Encounters with Childhood Sounds: Steven Spielberg's Acoustic Escapism

Thursday, November 14, 2013 - 4:00pm
Hornbake NonPrint Media Library Room J

UMD English PhD candidate and Graduate Film Committee Affiliate Paul Cote will present material from his dissertation-in-progress on film music.
At the height of his commercial success in the last decades of the 20th century, Steven Spielberg's name was virtually synonymous with a form of escapism that detractors have frequently dismissed as infantile. But what does it actually mean to seek escape through cinema, and why are we compelled to associate this desire with childishness? Is the urge to find escape at the movies driven by some nostalgic desire to return to childhood, or is that urge driven by a desire for something less tangible? Why, moreover, has Spielberg been so commercially successful at mining his adult audiences’ desire for escapism? The answers can be found less in the visual spectacle that typically dominates studies of the director's work, and more in the director’s careful manipulation of sound from popular children’s media. Particularly, Spielberg films such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Empire of the Sun stimulate the audience’s desire to flee from the pressures of adult life by referencing sounds from Disney films, Looney Tunes shorts, Sesame Street records, and other sonic signifiers of well-loved childhood fantasies. Yet these films rarely employ sound to ignite a nostalgic desire for childhood itself; rather the films use children's media sounds to bring the audience back to that brief point in childhood when escape from the real actually seemed possible.

This event is free and open to the public with no RSVP required.