Like heat and light sound travels in waves, but unlike them, sound can only travel through vibrations of atoms and molecules. In order for sound to travel, mediums such as water or air must be present like they are here on Earth.
In deep space, in the large empty areas between stars and planets, no such molecules exist to create vibrations. There is no sound in space. So, how do sound designers imagine sound for films set in space if there can be no real life references?
The same way we have been imagining the heavens from the beginning of time. Humans are natural born astronomers. For millennia people from every time and culture have turned their eyes upward to wonder, observe, and explore what lay beyond the stars. We know this thanks to the wealth of knowledge transcribed by dominant cultures like the Greeks. That is why we are aware of their Astronomical achievements and astrological beliefs.
For instance, we have all heard of Ptolomy and Zues. Cultures that recorded their beliefs orally, like the Navajo or the Hawaiins, are not as commonly known. Just as dominant cultures homogenized languages and customs, the vast and varying views of the skies were sidelined as unimportant and false.Luckily, early films reflect some of these historical perspectives.
Cinema and films have allowed us to visualize and bring these worlds to life, shaping the way that generations imagine space. We discovered that in Pre-Star Wars films not only was there a variation in the way different cultures visualized space, but that there were regional trends in the design of their soundscapes. Japan’s militaristic culture reverberates in the soundscapes of their plentiful science fiction cannon.
Native American filmmakers have suggested the relationship between earth and space is more peaceful. Mexican films portray extraterrestrials coincidentally similar to Lucha Libre wrestlers. However, as the decades progressed euro-centric portrayals of space became more dominant and pervasive throughout the world. Through Echoes of Silence, we aim to memorialize all sounds of space.
Echoes of Silence is an audio driven full dome animated projection that explores our relationship with the stars by taking audiences on a visual and sonic journey through time and space. The dome symbolizes the celestial sphere and the audience will look up to view the projected piece just as a stargazer looks up to behold the night’s sky. You will hear “star sounds” from various cultures to experience alternative de-colonial portrayals of space. This project was originally conceived to be exhibited at Artis in Amsterdam as part of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA 2020).
Tamara Shogaolu - Director
Marcela Stolzmann, Tamara Shogaolu, James Wright, Fraser Cameron - Animation
Marcela Stolzmann - Editing
Marcela Stolzmann, Martijn Zandvliet - Developer
Martijn Zandvliet - Technical artist
Lai Jiang - Sound Design
Joe Namy - Music
Tamara Shogaolu, Marcela Stolzmann - Film Research
Tamara Shogaolu - Screening copy