Sound in structural cinema - Albert Alcoz

Talk by Albert Alcoz on March 27th 2019 at Ex-Designer Project Bar (Barcelona).

In his article "Structural Film", published in 1969 in the journal Film Culture, the American theorist P. Adams Sitney analyses a set of films by Michael Snow, Hollis Frampton, Paul Sharits and Ken Jacobs, among others, which interrogate the medium of film by questioning its constituent elements. Listening to these films under artistic parameters such as silence, noise, soundscape, the treatment of the voice, the use of repetition and music are some of the strategies proposed to evaluate the aural aspects of structural cinema.

The presentation followed the structure of the book Film Resonances. Sound in structural cinema (1960-1981) and was combined with the viewing of fragments of the films discussed:

Kurt Kren: Bäume im Herbst (1960)
Steve Farrer: Ten Drawings (1976)
Guy Sherwin: Musical Stairs (1977)

Hollis Frampton: Critical Mass (1971)
Morgan Fisher: Picture and Sound Rushes (1973)

J. J. Murphy: Print Generation (1970-74)
Bill Brand: Moment (1972)
Larry Gottheim: Four Shadows (1978)

William Raban and Chris Welsby: River Yar (1971)
Paul Winkler: Bondi (1979)
Chris Gallagher: Seeing In the Rain (1981)

Morgan Fisher, Projection Instructions (1976)

Alcoz, Albert, Film Resonances. Sound in structural cinema (1960-1981). Santander: Shangrila Textos Aparte, 2017.

Exploring the aesthetic and ideological interstices of the sound dimension in experimental cinema is the main reason for this research. In these pages, sound is studied from an analytical position that emphasizes the idiosyncrasies of the filmmakers' acoustic creation processes, the sonic ruptures that their films formulate and the auditory challenges they pose to the audience. In order to support the reasoning, this essay concentrates on a group of films linked to the notion of structural cinema. This controversial category - identified by the American historian and theorist P. Adams Sitney in the article "Structural Film", published by Film Culture in 1969 - designates some works that problematize the cinematographic environment, discussing its constituent elements.

Kurt Kren, Steve Farrer, Guy Sherwin, Hollis Frampton, Paul Sharits, Morgan Fisher, Bill Brand, J. J. Murphy, Larry Gottheim, William Raban, Chris Welsby, Paul Winkler and Chris Gallagher are the filmmakers called upon in a paper that reflects on the sound practices of their films. The formalist constructions, the semantic implications and the listening experiences of some works created in celluloid - on 16 mm support - are the axes of a written route whose configuration is defined in three parts. The first chapter detects the shortcomings of the study of sound in cinema while clarifying the theoretical intricacies of structural cinema, the second block pays attention to a selection of films ordered under four sections -Noise, Voice, Repetition, Soundscape- and, finally, the conclusion senses the relevance of silence in an eminently resonant artistic discipline.

Filmmakers close to the principles of structural cinema question how sounds should be articulated in relation to moving images. To do so, they take up the iconoclastic heritage of the film avant-garde of the 1920s, adopt the debates of minimalism and conceptual art of the late 1960s and incorporate the methodological advances developed within experimental music. A return to the search for filmic specificity is one of the correlates of all this. Resonancias Fílmicas perceives the validity of structural cinema as a field of filmic experimentation whose sound vibrations expand in an unprecedented way.

Albert Alcoz (Barcelona, 1979) is a filmmaker, researcher, teacher and programmer of experimental film and video creation. D. in Film Theory, Analysis and Documentation from Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, with a doctoral thesis on sound and structural cinema (2016). Since May 2006, he has been writing the website Visionary Film, about avant-garde and contemporary experimental cinema. In 2013 he started the project Angular with Alberto Cabrera Bernal, a DVD publishing label of international experimental cinema. In 2014, together with eight other filmmakers, he founded Reversible Laboratory, an independent laboratory and collective of analog cinema in the city of Barcelona. In 2015 he starts the project Cine anémico, a series of screenings in super and 16 mm by local filmmakers. Since 2016, together with Marcel Pié, Daniel Pitarch and Pepón Meneses, he organizes the CANCER sessions of experimental film and video. In 2017 he will be curating the exhibition (Re) visionados, (re) visitados, a re-reading of the beginnings of Spanish video art for the Arts Santa Mónica art centre. In May 2017 he publishes his first book, Resonancias fílmicas. El sonido en el cine estructural (1960-1981), edited by Shangrila Textos Aparte.


The book: