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Some reflections on Antonioni, sound and the silence of La notte

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Michelangelo Antonioni is usually extolled as a director essentially concerned with the visual image. However, Antonioni was as interested in the aural as he was in the visual aspect of his films, and this article addresses this neglected area of discussion by considering what we may call Antonioni's acoustic turn of the early 1960s. With L'avventura (1960), in fact, the soundtrack of Antonioni's films changes quite radically, as extra-diegetic music is drastically decreased and his films become ostensibly more silent. La notte (1961) deserves particular attention in this respect. This film articulates a manifesto of the director's evolving thoughts on sound and silence, while, at the same time, helping to reveal how contemporaneous innovations in the field of sound recording above all, the introduction of magnetic tape and experimentations in the field of music, particularly those of the musique concrte movement and John Cage, contributed to the shaping of such thoughts.
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Keywords: John Cage; Michelangelo Antonioni; magnetic tape; musique concrte; silence; sound recording technology

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University College London.

Publication date: 01 July 2010

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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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