I feel like the question of prior knowledge is particularly meaningful with
regard to the final sound in the film, the recording of Jane giving birth.
Obviously the film is experienced as-is without that knowledge by a lot of
people, but Stan also revealed the source of the sounds as quoted in
Visionary Film, so he apparently didn't feel the need to keep it secret
either. But he does elude to the mystery and power of the sound, saying
"It definitely sounds like a dog in somebody’s backyard in the drama sense
of that scene, yelping in pain. It does actually carry the sense of a
terror beyond that." suggesting an interest in the sound remaining unnamed
or at least remaining partially abstracted from its source, and now
integral to the film as a moment of weird vital intensity.
In the course of working on the sound restoration, we did, out of
curiosity, halve the speed of that sound to confirm it seemed to just be
doubled (3.75ips played at 7.5ips), which was indeed the case. We also
tried speeding up the middle sound (the bird song), but actually couldn't
quite figure out the right speed that made it sound "normal", which was
The question of prior knowledge is a pretty complicated one, and something
I'm pretty interested in (and that even some of my own films are about).
Prior knowledge of contextual/production/technical details about a film
which are there from the start but either deliberately or casually hidden
can be an interesting and intentional component to the work - with
Brakhage, I think about some of his films being made in direct response to
his cancer diagnosis and treatments - one doesn't necessarily know that
about them when seeing them, but he did reference those personal
experiences in some contexts, and having that knowledge radically changes
one's viewing of the films (like Commingled Containers or Self Song/Death
And sometimes it's knowledge that only comes later from subsequent events
or revelations. Gus Van Sant has a short film called Ken Death Gets Out of
Jail, a three-minute short portrait/interview with Ken Death after he got
out of a jail from a robbery charge or something like that. It's a
fascinating film, pretty charged and complex, really compelling, funny,
upsetting, etc. Within a few years of its making Ken Death was one of a
trio of skinheads arrested for the murder of an Ethiopian immigrant
student. He went to prisoner for murder, then died in prison years later.
Seeing/showing the film now, it can either be hyper-loaded with this info
or not, depending on whether someone knows about Ken Death. In Portland,
everyone knows, so it plays radically differently there.
On Tue, Aug 8, 2017 at 4:07 AM, Rob Gawthrop <r...@robgawthrop.co.uk> wrote:
> Thanks for this.
> Knowing what the sources are for the sound of *Fire of Waters* is
> particularly interesting for me as previously I did not know these facts
> although there had been much conjecture. My reference to it in my article
> & LIGHTNING* Noise: **Aesthetics and Audio-visual Avant-garde Practice*
> in Goddard. et al. (Eds.). *Reverberations: The Philosophy, Aesthetics
> and Politics of Noise* (Continuum), described the sound as heard;
> likening the sound to external sources somewhat different to what they
> actually were. The troubling question that this raised is: how does
> prior knowledge of what is being heard (and seen for that matter) affect
> the viewing-listiening experience of the film?
> Best Wishes
> On 7 Aug 2017, at 02:21, Mark Toscano <mrkt...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Hi all,
> I realize it's kind of self-promotional, but since a halfway decent amount
> of people seemed to like it, I hope you'll indulge me a bit of news about
> my Preservation Insanity site.
> Just wanted to spread the word that after a long period of inactivity,
> I've moved, spiffed up, and begun posting again to the site, which is now
> For those who haven't checked it out before, I try to write periodically
> about archiving, preservation, and experimental film, so if that's of
> interest, please do give it a look!
> The most recent post is a somewhat epic one I finished today about the
> soundtrack for Brakhage's film Fire of Waters, and the restoration
> questions it poses, with a healthy dose of info about his sound filmmaking
> approaches to boot.
> And if you're on Instagram and interested, I've been posting more
> bite-sized things for about a year now under the name
> preservationinsanity. Again, feel free to follow it if it's of interest!
> Thanks for indulging me -
> Mark T
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