Stylistics of Hieroglyphic TimeJames Tobias
In Sync, James Tobias examines the development of musical sound and image in cinema and media art, indicating how these elements define the nature and experience of reception. Placing musicality at the center of understanding streaming media, Tobias presents six interwoven stories about synchronized audiovisual media—from filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky to today’s contemporary digital art and computer games—to show how these effects are never merely "musical" in the literal sense of organized sound.
Tobias' presentation of music and gesture in time-based media and in audience’s engagement with media illustrates how streaming media devices are "timepieces" that don’t tell time, but diagram it as affective labor. Their musical, gestural effects challenge us to describe time-based media in terms of synchronization and temporality, rather than as either sound or image.
The case studies of different media in Sync show how musicality not only drives narrative, but is also a "mode of reception." Once viewers grasp synchronized media as temporal, they can relate the resulting meanings to larger historical contexts and transformations.
"Sync is a rich text in which James Tobias powerfully reimagines our traditional notions of audiovisual synchronization. I am extremely impressed with the author's ideas. Each case study in and of itself is excellent. Tobias has provided a distinctly original theory of synchronization."
—James Buhler, Associate Professor of Music Theory, Butler School of Music, University of Texas, Austin; coeditor of Music and Cinema and coauthor of Hearing the Movies: Music and Sound in Film History
“James Tobias’s groundbreaking book offers erudite and thoughtful conversations on sound theory, music computation, and theories of spectatorship. Sync cobbles together a discontinuous history of musicality in the hands of cinematic practitioners from Sergei Eisenstein’s rhythmic montage, through Steina Vasulka’s feminist eco-ethics, to John Cameron Mitchell’s performative aesthetics. What emerges is a sonic genealogy building on fragments of counter-traditions. A deeply passionate work, Sync is an outstanding contribution to the fields of cinema studies and sound theory”
—Bhaskar Sarkar, Associate Professor, Film and Media Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of Mourning the Nation: Indian Cinema in the Wake of Partition
"Sync offers a much needed and thoroughly radical revision of debates around synchronization, opening up a range of different audiovisual modalities to political analysis, and breaking the stranglehold that existing forms of political discourse have had on discussions of sound–image relations. The author's key move has been to employ the notion of synch (sic) to address not only the relationships between sound and image in audiovisual media but also those between text and audience, focusing primarily on the experience of reception....(T)he approach adopted by Tobias is highly original.... (T)here is much to recommend this book which, in providing new perspectives on the political dimensions of audiovisuality, repays the close attention it demands."
"(Sync ) is an enormously ambitious statement of a fully formed and signed theory. The work combines elaborate historical contextualization of all of its central figures, an incredibly broad range of theoretical allusion and discussion, and a truly multi-disciplinary engagement with moving image media and music that marshals philosophy and media theory, film historical and new media objects, music theory and the history of cybernetics to make a rich and complex argument. There is almost nothing in the work that is not deeply thought through and densely elaborated. ... (I)t ultimately provides a truly innovative way to think musicality in moving image media."
—The Year's Work in Critical and Cultural Theory