Accepted Paper:

Film sound and the negotiation of moral boundaries  

Author:

Carlo Nardi (University of Northampton)

Paper short abstract:

Indian popular cinema often reflects concerns for the moral boundaries, narrativizing situations of deviance and simulating either their sanctioning or their acceptance. This paper is aimed at analysing the role of music and sound in the cultural negotiation of deviance.

Paper long abstract:

Durkheim understood deviance as a normal, rather than pathological trait of sociality: a manageable amount of criminal or abnormal conducts serves to remind us of the existence of moral boundaries. Society, however, is in constant change so that when the level of crimes and misconducts threatens the moral function of deviance, either these behaviours will be normalised (society defines deviancy down, Moynihan 1993) or morality will sanction behaviours formerly accepted (society defines deviancy up, Krauthammer 1993).

Popular cinema often reflects concerns for moral boundaries, narrativizing situations of deviance and simulating either their sanctioning or their acceptance. Indian popular films, in particular, thematise deviance rather explicitly through stereotyped characters like drunkards, moneylenders or 'nautch' girls (cabaret dancers). Music and background sound contribute to this thematisation, while suggesting an ambivalent or alternative reading of the same situations. This paper is aimed at analysing the role of music and sound in the cultural negotiation of the symbolic meaning of deviance and, through this, of accepted moral principles: does music plays an antagonist role as compared to the more overt narrative stereotypes of deviancy? Or does it comply with these representations (Tagg 1989)? It goes without saying that such task requires a rigorous consideration of the particular historical, political and cultural conditions, in which a film has been conceived, distributed and consumed.

Panel P27
Technologies, industries, practices: examining the soundscape of Indian films