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Twin Narrative
• Floatsam / Jetsam
• by David and Nathan Zellner
sound, image, text
Lecture Eight
Wed Sept 10, 2008
Telling Stories
Narrative Threads
Narratives / Narrativity
• The way we organise and structure information (data, words,
sounds) helps us make sense of the meaning around us.
• Narratives are tools for organising & conveying this information.
• Narratives can be stories involving some aspect of tension or
conflict that may ultimately be resolved or left unresolved.
• Narratives capture attention, entertain, teach, inform.
“fairy stories, mysteries, science fiction, romances, horror stories,
adventure stories, fables, myths and legends, historical narratives,
ballads, slice of life, personal experience.”
Allegory for Human Relationships
• Norman McLaren – Neighbors
Defining Narrative
• Narrative can have multiple meanings.
(1) a chronological account of events
(2) a process of telling a story
(3) a collection of forms (like a database)
• Traditional Narratives conform to horizontal
organisation across time but recent theories of
hypertext have broken down the strict temporality of
• Structuralist and poststructuralist theorists (Kristeva,
Barthes etc) write of the polyvocality of narrative; the
vertical and horizontal reading of events.
• Roger Duestch – Mario Makes a Movie
Non-Linear Narrative
• Hypertext Narratives, Database Art, Non-Linearity are
forms that are experienced as narrative. Thus the
reader (user, game-player) takes a trajectory through
the experience of the work that is modelled on
previous conceptions of narrative. This has lead
some theorists, such as Liestol, to highlight a
paradox in the reading of such form, namely that the
reception of such texts takes place in time:
“Nonlinearity in time is imaginary; it is a fundamental
contradiction of terms and necessarily impossible . .
.Reading and writing are linear phenomena; they
are sequential and chronological . . . although their
positions as stored in space may have a nonlinear
organization.” [Liestol, Hyper/ Text/ Theory, (1994),
Musical Narrative
• Some aspects of music are quickly identifiable as
narrative: a chronology of events, a story, a collection
of forms. This is most obvious in song lyrics.
• For example, in many pop songs the verse generally
outlines the story while the chorus focuses on the
mood or emotional state of the subject/ songwriter.
Through repetition, the chorus suspends the
progression of the story momentarily in time.
• However, the instrumental parts of a piece may take
on a narrative function by imitating, symbolising or
illustrating the events and moods of a story.
Audio example:
Disco Musical Stories by Sharda
“Here's another fine example of "How could I resist
buying this for $3?" I do not know anything about
Sharda, the kids in the audience, the producers of
this tape, or how they got those exquisitely cheesy
sounds. I recently made a copy of the complete 1hour Disco Musical Stories experience for my
nephew & niece; their mom (my sister) said it was
"demented".” - Drew Miller (Omnium Recordings and
Boiled In Lead)
Narrative / Narration
• In texts that emphasise spoken language – film, radiophonic,
poetry - these words can determine and shape narrative….
– literal: focuses on semantically significant text that directly
conveys narrative meaning
- metaphoric: words acts as symbols or metaphors to
illustrate a story, theme or idea but are not intended to be
understood literally
- documentary: text includes anecdotal remarks, such as
comments on the what we see or here.
- structural/ composition: elements of spoken language
such as grammar or rhythm are used as the basis of the
organising the composition of a text.
John Smith – Dirty Pictures
Moving from one hotel in Bethlehem to another
in East Jerusalem, the filmmaker encounters a
series of problems involving a ceiling, a video
camera and the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Dirty Pictures is the seventh episode in the Hotel
Diaries series, a collection of video recordings
made in the world's hotel rooms, which relate
personal experiences and reflections to
contemporary conflicts in the Middle East.
Narrative Sound in Film
• DIRECT narrative sound contributes to the plot, most obviously
dialogue but also effects eg a sound heard offscreen that directs
a character’s attention to it.
• SUBLIMINAL narrative sound works on the audience
subconsciously, most obviously film music, that often relies on
learned or conventional codes, to influence the audience’s
reading of a scene.
“A distant thunderstorm played underneath an otherwise sunny scene
indicates a sense of foreboding or doom... An interesting parallel is
that the shark in Jaws is introduced by four low notes on an otherwise
calm ocean...”
Brothers Quay – Can’t go Wrong Without You
Non-Narrative Form
• While the author of a work may have a particular
narrative meanings in mind, ultimately we as spectators
construct narrative through our experience of a text.
• Some forms do not confirm to narrative interpretation.
• Music, film, art or performance may look away from fixed
narrative and toward patterns or associations between
objects and events. As such, any spectator may interpret
the events as a narrative but this is not the fundamental
point to the work.
• Marvo Movie by Jeff Keen