation of contemporary and historical time. For subjects cut off from history and from one another, and reprojecting and redefining historical meaning in exhibition, pathos characterizes the complex relation between the affective labor of composition and that of reception. Eisenstein’s “charmed” montage provides the key exemplar of this stylistic of streaming synchronization. When exhibition emphasizes a continuous streaming of temporal relation...

  10. 6 Melos, Telos, and Me: Transpositions of Identity in the Rock Musical
    (pp. 175-212)

    On the way from a sideshow act entertaining scandal-seekers and startling diners at an unlikely home-style-buffet-cum-rock-club in Kansas City to star billing at a swank New York City rock club, where she delivers an anthemic “last waltz,” Hedwig crosses territories familiar to and untrammeled by filmic melodrama, musical biopic, rock musical, and rockumentary in director and star John Cameron Mitchell’s 2001 film adaptation of his long-running off-Broadway play,Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Hedwig’s audience works through her trials and tribulations along the way: child abuse sexual (by her father) and emotional (by her mother); surgical mutilation by a crank...

  11. 7 Stylistics of Hieroglyphic Time
    (pp. 213-246)

    In this study, I have shown the ways in which musicality and gesture have provided key terms, tropes, methods, concepts, and emblems for synchronizing streaming media throughout recent periods of technological innovation and media transitions. In each case, synchronizing streaming media for audience reception using means of greater temporal precision suggests some looming closure or totalization of media production, exhibition, or reception; in each case, musicality serves as a way of elaborating critical possibilities for synchronization in a larger sense than solely the technical means of registration and exhibition while forestalling any final totalized closed system of media synchronization. We...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 247-280)
  13. Index
    (pp. 281-289)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 290-290)