Narrative dispositions of non-verbal elements of sound design in selected Kenyan drama films
Kimani, Gabriel Thuku
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Aesthetic creativity in the manipulation of technical elements of image and sound in a film lies at the heart of storytelling in cinema. As such, it is the aim of this study to interrogate critically how the film story is exposed, advanced, and narrated by non-verbal elements of sound design, namely film score, sound effects, ambience and silence, and how that can therefore be translated into intrinsic narrative characteristics of non-verbal sounds in film. Anchored on structuralism and semiotics film theories, this study endeavoured to investigate the denotative, connotative, and functional qualities of the aural elements in the sampled films, and how the traits exhibited, contribute to telling the story. Four purposively sampled Kenyan fiction films, Killer Necklace by Judy Kibinge (2008), Formula X by Steve Ominde (2009), From A Whisper by Wanuri Kahiu (2009) and Nairobi Half Life by Tosh Gitonga (2012), were analysed on their deployment of the sounds in their narratives. The study further interrogated the salient ways in which the non-verbal sound elements advance meaning and radiate the various story points and rudiments. This study applied observation, focus group discussions, and interviews, as methods of data collection. Content analysis was then deployed to synthesize the data. The findings from the study reveal deliberate deployment of a range of forms of non-speech sounds in Kenyan films. Further the study finds that the non-verbal elements of sound under investigation play various metaphorical and assigned functions in the films that exude significations and expressions that are in congruence and consequently mirror elements of narrative like plot, character, thematic rendition, mood, and setting. This study concludes that indeed, the expressions, and symbolic representations spelled out by non-speech elements in their singularity and as part of the intricate inter-webs of the film structure, can be coded as narrative dispositions of the said elements.