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Cinematic listening

To what extent do cinematic conventions now shape our understanding of sounds and images outside the cinema?

Has cinema transformed our listening cultures? Did film bring about new ways of hearing? It has long been suggested that films have changed the way we listen, but the intersection between cinema and broader listening cultures has only recently started to receive serious academic attention.

This is partly due to the difficulty of ‘listening’ as an object of study, but also the highly heterogeneous and constantly changing nature of what we call ‘cinema’. Yet, it is because of these reasons that studying the relationship between listening cultures and the ever-changing notions of cinema are as crucial as ever.

Cinematic listening is a new area of interdisciplinary study with two primary objectives:

  • A better understanding of how listening to film is situated in specific textual, spatial and historical practices.
  • An exploration of how modes of listening to film may have extended beyond the texts, places and institutions of cinema.

Output and works in progress

The Oxford Handbook of Cinematic Listening (OUP, 2021), edited by Dr Carlo Cenciarelli, takes the above challenges and objectives as its central topics, and explores – from philosophical, archival, empirical and analytical perspectives – the genealogies of cinema’s audiovisual practices, the relationship between film aesthetics and listening protocols, and the extension of cinematic modes of listening into other media and everyday situations.

The volume is the result of a collaboration with over 35 world-leading scholars in music, film and media studies.

Dr Cenciarelli contributed a chapter that focuses on the relationship between cinema and personal stereos. The chapter suggests that while both ‘cinematic’ and ‘personal stereo’ listening are highly individualised experiences, they are also implicitly dependent on the presence of imagined ‘others’ who are constantly being mobilised to compensate for our sensory and social isolation.

He is currently working on a monographic project that explores, more broadly, how cinema has provided cultural and phenomenological templates for listening on the move. Earlier publications have focused on how the cinematic use of pre-existing classical and popular music can shape the music’s meanings, ontologies, and further media uses.

Associated staff

Dr Carlo Cenciarelli

Dr Carlo Cenciarelli

Lecturer and Director of Undergraduate Studies

+44 (0)29 2087 0313