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JSS 2012 : Rethinking Theories of Television Sound (special issue of the Journal of Sonic Studies)


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Submission Deadline May 31, 2012
Categories    media studies   television studies   sound studies   cultural studies

Call For Papers

Special Issue: Rethinking Theories of Television Sound (Deadline: May 31, 2012)

Essays are invited for a special issue of the Journal of Sonic Studies that will reexamine the most persistent accounts of television sound, from the 1980s to the present, and reflect on these accounts in terms of contemporary changes in the production and consumption of television. Studies on television sound typically begin by emphasizing that the fundamental differences between film and television—differences in terms of structure, content, and modes of address—are a direct result of the fact that film privileges the eye over the ear, while television privileges the ear over the eye. This notion of television as a form of 'illustrated radio' became the basis of television sound studies, but the rise of high-definition television, widescreen receivers, and home entertainment systems challenged this notion by bringing the cinematic experience into the home. Following these technological developments, critics began to apply theories of film sound to the study of television by focusing on the design of 'underscores' to convey emotional states and enhance narrative tension.

In recent years, television has undergone yet another major shift as the concept of 'home cinema' has been accompanied by radical changes in the way television is broadcast and received. With the rise of ambient television, portable devices, social media and web interfaces, television is now viewed in a much wider range of locations and contexts, which complicates these earlier approaches to the study of television sound. Viewers are increasingly watching television in public spaces, they are increasingly using portable devices that transmit sound over low-quality speakers or headphones, and they are increasingly using new media platforms that alter the context in which television is viewed by time-shifting, eliminating advertising, and isolating programs from broadcast flow, which de-emphasizes televisual 'liveness.' Portability, transferability, and access have thus become more important than the reproduction of a cinematic experience, which problematizes both the 'illustrated radio' and 'home cinema' models of television sound.

These contemporary changes demand that scholars once again reexamine and reevaluate the function of sound in the production, transmission, and reception of television programming, and we therefore invite proposals that examine the range of approaches used in sound recording and design in the contemporary 'post-television' era. Possible topics include, but are not limited to, the following:

-Are established theories of sound-image relations and television 'orality' still relevant?
-Are there ways of conceiving of television sound as more than simply the operation of soundtracks and music?
-What role does sound play in the spatial and temporal organization of televisual texts?
-Does television sound still play an interpolative role following the disappearance of traditional sound cues, such as applause and laugh tracks?
-What are the sound practices employed in the production of television 'webisodes,' which are intended to be viewed on alternate media platforms?
-What is the impact of new economic models (i.e. subscription and pay-per-view) on the production and reception of television sound?

Potential contributors are invited to submit completed essays by May 31, 2012. Submissions should be 5500-6000 words in length and they should be submitted as an attachment in .doc format. For more information, or to submit an essay, please contact our guest editors:

Carolyn Birdsall, University of Amsterdam:
Anthony Enns, Dalhousie University:

The Journal of Sonic Studies is a peer-reviewed, online, open access journal providing a platform for theorists and artists who would like to present relevant work regarding auditory cultures, to further our collective understanding of the impact and importance of sound for our cultures. The editors welcome both scholarly and artistic research. In both cases, priority is given to contributions that explicitly use the Internet as a medium, e.g. by inserting A/V materials, hyperlinks, and the use of non-conventional structures. The editors also expect all contributions to have a firm theoretical grounding. Submission guidelines can be found at

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