Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
English & Film Studies
Media, Technology, and Culture
Faculty of Arts
This dissertation examines how economic and technological changes shaped the sounds of Canadian cinema, from the modern industry’s founding in the late 1960s to the widespread adoption of digital editing software in the early 2000s. By focusing on the labour and craft practices that coalesced in Toronto’s postproduction companies, I argue that such practices engendered a critical shift in the sonic style of Canadian film sound. Whereas fiction films initially featured a sonic style developed by the National Film Board of Canada for documentary production, filmmakers eventually adopted a style strongly identified with Hollywood cinema. Although it is tempting to explain this shift by appealing to generalized statements about the globalization of Hollywood cinema, I reveal a more complex picture in which a host of historical forces, including government policies, industrial competition, and discursive practices among craftspeople, are seen to shape how new sound technologies were used and how the adoption of these technologies did, or did not, affect the aesthetic of Canadian film sound. In order to narrow the focus of this dissertation, my case studies draw on films from the genres of horror and science fiction.
Chapter One posits my methodology, which combines theories of film history with formal soundtrack analyses. I explain that unlike many histories of sound that trace how directors use sound as a storytelling tool, my dissertation traces the history of craft techniques among below-the-line labour and in a non-Hollywood industry centered in a single urban locale (Toronto). The remaining chapters are divided into three chronological periods. Chapter Two (1968 to 1986) outlines the founding of the narrative film industry and how sound workers in Toronto appropriated NFB documentary practices. In Chapter Three (1981 to 1989) I argue that the introduction of Dolby Stereo had minimal impact on Toronto soundtracks. Finally, in Chapter Four (1988 to 2003), I contend that the increase of digital audio workstations (DAWs) altered the value of sound labour within the industry. In order to protect their jobs, Toronto sound professionals changed their craft techniques to mirror those used in Hollywood. In these ways, each chapter reveals the various mechanisms (e.g., socioeconomic, political, industrial) that shaped the dominant sound style of each era. Thus, although the dissertation’s chapter breakdown is determined by major technological changes, it ultimately demonstrates that it is not technology alone that leads to style change; rather, such changes can be accounted for by a complex intersection of historical forces at any given period of Canadian film history. Put conversely, the history of Canadian cinema can be detected in its soundtracks.
Quanz, Katherine E., "The Struggle To Be Heard: Toronto's Postproduction Sound Industry, 1968 to 2005" (2016). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive). 1866.