Archive for July, 2008

Work in Progress 3 – Laboratory Blues

Posted in video, work in progress with tags , on July 29, 2008 by Lightborne

There ain’t nothin’ you can do

’bout those Laboratory Blues

Hunt for the Southern Continent

Posted in books, Tiki with tags , , , , on July 12, 2008 by Lightborne

My obsession with South Seas adventure and exoticism was indulged today by the purchase of the slim but beautiful Penguin Great Journeys edition of selections from James Cook’s journals. So far he’s still braving the frosty winds of Antarctica with determination and bad spelling, but I’m very much looking forward to his visits to Tonga, Tahiti and Easter Island.

“[We] made sail to the westward under double reef’d Top-sails and Courses, with the wind notherly a strong gale attended with a thick fog Sleet and Snow which froze to the Rigging as it fell and decorated the whole with icicles. Our ropes were like wires, Sails like board or plates of Metal and the Shivers froze fast in the blocks so that it required our utmost effort to get a Top-sail down and up; the cold so intense as hardly to be endured, the whole Sea in a manner covered with ice, a hard gale and a thick fog.”
– James Cook, Hunt for the Southern Continent

I love these little books and have a list of others I want to read as soon as possible, especially Piracy, Turtles and Flying Foxes by William Dampier and The Shipwrecked Man by Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca

Pausing image; pausing sound

Posted in Film, rant with tags , , on July 11, 2008 by Lightborne

I was at a conference recently where a question was put to a speaker about the temporality of the paused film image. The question related roughly to Laura Mulvey’s work on the subject in Death 24x a Second, complicated by the issue of the impossibility of perceiving paused sound. We can see a paused image, but we can’t hear a paused sound. So how much authority over the minutiae of the film can we really gain from scrutinising the paused image? We may pore over a frozen frame in a cinephiliac way, but all we really have before us is a partial cross-section of the film – static image plus silence. The audiovisual experience of film here becomes the purely visual experience of the paused image.

The seemingly sensible decision returned to the audience was that the temporal perception of image and sound are simply different. But I’m not sure I agree with this.

When we pause a sound we get silence, a negation of sound. Here, the sound is stopped at a precise moment and can later be restarted from that point. Pausing a sound recording is something you do to allow for some other act in between (answering a phone, making tea, going to the bathroom). When we pause a film we get a still image. This is a negation of motion, but not of image. The purpose of this act may be the same as with sound (answering a phone, making tea etc.). The image remains on screen unlooked at. However, we may also pause the image to scrutinise it, to take pleasure in the unhurried examination of a frozen tableau, the lingering gaze at a petrified face. We gain this privilege at the expense of sound and movement.

But what would it be like to pause sound in the same way? To freeze an instant in a piece of music or dialogue to scrutinise its composition? How do you take a cross-section of sound? The intuitive answer, as evinced by the reply given at the conference, was that you simply can’t. The temporal perception of the visual and the sonic are just different. Now this may indeed be true, but not in the way that this difficulty in conceiving one and not the other immediately suggests.

The difference is less in the way we actually perceive sound and image, than in the way we think about these two kinds of perception. We find it difficult to imagine what it would be like to listen to a paused sound because we can’t think of sound outside of its temporality. Nevertheless we can quite readily accept the idea of pausing vision.

We can imagine a frozen moment, but that moment will always be silent. Notice how any hypothetical frozen moment we can think of is always deathly quiet. We see this in fictional representations of frozen time also, most representatively in the television series Heroes, wherein the character Hiro Nakamura (Masi Oka) has the power to freeze time. Hiro freezes time at several points throughout the series, to allow him to change the positions of objects or to stop a fatal action mid-execution. When he performs this trick everything around him, including other characters, freeze mid-motion, yet he continues to move. His movements take place within a landscape of suspended movement, presenting a surreal juxtaposition. The surreality is underlined by the silence of these scenes. Ambient sound drains away as time freezes, leaving only the sounds that Hiro himself makes. He can make sound because he still exists in duration, though everything around him has lost this characteristic. Without time, things can’t make sounds. But even without time, it would appear, things can still be seen….

So, we know what a frozen moment would look like, but not what it would sound like. Or, at least we seem to think that it would sound like silence, the absence of sound. Again, this is because sound seems to require temporal extension just to be sound, whereas vision seems to be able to exist independently of time. This conceptualisation of the frozen moment, or what it is to pause sound and moving image, can be refuted in two opposite, but connected, ways. Either paused sound (as we understand it) isn’t really paused sound, or a paused moving image is something other than a cross-section of the film, an instant frozen for enhanced scrutiny. In the first case, we might suggest that a paused sound, were it to be treated in a manner consistent with how we conceive of a paused image, would actually have to be represented by a continuous tone – a cross-section of the sound at the precise instant of the pause repeated at a frequency that would allow it to give the impression of continuous sound.

On the other hand, perhaps the difficulty in comprehending paused sound, and the intuitive reaction against the idea of a continuous tone as frozen time, should be extended to our idea of the paused image. Perhaps image cannot exist outside of time either…

The paused image is not frozen. It is not, like a photograph, a static object – it is a constantly refreshing image, functioning as it would if we were watching an unpaused action sequence. It just happens in this case that the image is constantly being replaced by a copy of itself. The impression that what we are seeing is a frozen moment, a cross-section of the film, is in fact a fallacy. The perception of image, moving or still, requires time just as much as the perception of sound does. To pause a DVD is to gain a certain kind of insight into the composition of the frame at a given moment, but it can only ever be a partial cross-section, an aberrant manipulation in itself of the audiovisual fabric of the film. Cinema is temporal in the way that sound is temporal, and outside of the persuasion strategy of the pause button we should really find the same kind of difficulty in thinking the frozen film moment.

Listening 09-07-08

Posted in listening, music, personal with tags on July 9, 2008 by Lightborne

What I’ve been listening to lately:

1. Nneka – Victim of Truth
2. Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force – Planet Rock The Album
3. Bill Callahan – Woke on a Whaleheart
4. Dexter Gordon – A Swingin’ Affair
5. Marc Ribot y Los Cubanos Postizos
6. Bud Powell – The Amazing Bud Powell Vol.1
7. Ellen Allien & Apparat – Orchestra of Bubbles

The sad tale of Jeremy Blake

Posted in Film, mysterious with tags , , on July 3, 2008 by Lightborne

I just spent a whole hour engrossed in the story of the artist Jeremy Blake. It started as a momentary information search…. I was writing about the abstract sequences in P.T. Anderson’s Punch Drunk Love and decided to quickly look up the artist responsible, but I really hadn’t expected to come across a story as strange and sad as I did. The first curious inkling came when I found that he died in 2007, which led me to dig deeper, which finally brought me to an article from Vanity Fair that describes the whole weird tale.

The Golden Suicides by Nancy Jo Sales on

Still from Blake’s “Winchester Series”. Taken from another article about the events on

Irregular Film Club no.4

Posted in Film, irregular film club with tags , , , on July 3, 2008 by Lightborne

Next week will see the fourth installment of my irregular film club. We’re going to be watching Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain (I think its about time for a reappraisal) and Claude Lelouche’s C’etait un Rendezvous (which has to be seen to be believed).

The Irregular Film Club


Darren Aronofsky’s
The Fountain


Misunderstood genius or misjudged folly? You decide on:

Thursday 10 July

7.30 pm – Room 056

plus bonus feature:

Claude Lelouche’s infamous C’était un rendez-vous (1976 – 9 mins)

The cult film that perversely survives mostly because of its whispered fame amongst petrol heads and car clubs. It is surrounded by myths (Lelouche’s arrest after the first screenings, the question of who drove the car, whether its really real or not, the communication failures that could have led to multiple deaths), that are overshadowed by the audacity, simplicity and insanity of the film itself.


Open to members and students of the University of Warwick Film & TV Studies Dept.

For more info: