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Music as an Element of Narration in Poetic Documentaries

Stutterheim, Kerstin



Music, sound and rhythm, as aesthetic means of design, have been part of the tradition of poetic documentary film from its early history. This paper discusses various examples of this genre, all of which use soundscapes, sound design, and music. Music can be either specially composed for the film or previously published. Internationally known for their musical and poetic qualities are films such as Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov 1929), Rain (1929) by Joris Ivens, and Berlin, Symphony of a Great City by Walter Ruttmann (1929), to name but a few outstanding examples. Among the most recent documentaries using music as a narrative element are The End of Time by Peter Mettler (2012) and Pearl Button by Patricio Guzmán (2015). The notion of music and rhythm as embodying meaning also applies to silent films, such as Manhatta (Strand and Sheeler 1921), a poetic documentary about Manhattan.

‘Poetic documentaries’ use sounds of the environment as well as music to convey a dramaturgical meaning. How these sounds inform the conceptualis


Stutterheim, K. (2018). Music as an Element of Narration in Poetic Documentaries. New Soundtrack, 8(2), 103-117.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 1, 2018
Publication Date 2018-09
Deposit Date Oct 27, 2021
Journal The New Soundtrack
Print ISSN 2042-8855
Electronic ISSN 2042-8863
Publisher Edinburgh University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 8
Issue 2
Pages 103-117
Keywords poetic documentary, sound design, music, rhythm, auteur cinema
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