Issue 3: Fearful Sounds: Cross-Platform Studies of Sonic Audio and Horror, Guest Editor: Danielle Barrios-O’Neill (Falmouth University)
Danielle Barrios-O'Neill, Falmouth University
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John A. Riley, Woosong University
This paper proposes Peter Strickland’s work as a case study of how the uncanny properties of recorded sound can be interrogated within a narrative fictional framework. Berberian Sound Studio (2012) explores the capacity for audio manipulation and estrangement through the story of a sound engineer working on a horror film. We never see the film, but the technology that makes it possible is endlessly exposed and fetishised; gradually the engineer suffers a breakdown. The radio drama The Stone Tape (2015) deals with repetition. Itself a remake, it depicts audio technicians beset by a haunting that they realise is a type of recording. In trying to harness this phenomenon they unleash a chain of repetition that becomes more grotesque each time. In both works recording technology is the source of horror; able to subsume the human. The conclusion considers to what extent these works are self-reflexive about the anxieties they unleash.
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In William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (1973) sound is a key strategy in the formation of demonic presence, most dramatically in the transformation of the possessed body of Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair). However, by taking its cue from the film’s often critically neglected Iraq prologue this article will look at the ways in which the demon in the film, Pazuzu, is constructed as ‘noise’, media theory’s critical concept in understanding the part interruption, interference and distortion play in undermining the communication and formation of meaning. By considering the demon as noise within a sound studies context, the relationship between audio and horror is deservedly recognised as more than that of emotional effect or simple ‘jump scares’. Rather by listening for noise in The Exorcist, the current argument will gesture toward the ontological and philosophical aspects of horror.
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Danielle Barrios-O’Neill (Falmouth University) and Michael Collins (University of Kent), Falmouth University and University of Kent
One of the most influential recent additions to critical environmental discourse has been Tim Morton’s concept of dark ecology, an approach to nature that rejects conventional ideas of sustainability and instead foregrounds a fundamental relationality between human and non-human materials, where life is always in-process (and thus cannot be preserved, so to speak) and where the many ecosystems that compose ‘the environment’ or ‘Nature’ are not separate from us, but rather ‘ooze uncannily around us.’ (2013: 143) Our relationship with nature becomes as intimate as our those with other people: strange, loving, depressing, endearing, ironic. This chapter introduces the concept of the dark-ecological podcast, characterised by emergent aesthetics of uncanniness, pervasive anxiety, bodily permeability, and a complex relationship to the ‘local,’ all explored with dark ecology in mind. (2016) Contemporary podcasts Tanis and Welcome to Night Vale serve as case studies, to identify resonances between contemporary podcast aesthetics and contemporary ecological philosophy, both of which seek to render a continuous ‘dark’ environment, where darkness comprises the uncanny and the cute, the intimate and the strange.
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Danielle Hancock, University of East Anglia
Following the popularisation of iPod and mobile-audio technologies, the last decade evidences a dramatic rise in the production and popularity of podcast audio-fiction, one which is largely dominated, and arguably pioneered, by the horror genre (Hancock 2016; Locke 2016). This is an exciting time for audio horror, with podcasting potentializing and developing new audio-narrative strategies, enabling low-cost independent horror production and distribution, and garnering new types of listening-culture (Hancock and McMurtry 2017). Yet among the most exciting developments of horror podcasting is the revival, and long-overdue application, of binaural recording to the realms of audio horror fiction. Exploring three binaural podcast horrors—Welcome to Night Vale’s ‘All Right’, BBC 4’s The Stone Tape, and Earbud Theatre’s Are You Sleeping?—this paper queries the extent to which 3D sound explores, articulates and re-defines the auditory horror experience, particularly with regards to new audio media technology and cultures.
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Richard J. Hand, University of East Anglia
Sound is inherently uncanny. Literally invisible, it stealthily permeates our environment. This is why sound is horror culture’s most devious weapon: sudden thunderclaps, relentless heartbeats, or unexplained whispers can unnerve us more than anything visual. We comprehend how sound works, yet in our experience we tussle with sound’s immateriality through concepts of anamnesis or hauntology. Indeed, many pioneers of radio were beheld by their contemporaries in ‘occultist’ terms and Edison was terrified the first time his gramophone worked. From the wax fragments of Florence Nightingale speaking of [im]mortality to Leyland Kirby’s ongoing experiments in sound and dementia, audio recordings have captured voices, spaces and emotions. In so doing, the auditory profoundly changes our perception of time, reality and environment and renders us thoroughly haunted. After all, visual horrors are child’s play next to aural terror. For in our most vulnerable moments we can hide in the dark or shut our eyes, but we struggle to close our ears. This contribution features a short critical essay and the script and MP3 recording of an original, 13.5 minute audio play. The audio narrative explores the essay’s themes in a darkly comic tale of terror about an estate agent’s auditory experiences in an empty house.
Read | Download as PDF Pages 72 – 78
Richard J. Hand, University of East Anglia
This is a script and MP3 recording of an original, 13.5 minute audio play. The audio narrative explores the essay’s themes in a darkly comic tale of terror about an estate agent’s auditory experiences in an empty house.
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Alison Bainbridge, University of Northumbria
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Stacey Abbott, University of Roehampton
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Kelly Jones, University of Lincoln
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Mauro Di Lullo, University of Stirling
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Jamil Mustafa, Lewis University
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Carol A. Senf, Georgia Institute of Technology
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Siv Jansson, Birkbeck College and Loughborough University
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Notes on Contributors
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