Music, Sound, and the Moving Image

The World Within the Home

Tracing the Sound in Satyajit Ray’s Films

Music, Sound, and the Moving Image (2017), 11, (2), 131–156.

Abstract

This article examines the aesthetic use of sound in Satyajit Ray’s films to retrace his position in Indian cinema as a reference point in the practices of synchronised monaural sound. Ray is traditionally considered to be an auteur and a cultural icon – his legacy being on the fringes of popular mainstream Indian cinema. The specifics of sound practice and the nature of sonic experience in his films, however, remain largely under-explored. In this context, I argue that Ray’s treatment of sound in his films highlights a recognition of listening to place by means of a keen observation and recording of the site in monaural synchronised sound practice, which has created a precedence for realistic auditory settings later championed by Indian filmmakers in the contemporary digital era. Investigating how Ray’s use of ambient sounds contributes to establishing an auditory setting and to constructing a sense of reality in his films, this article suggests that Ray initiated a tradition of audiographic realism in Indian cinema, which had hitherto been predominantly vococentric since the coming of sound in the 1930s. By situating Ray’s sound work within the longer trajectories of sound practice in Indian cinema, this article contributes more widely to the global histories of film sound, and illustrates the diverse threads and traditions that comprise monaural sound practices beyond the more commonly mapped territories of European and American film history.

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Chattopadhyay, Budhaditya