Panel discussion – sound design and violence

Sounds are made when surfaces meet and resist. If the resulting vibrations are constrained, funnelled and pressurised down tubes, across vent holes and around resonant cavities we can design either a musical instrument or a sonic weapon.

Sound touches at a distance. It carries profound intimacy and closeness across space. Through the ear canal sound penetrates the body and its vibrations excite the skin. Sound’s capacity to induce a pleasure high can also be used to cause terror and uncannily, the same sound can be used for both purposes. Sound has a schizoid nature, it can be shock or awe in the ears of the listener and at the hands of the maker.

Representation, mimicry, realisation… sound helps the representation of violence on screen, it makes the sight of play fighting seem real. What’s really odd is that the sounds are also fake. A punch is made-real by punishing a piece of fruit or vegetable before a microphone.  What of the realities of violence when it is so clown-like in representation? Are there links between the drones (dropping real bombs) and the gamers (playing real games)?

We’re heavily surveilled and digital technologies facilitate the capture and storage of sound to be used for or against us in the future. Who is listening and what are they listening for?

This panel will discuss the cultural objects that touch or violate us with their sound and will attempt to explore the perplexing link between sound design and violence.

This panel is chaired by Martin Parker and will feature the following panelists…

Dr Philippa Lovatt is a lecturer in Media and Communications at the University of Stirling. She gained her AHRC-funded PhD ‘Cinema’s Spectral Sounds: History, Memory and Politics’ from the University of Glasgow in 2011. Before coming to Stirling, she taught sound design at Glasgow School of Art and has a particular interest in the relationship between film and television sound, phenomenology and the ethics of spectatorship. She has published her research in the journals Screen and the New Soundtrack.

Pier Daniel Cornacchia is a BAFTA New Talent Sound Design Award Winner (2013) and graduate of the MSc Sound Design, Edinburgh. Since his degree he has been working in Italy as a Forensics Audio Consultant for the police forces and the courts of northern Italy. His work focuses on noise removal, audio tampering, voice comparison, soundscape analysis and linguistic transcription for forensic investigations.

Dr. Michael Gallagher is a researcher in human geography at the University of Glasgow. His work explores the relationships between sound and space, how these relations are being shaped by artistic practices and media, and associated forms of affect, power and knowledge. He has written about sound and power, and is currently completing an AHRC fellowship exploring audio methodologies for researching environmental sound. A blog about his research can be found at

SEX, MAGICK AND BLOOD. Powerhouse leader of Black Sun Drum Korps, Drum Major Russell MacEwan explores the power violence themes from fourteen years heading Glaswegian industrial doom metal pioneers.

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