\"The Functions of Sound and Music in Tarkovsky\'s Films\", Audio ...

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1 nov. 2013 - Similarly, Bergman's eclecticism in Winter Light (1962), and the classical music pieces and cello sound be...



Abstract The use of sound and music has caused several debates in filmmaking. While one group of film directors assert that the use of sound and music (especially music) increase the effects of cinema, other group of directors propound that its use decreases the strength of cinematographic image and pulls it away from reality. Distinctions in views become especially visible when the use of music is in question. Minimalist film directors, including Robert Bresson and Ingmar Bergman, opposed the excessive use of music and saw and used it as the minimal element of their film language. This point of view is shared by the Russian filmmaker Andre Tarkovsky, who has a special status in the auteur film tradition. His thoughts about the minimalist use of music and sound in cinema can be found in his seminal work Sculpting in Time which contains his sincere ideas about life, art, culture and politics. His films, within this perspective, confirm his views in this direction. At this point it must be stressed that while his thoughts seem to contravene the excessive use of music, the soundtracks in his films become the constitutive parts of the filmic narration within this minimalist usage. Typical examples are his Solaris (1972) and Stalker (1979). This study examines the rationality behind the usage of sound and music in Tarkovsky's films. It focuses on the primary sound effects (especially in his science fiction films) and the soundtracks of his films. In this context, especially his Solaris (1972), Mirror (1975), Stalker (1979), and Nostalghia (1983) will be analysed and compared.

Introduction "Every element in a narrative has a function for narrative" (89) writes French critic Roland Barthes. We encounter the constitutive elements of sound and music in narrative, in film experience. This experience consists of different elements among which sound and music play an important role. What are the components of a film soundtrack? "Spoken dialogue, noise, and music –used singularly or in combination- are the components of a film soundtrack" (Winter 152). Sound is another important element in cinema that constitutes cinematographic image. Cinematographic image cannot be effective without soundtrack completely.1 Even "films cannot be understood without consideration of the relations between sound and image" (Johnson 24). Although it is thought that the sound is inferior to the image, the interaction between them is actually inseparable. "The basis of a film is a continuous interaction between sound and image" (Johnson 25).



When we look closely to the history of film we might see that the soundtrack came to the fore in the late 1920s. Therefore, it can be said that cinema was born in the silent era. For this reason, the first considerations and theories on cinema focused on the relations between cinematographic image and reality. In other words image in these views is superior to other elements. With the 1920s, with the introduction of soundtrack in film production, sound became to be understood as being as important as the image. At this point, the experience in the first film theatres played an important role. In the silent era, lone pianists in the film theatres were responsible for the emotional index of the films. They accompanied the film projections with their simultaneous appropriate musical pieces that reflected rhythm and tension of the films. These pieces increase the filmgoers' attention and repressed the intensity of noise that the film projectors made. As might be expected, these musical pieces were mechanical and accidental when compared to current film soundtrack experiences. "A functional concept of film emerged in this imperative" (Winter 146). However the more interesting side of this imperative was the understanding of effects of soundtrack on film narratives. Who could predict that the solution developing for repressing the noise of projection machine made an enormous effect on the development of film language! This meant that the film language gained a new dimension: The elimination of the boundaries between image and real life. At this point one of the basic discussions that interests both professional filmmakers and scholars in cinema begins. While one group of film directors and writers asserted that the use of sound and music (especially music) increase the effects of cinema, other groups of directors and writers propounded that the uses decreases the strength of cinematographic image and pulls it away from reality. Distinctions in views become especially visible when the use of music is in question. Minimalist film directors, including Robert Bresson and Ingmar Bergman, opposed the excessive use of music and saw and used it as a minimal element of their film language. What really matters for these film directors are filmic narration and the belief that it should not be degraded by other elements. Sounds are selected meticulously in this direction; it is seen that they are selected in through a process of elimination. The section of reality that is related to a narrative is recorded in the soundtrack. Other sounds that are unnecessary are carefully and particularly excluded. Similarly, music is used in the same direction by these directors; it is minimized and used as a constitutive part in the film narration. It, as in the other cinematographic components, cannot be upward on narrative. These types of films, although they seem easy at first, leave behind a strong feeling of resemblance, resemblance of reality in their minimalist styles. Bresson's A Man Escaped (1956), Balthazar (1966) and Mouchette (1967), for example, affect us with their eliminated sounds and develop this feeling of resemblance. Similarly, Bergman's eclecticism in Winter Light (1962), and the classical music pieces and cello sound between the parts in Shame (1968) and Funny and Alexander (1983) take part as the formative elements in the narratives. This point of view was shared by the Russian filmmaker Andre Tarkovsky who has a special status in the auteur film tradition. His thoughts about the minimalist use of music and sound in cinema can be found in his seminal work Sculpting in Time which contains his profound ideas about life, art, culture and politics. His films confirm his views in this direction. At this point it must be stressed that while his thoughts seem to contravene the excessive use of music, the soundtracks in his films become the constitutive parts of the filmic narration within this minimalist usage. . Typical examples, within this perspective,

are his Solaris (1972) and Stalker (1979). However, before going to the analyses of these films, it would be useful to discuss Tarkovsky's main views on the use of sound and music to develop further thoughts about the roles of these elements in his film aesthetics.

Tarkosvky's Main Views on the Use of Sound and Music in Cinema

Although image is superior to the other factors in his films2, Tarkovsky states that there must be a natural use of sound and music as there is in reality (158-159). What is stressed here is that the film image must be composed with the soundtrack after elimination of unnecessary sounds, rather than recording all sounds in the frames as it is in reality. The director, moving under the necessity of selection of particular sounds and music, composes his/her image within a balance. Tarkovsky gives Bergman's Winter Light as an example within this perspective: He singles out one sound and excludes all the incidental circumstances of the sound world that would exist in real life. In Winter Light he has the noise of the water in the stream where the suicide's body has been found on the bank. Throughout the entire sequence, all in long and medium shots, nothing can be heard but the uninterrupted sound of the water—no footsteps, no rustle of clothes, none of the words exchanged by the people on the bank. That is the way sound is made expressive in this sequence, that is how he uses it. (162) This situation should also be applicable for music. Tarkovsky, who writes "the sounds of this world are so beautiful in themselves that if only we could learn to listen to them properly" (162), stresses that the world, life, and is musical in its essence: Music in cinema is for me a natural part of our resonant world, a part of human life. Nevertheless, it is quite possible that in a sound film that is realised with complete theoretical consistency, there will be no place for music: it will be replaced by sounds in which cinema constantly discovers new levels of meaning. (159) After these considerations on sound and music, he explains that music adds a new dimension to the film story, enriching it: I find music in film most acceptable when it is used like a refrain. When we come across a refrain in poetry we return, already in possession of what we have read, to the first cause which prompted the poet to write the lines originally. The refrain brings us back to our first experience of entering that poetic world, making it immediate and at the same time renewing it. (158) To Tarkovsky, music not only enriches the interactions between audience and film, it also gives possibilities to the director to put special lyrical notes, metaphors into film stories. He mentions his thoroughly autobiographical film, Mirror, within this sense. While the Mirror reflects Tarkovsky's spiritual experience as a whole, the music in this film functions as the mirror that reflects the protagonist's life in the modern fragmented world. As will be explained below, composer Eduard Artemyev's distinctive electronic music was especially used in some of the scenes within this direction in this film. The aim was to produce a sound, close to that of an earthly echo, filled with poetic suggestion—to rustling, to sighing.The notes had to convey the fact that reality is conditional, and at the same time accurately to reproduce precise states of mind, the sounds of a person's interior world (Tarkovsky 162).



According to Tarkovsky, music also functions in another important role for the other side, the film audience: By using music, it is possible for the director to prompt the emotions of the audience in a particular direction, by widening the range of their perception of the visual image. The meaning of the object is not changed, but the object itself takes on a new colouring. The audience sees it (or at least, is given the opportunity of seeing it) as part of a new entity, to which the music is integral. Perception is deepened. (158) The director, here, leaves his/her intentional effects on viewers the directions of their perceptions, feelings and thoughts. At this point, music is an important tool for director. However, Tarkovsky makes an additional point here. According to him, the use of music in this direction does not mean that a director insists on his visions for an audience using this element, rather it should be used to produce different meanings for the audience. After all, film image should be constructed by poetical rhythm, and for this reason, according to Tarkovsky (183) it has contradiction with Sergei Eisenstein's despotic film formulas. Stalker and Nostalghia were produced after a long film career starting with the film, Ivan's Childhood (1962). Tarkovsky's films have passed several phases until the final usage of sound effects and music. Dramatic flow and usage of music in his first film, Ivan's Childhood, were extended to the interference with the image in his last films, Solaris, Mirror and Nostalghia.

The Use of Sound and Music in Solaris, Mirror, Stalker and Nostalghia The usage of sound and music in Tarkovsky's cinema gained a new dimension especially in his final films. There is little doubt that this dimension is connected with a journey to Tarkovsky's inner world. While the Mirror, as a biographical film, concentrating on Tarkovsky's past, the effects of past experiences on his interior, Nostalghia continues this journey into exile. One (the Mirror) tells the story of a man's fragmented memory in his homeland, Russia, the other (Nostalghia) takes this story to Italy, while the director is in a self-imposed exile. Solaris concentrates on more general themes comparing these two films. Solaris and Stalker, made in the science fiction genre, establish their film discourses and cinematographic elements on criticism of the rationality of modern science that was born in the Enlightenment. The sound and music in these films has composed on the nature-science, human-nature dichotomies. Both films (also the Mirror) are the products of the collaboration of Tarkovsky and composer Eduard Artemyev. Tarkovsky and Artemyev developed a special sound, "an idiosyncratic sonic voice in cinema" (Smith 43). "This is achieved by a complex blend of layers, where sound and music are rarely descriptive in a literal sense, always retaining the feeling that they are operating as more than representation" (Smith 43). The three films can be read as the stories that focus on a mankind which introverted the inner world in the fragmented reality of the modern world. The sound and music were developed especially to reflect this situation. Thus film images would reproduce precise states of mind, the sound of a person's interior world in a reality which is conditional (Tarkovsky 162). Besides Artemyev's music Tarkovsky used Johann Sebastian Bach's chorale prelude for organ, Ich ruf' zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ (BWV 639), in Solaris which was based on the

science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem's story. Tarkosvky asked Artemyev to mix this sound with the ambient sounds as a musical score. Artemyev mixed experimental sounds with the natural ambient sounds in the film. While the film tells the story of Kris Kelvin on the planet Solaris, it also represents to us how the scientific rationality becomes an ideology which externalizes the impossible, the spiritual in modern societies. When Kelvin encounters his dead wife's replica, Hari, on Solaris, this strange creature is examined as an impossible happening by the scientists. Not only did these scientists internalize this scientific rationality, but also Kelvin, who loves his dead wife and is very happy to see her replica on the planet, also embraced it. Solaris makes visible the boundaries of what is human and non-human. The sounds in the film reinforce these contradictions: While Bach's prelude reminds us of regaining the essence of life; Artemyev's experimental timbres indicate the impossibility of this retrieval in the current times. Even Hari's phrase "but I am becoming human being" cannot change this situation. What is constant is certainly the modern scientific rationality and its continuity.3 This rationality and knowledge are received by modern individuals; they have to act in this mode of thinking. This imperative is constantly reminded to us by the scientists throughout the film. Tarkovsky writes "man's unending quest for knowledge, given him gratuitously, is a source of great tension, for it brings with it constant anxiety, hardship, grief and disappointment" in Sculpting in Time (198). Therefore, in this rationality, in the flow of scientific knowledge there has always been anxiety, hardship, grief and disappointment. The film, for this reason, ends with terrific hopelessness; it is no longer possible to regain, resurrect Kelvin's Hari within this rationality. The characters in Solaris were dogged by disappointments, and the way out we offered them was illusory enough. It laid in dreams, in the opportunity to recognise their own roots—those roots which for ever link man to the Earth which bore him. But even those links had already become unreal for them (199). Bach's cantus firmus which was used as the subtheme of Hari by Artemyev is heard in the final scene where Hari is dying. This usage of music completes Solaris' hopeless final scene. This hopeless situation, this pessimistic usage of sound and music continued in Tarkovsky's next film, the Mirror. In his thoroughly autobiographical film, the Mirror, Tarkovsky starts a journey into his childhood, people whom he saw as important. This journey for Tarkovsky, as King has correctly noted, "is the attempt through memory to regain what is lost" (67). There are parallel points about the retrieval of what is lost in both films: Kelvin's impossible task to regain his wife whom he lost in the real world, turned into a struggle, another impossible task in which the protagonist turns to the past where he lost his secure family atmosphere, his childhood, his people, his innocence, in the Mirror. The director of the films knows this impossible task lies ahead, but continues with the fragmented.4 It can be said that the film was shaped with this fragmentation. Memories play an important role for the director's journey to the past. They appear disconnected from each other like in a dream. The film leaps from sequence to sequence without regard for chronology, as in a dream. This fragmentation and disconnected flow of images are completed with Artemyev's electronic music. Tarkovsky continues his journey to past in Nostalghia. Nostalghia is like a second chapter after his biographical film, the Mirror. The film Nostalghia tells the story of a poet, Andrei Gorchakov who came to Italy to research the life of the Russian serf composer Pavel Sosnovsky. It seems that Sosnovsky was not a fictional character, he led a normal life.



He is known as a talented composer because of his successful musical works. However, when he got caught up by nostalgia he decided to return to serf-owing country Russia. Shortly after his return he hanged himself. Although he knew that there was no way out for him there he wanted to die in his home country. Gorchakov fragmented inside himself in the foreign land, Italy. He "watches other people's lives from a distance, crushed by the recollections of his past, by the faces of those dear to him, which assail his memory together with the sounds and smells of home" (Tarkovsky 203). In one aspect, he feels the fate of Sosnovsky, in the other aspect, as a modern individual, he develops an attachment after the speeches (they criticize the modern world) of Italian mystic Domenico. Sosnovksy is stuck in his past the modern life lies ahead of him. He dreams throughout the film, returning to his past, his family home. The past seems as if it is an antidote to the present. This deadlock situation completes with some special sound effects (heard in drops of rain, steps, flow of water, etc) in the film. Although Nostalghia uses less music in comparison to his other films, it comes to the fore especially for two sound usages: A sole woman's song is heard in the opening and final scenes and part of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 is heard where Domenico puts himself on fire. In the opening scene a family and their dog seem to be descending a hill. The countryside vanishes into the rolling fog. The camera dollies in continuously from the beginning. A sole woman sings at this moment and the starting credits seen over the screen. When the family and dog stop moving, Verdi's Messa de Requem is heard in the background. The sole woman also sings in the final scene where the Russian house appears in the middle of the Italian cathedral. The sounds with which we are familiar in the West and the sound that we hear in the East are intertwined, as in the life story it is combined with what is individual and what is universal. The one reflects a poet's fragmented inner world; the other represents reasons behind this fragmented inner world in modern society. Another usage of sound and music is observed where Domenico puts himself on fire. When Domenico realizes despair and lack of freedom in his time, modern society, he, like Sosnovsky, wants to commit suicide in the same way: Domenico chooses his own way of martyrdom rather than give in to the accepted, cynical pursuit of personal material privilege, in an attempt to block, by his own exertions, by the example of his own sacrifice, the path down which mankind is rushing insanely towards its own destruction (Tarkovsky 208). At this point, the final part of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 (which later became the European Union Anthem) is heard in the background in the scene and Italy with its magnificent ruins is no longer meaningful. After Solaris, Tarkovsky continued his science fiction genre in Stalker. However, Stalker is not purely a science fiction film. The film uses science fiction film conventions to a limited extent. It tells the journey of three people, the Writer, the Professor (of Physics), and Stalker, and the secrets of the Zone. The film, like , is intensely critical about the rationality of modern science. Stalker problematicises the externalization of what is spiritual in modern world and scientific rationality. Stalker, like a prophet in the modern world, who knows every way, every secret in the Zone, guides the Writer, and the Professor in the journey to the Zone. However, in the course of the journey, when we, the viewers, witness the dialogues among the three, we realize what type of reality it is in which we live, and the deep crisis about creativity (the Writer wants to go the Room in the Zone to regain his inspiration) we encounter in the current times. The special soundtrack developed by Artemyev accompanies the dialogues where the film message becomes

critical. The music supports the discourses of the dialogue in these scenes. "The boundaries between music and sound were blurred, as natural sounds and music interact to the point were they are indistinguishable. In fact, many of the natural sounds were not production sounds but were created by Artemyev on his synthesizer" (Varaldiev, "Russian Composer Eduard Artemyev") . There is an interesting music usage in a distinctive scene where the three travelling to the Zone on a motorized draisine. Music, the experimental timbres of Artemyev was added to natural ambient sounds and to the motorized draisine in this scene. The camera is focused on the characters and we hear sonic voices along with natural ambient sounds, thus "we are not distracted by their surroundings and as a result the physical journey becomes transformed into an inner journey" (Smith 45): In the opening and the final scene Beethoven's Ninth Symphony was removed and in the opening scene in Stalker's house ambient sounds were added, changing the original soundtrack, in which this scene was completely silent except for the sound of a train (Bielawsky & Tronsden, "The RusCiCo Stalker DVD"). During their journey in the Zone, the sound of water becomes more significant. The more hopeless the situation becomes, after the dialogue among the characters, the more prominent the sounds of water becomes. Thus the latter depends on the first; the sound of water seems to symbolize the beginning, the wish of change and flux.5 When Stalker understands that he cannot change the Professor and Writer's rooted visions, feelings, and thoughts on the world, humanity, and the spirituality, he notices that he is alone on earth. He wants to change them, invite them to the mystical, the impossible, like a prophet, until the final sequence; but he realizes that he cannot change them.


Image is superior to all other elements in Tarkovsky's film aesthetics. Filmic narration, to Tarkovsky, is produced in the process of poetical images. Thus, according to him, a filmmaker must concentrate on the cinematographic image first. However, although it is not as important as the image, sound and music are other significant components in filmmaking. Sound and music give the chance to the director to produce distinctive cinematographic atmospheres. Tarkovsky does not resist the use of music. Although he is critical of its use heavily, he did not altogether avoid the use of music elements in his films. The typical examples are those of the Solaris and Stalker. As explained above, he even did not hesitate to use experimental sounds in these films. Sound and music complete his film aesthetics, so that when we hear or read something about his Stalker, Solaris, Mirror, and Nostalghia we cannot imagine them without these elements.




Barthes, Roland. Image, Music, Text. New York: Fontana Press, 1977. Print. Bielawsky, Jan, and Trond S. Tronsden. "The RusCiCo Stalker DVD". 20 June 2013. Web. ‹http://nostalghia.com›. Harvey, David. The Condition of Postmodernity: An Inquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change. Oxford & Massachusetts: Blackwell, 1992. Print. Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham: Duke University Press, 1991. Print. Johnson, William. "Sound and Image: A Further Hearing." Film Quarterly 43.1 (1989): 2435. Print. King, Peter. "Memory and Exile: Time and Place in Tarkovsky's Mirror", Housing, Theory and Society, 25 (2008): 66-78. Print. Lukacs, Georg. The Theory of the Novel; Georg Lukacs, The Meaning of Contemporary Realism. London: Merlin Press, 1963. Print. Mitchell, Tony. "Tarkovsky in Italy". 20 June 2013. Web. ‹http://nostalghia.com›. Smith, Stefan. "The Edge of Perception: Sound in Tarkovsky's Stalker." The Soundtrack 1.1 (2007): 41-52. Print. Swensson, Owe. "Sound in Tarkovsky's Sacrifice". 12 June 2013. Web. ‹http://filmsound.org›. Tarkovsky, Andrei. Sculpting in Time: Reflections on the Cinema. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1987. Print. Varaldiev, Anneliese. "Russian Composer Eduard Artemyev". Web. 17 June 2013. ‹http://electroshock.ru/eng/edward/interview/varaldiev/›. Winter, Marian Hannah. "The Function of Music in Sound Film." The Musical Quarterly 27.2 (1941): 146-164. Print.


This can even be said for D.W. Griffith's masterpieces, The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Intolerence (1916), and even Charlie Chaplin films in the silent era. Griffith's films, and Chaplin's style become more perfected and reaches a peak with music used between parts. 2 Owe Svensson, the sound mixer of Tarkosvky's Sacrifice, also stresses this fact. 3 The journey to Solaris was designed not to present this planet to humanity, but to extend knowledge to its outermost boundaries. This fact is stressed in one of the scenes in the film. This means that knowledge moved away from human beings and reified in itself in modern capitalist societies. 4 They are fragmented, because they have to construct their inner world, their tastes and pleasures, thoughts and views under disintegrated experiences in modern society, as Hungarian philosopher Georg Lukacs (1963) expresses in a different context. The problem of disintegrated social experience occurs from mainly time-space compression in late capitalist societies, as Jameson (1991) and Harvey (1992) convincingly argue, after utilizing the main theses of Georg Lukacs and German writer Walter Benjamin, becomes significant in Tarkovsky's films, particularly in Mirror and Nostalghia: They are the complementary chapters of a creative director's unique individual past and terrifying and unhappy present social experiences. Nostalghia fills the gap the Mirror had created. 5 In an interview, on the film Nostalghia he said "Water is a mysterious element, a single molecule of which is very photogenic. It can convey movement and a sense of change and flux" (Quoted in Mitchell). 1

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