The Sound of Sunlight

Cubitt, Sean. 2010. The Sound of Sunlight. Screen, 51(2), pp. 118-128. ISSN 0036-9543 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

In films as disparate as The Garden of Allah (1935), Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Kingdom of Heaven (2005), sunlight is given an aural presence of considerable distinction. Perhaps only the tradition of the nocturne has acquired such a recognizable audio palette. This paper investigates the types of sounds used to characterize heat and light, with special reference to desert scenes. As the sun is so difficult to film, because it manifests an extreme where vision and blindness, warmth and pain intersect, its image requires a supplement, or indeed a substitution. Among the cinema's repertoire of codes, in general it is sound and music that have most commonly stood alongside, beneath or in place of visual depictions of sunlight in cinema. This case study of a highly recognizable motif illuminates the history of sound design through the sonification of an essentially silent phenomenon.

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies
Research Office > REF2014


17 May 2010Published

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Date Deposited:

17 May 2013 13:54

Last Modified:

27 Jun 2017 13:53

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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