Sound and Cinema - FI603

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
Canterbury Autumn
View Timetable
5 30 (15)


FILM3130 Film Style
FILM3150 Film Theory or FILM3160 Film Histories





Cinema has typically been conceived of as an essentially visual phenomenon – films, it is often said, are essentially moving pictures. Sound has, nevertheless, played an important role from the beginnings of cinema, a fact which has been acknowledged in the detailed historical, theoretical and critical work on film music, and film sound more generally, produced over the last decade. Sound and Cinema will provide an overview of this new field of research, and aim to provide students with a clearer understanding of and greater sensitivity to the soundtrack. The course will begin by setting up an introductory framework for the understanding of sound, which considers the relationship between music and other aspects of film sound (dialogue, voice-over, effects), as well as the nature of the relationship between image and sound. Subsequent sessions will consider the evolution of sound technology and its impact on the aural aesthetics of film; the use of classical and popular music in film scores; the emergence of sound designers, such as Walter Murch and Alan Splet, in contemporary cinema; and the distinctive and innovative use of sound and music by such diverse directors as Wim Wenders, Jean-Luc Godard, David Lynch, and William Raban.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

Total contact hours: 60
Private study hours: 240
Total study hours: 300

Method of assessment

Essay 1 (1500 words) (30%)
Essay 2 (3500 words) (60%)
Seminar Participation (10%)

Indicative reading

Michel Chion, Audio-Vision (Columbia University Press, 1994).
Kathryn Kalinak, Settling the Score (University of Wisconsin Press, 1994) OR
George Burt, The Art of Film Music (Northeastern University Press, 1994)
Elisabeth Weis and John Belton, Film Sound: Theory and Practice (Columbia University Press, 1985).
Jeff Smith, The Sounds of Commerce: Marketing Popular Film Music (Columbia University Press, 1998).

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

- develop far greater sensitivity to the soundtrack, actively listening to sounds which previously they would have paid little attention to;
- develop a more varied and precise vocabulary for the analysis of film sound and music;
- have a more balanced sense of the relative contribution of sound and image to the experience of film viewing;
- have a deeper understanding of the functions played by film sound;
- have a basic, non-technical ability to analyse and discuss musical form and musical qualities, as these inform the film soundtrack (the course will not assume a detailed theoretical understanding of music or an ability to read music).

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