When Heavy Rain is Frying Bacon: Metaphor and Foley Art

Marlene Johansson Falck, Department of Language Studies, Umeå University
Elena Glotova, Department of Language Studies, Umeå University


Lakoff and Johnson early on claimed  that ‘metaphor is primarily a matter of thought and action, and only derivatively a matter of language’ (153). Since then, studies have shown that metaphors are reflected in many different modalities and representations (i.e., pictures and multimodal representations (Forceville), art objects (Kennedy), gestures (Cienki and Muller), dance and other expressive acts (Okonski et al.), and music (Zbikowski)).

This paper deals with an analysis of the metaphors reflected in Foley aesthetics and performance. Our aim is to present observations on the use of metaphor in Foley art. Although among a set of signifying systems sound has received “[s]urprisingly little” attention (Turner 66), the recent turn to alternative to the visual orientation in Western culture (Pinch and Bijsterveld 11) elicits the questions of film sound design in the process of human perception and knowledge production. Specifically, film sound can trigger a network of bodily and cognitive associations expressed and interpreted in terms of metaphor (Fahlenbrach; Görne). Foley sounds that require a unique performative technique using various objects and devices for film sound design go beyond the cinema in their aesthetic and creative possibilities and production methods.

The present study undertakes the challenge to apply Conceptual Metaphor Theory (CMT) to Foley aesthetics and performance (Lakoff and Johnson). It is based on an examination of contemporary handbooks on motion picture sounds and open access publications, manuals and databases on Foley art technique. We start by reviewing Foley sounds production as a stylistic activity that alters the texture of ordinary sounds (e.g., Keenan and Pauletto; Wright) for emotional effect. The specialized design of perceived Foley sound reveals its metaphorical qualities to the audience through cross-modal correspondences of perception (Görne). Next, we proceed to the underworld of Foley art, and namely to examining the technique and production of Foley sounds that are hidden from the audience. By investigating the roots of Foley art in the affordances of objects (Gibson), embodied knowledge, based on practice (Pauletto 343) and an inherent set of correspondences between the sounding objects, we propose that Foley sounds offer a manifestation at the level of “lexico-encyclopedic conceptual [LEC] metaphors” (Johansson Falck). We conclude by discussing the potential of Foley art to be recognized and analyzed as metaphorical, i.e., as the phenomenon whereby we sound something in terms of something else, as well as the underlying assumptions and challenges to what it takes to be a metaphor.



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