Lyrebird: Sound to service Narrative


(A response to ‘Patrick 25/4’,for the Audio Research Article v2′, conducted at writingfix)

In considering Patrick’s three categories – place, memory, narrative – I would agree that “the first two are becoming enmeshed and the third is the means by which we express this” (25/4). The references below, as requested, are also divided into these two (neat yet not exclusive) categories for the same reason. They are collected from my film studies and specific research for the Lyrebird Project, that is, the radioplay ‘Under the Forest’ and the sonic poem ‘Ladyswamp’. What I see is that my interest in ‘sound to service narrative’ is mostly understood through the art of film making. This also contrasts with my interest in non-narrative sound and music. The binary of narrative/non-narrative continues to absorb my interest and was applied to the sound design and music composition for the Lyrebird project. Furthermore,  ‘sound in film’ theory held me in good stead for the work of ‘narrative sound’ in the Lyrebird project where clearly a proffered visual is not just absent, but unneccessary. Or, the visual is only to be discovered in the imaginary of the listener.

My understanding of ‘narrative’ based on these film studies, is that narrative is not the story, but rather, how the story is put together. This helps me, as the definition of the term ‘narrative’ seems to vary according to the different arts (writing, film, music, philosophy etc). We can therefore see that there are – linear, episodic, circular, hidden, unresolved, etc, narratives, regardless of what the story is doing. As mentioned elsewhere , I have come to hear that music might well be the only form that can truly express the non-narrative. But this idea strays from our task of ‘sound to service narrative’. What is of interest to me, and briefly discussed in (TK 5/4), are the categories of place – of the diegesis: diegetic, non-diegetic and meta-diegetic. An example of meta-diegetic sound might be, sound imagined, or perhaps, hallucinated by a character (Milicevic). In Audio Research Article v1, Patrick identifies that the radioplay text is essentially a meta-narrative, where the story of the child lost to the forest is distorted and internalised by the memory of the narrators. Here there is a dialogue between the non-diegetic and the meta-narrative. I remind the reader that the sonic place from which the radioplay narrators speak is that of the non-diegetic; it is not a sound imagined or hallucinated, but intended as a sound that is completely outside the experience of  the radioplay, to create as much distance as possible (a Brechtian alienation even), to allow the text enough space to realise its meta-narrative quality, to become the elusive – ‘sound of memory’.

I have been contemplating Carter’s powerful statement, that Josephine reminded us of (3/4), which is, “to sound a space is to denominate it a place: it is to mark it as an historical event.”  Focusing on the first part of this statement has led me to some curious questions. Is sound the only real way, the best way, to denominate a place? Is any place that has an absence of sound essentially placeless? Even in our suspicion that we do not hear sound, as in imaginary spaces, are we in fact ‘hearing things’ (in a subcoinscious way), thereby allowing that place to be denominated? I have more questions, but will try for some answers before profering them, and hopefully be reformed by responses.

A list of references, useful to me on  ‘theory of sound’. Patrick, I hope this suffices.


Beck, Alan E., Listening to Radio Plays: fictional landscapes,

Carter, Paul 2004, ‪Material Thinking: The Theory and Practice of Creative Research,Melbourne University Publishing

Carter, Paul 2009, Dark Writing, University of Hawaii Press

Carter, Paul 2010, The Road to Botany Bay: An Exploration of Landscape and History,Uni of Minnesota Press

Dunn, David 2001, Nature, Sound Art and the Sacred,

Soundscape, The Journal of Acoustic Ecology, World Forum for Acoustic Ecology,

Toop, David 2010, Sinister Resonance: The Mediumship of the Listener, Continuum International Publishing Group


Altman, Rick 1992, Sound Theory, Sound Practice, Routledge, New York

Balazs, Bela 1884-1949, Theory of the Film: Sound,

Brophy, Phillip 1989, Film Narrative / Narrative Film / Music Narrative / Narrative Music,

Milicevic, Mladen Film Sound Beyond Reality: Subjective Sound in Narrative Cinema,

Sonnenschein, David 2001, Sound design: the expressive power of music, voice, and sound effects in cinema, Michael Wiese Productions, Studio City

Spande, Robert 1996, The Three Regimes: A Theory of Film Music,

Truppin, Andrea 1992, And Then There Was Sound: The Films of Andrei Tarkovsky, inSound Theory, Sound Practice, Altman, Rick (ed)


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