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Free Content The sound of Coen comedy: music, dialogue and sound effects in Raising Arizona

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The Coen brothers' approach to film-making places them among a minority of film-makers that integrate aural ingredients from the beginning of the film-making process. The Coens established this mode of production as standard practice in their second film, Raising Arizona (1987), a comedy told primarily through repetition and cartoon-like exaggeration. To help communicate these basic elements, the Coens asked their regular sound personnel to construct a soundtrack that emphasized them. As a result, many of the aural ingredients recur throughout the film, reinforcing events or a sense of place. Music and effects also strengthen the rapid, and often chaotic, pace of events. Moreover, the dialogue accentuates the larger-than-life characters and helps situate their rustic nature. Through Raising Arizona the Coens not only demonstrate how sound can be integral to the film-making process, but they also show how another mode of production can challenge the long-standing dominance of image as the primary storyteller.

Keywords: Coen brothers; comedy; production practices; sound

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: November 7, 2007

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  • The Soundtrack is a multi-disciplinary journal which brings together research in the area of music and sound in relation to film and other moving image media. A complex cultural, technological, industrial and artistic phenomenon, sound-with-moving image is a rich area for analysis, investigation and speculation. We encourage writing that is accessible to audiences from a diversity of intellectual backgrounds and disciplines as well as providing a forum for practitioners. The Soundtrack's aim is to nurture this new and expanding area of academic investigation in dialogue with soundtrack producers of all kinds.
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