The Voiceless Acousmêtre: Paranormal Activity’s digital surround sound demon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Paranormal Activity’s (2007) ‘found footage’ horror conceit hinges upon the efforts of yuppie Micah to use his digital video camera to capture proof of his girlfriend’s supernatural visitations. Micah concentrates on capturing visual evidence but the demon remains elusive. Only ephemeral effects of its presence are captured visually – instead, the invisible demon is embodied sonically. This article will concentrate on this sonic embodiment within the broader context of found footage horror’s cultural significance. Though Paranormal Activity mainly employs a screen-centred 2.0 stereo sound mix in keeping with its ‘home movie’ sound aesthetic, it later uses the surround channels so that the eerie, demonic sound ‘creeps’ into the full 5.1 surround sound field. Referring to Michel Chion’s and Randolph Jordan’s theorisations of the acousmêtre as an unseen diegetic character whose audible voice is imbued with mysterious power, and Mark Kerins’ work on digital surround sound, this article argues that Paranormal Activity opens up a space beyond the screen for the digital surround sound demon to ‘haunt’ the exhibition space sonically as a voiceless acousmêtre beyond its ‘home movie’ digital screen.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-144
JournalMusic, Sound, and the Moving Image
Volume9
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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Paranormal
Demons
Sound
Movies
Footage
Ephemeral
Creep
Cultural Significance
Supernatural
Visual Evidence
Diegetic
Girlfriend
Hinge
Jordan
Invisible
Conceit
Aesthetics
Digital Video
Yuppies
Embodiment

Cite this

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abstract = "Paranormal Activity’s (2007) ‘found footage’ horror conceit hinges upon the efforts of yuppie Micah to use his digital video camera to capture proof of his girlfriend’s supernatural visitations. Micah concentrates on capturing visual evidence but the demon remains elusive. Only ephemeral effects of its presence are captured visually – instead, the invisible demon is embodied sonically. This article will concentrate on this sonic embodiment within the broader context of found footage horror’s cultural significance. Though Paranormal Activity mainly employs a screen-centred 2.0 stereo sound mix in keeping with its ‘home movie’ sound aesthetic, it later uses the surround channels so that the eerie, demonic sound ‘creeps’ into the full 5.1 surround sound field. Referring to Michel Chion’s and Randolph Jordan’s theorisations of the acousm{\^e}tre as an unseen diegetic character whose audible voice is imbued with mysterious power, and Mark Kerins’ work on digital surround sound, this article argues that Paranormal Activity opens up a space beyond the screen for the digital surround sound demon to ‘haunt’ the exhibition space sonically as a voiceless acousm{\^e}tre beyond its ‘home movie’ digital screen.",
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The Voiceless Acousmêtre: Paranormal Activity’s digital surround sound demon. / Johnston, Nessa.

In: Music, Sound, and the Moving Image, Vol. 9, No. 2, 2015, p. 131-144.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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