Bollywood Audience Response to Playback Technology

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Bollywood Film Music

Despite initial surprises and frustrations, I was able to find ample information about Bollywood film music in other sources. Alison Arnold has done substantial research into the music of Hindi films, beginning with her 1991 doctoral dissertation. I was able to communicate with her early in my research process, and both her written work and her e-mail suggestions to me helped to get my research off to a good start. Arnold’s article, titled ‘Aspects of Production and Consumption in the Popular Hindi Film Song Industry’, published in Asian Music in 1993, has broadened my understanding of how the Bollywood film song reaches the masses, and the importance of the playback singer’s voice to the reception of the song by the audience.

Hollywood Film Music

As I learned more about Bollywood film song and the Bollywood film industry, I came to the realization that although I possessed a basic understanding of the Hollywood film industry and Hollywood film song simply from growing up with western popular culture, I needed to delve into some of the literature by experts to affirm what I already knew and to learn more that would help me to formulate ideas for my research. Fortunately, extensive literature on films and film music in Hollywood is readily available. Roy M. Prendergast’s book Film Music: A Neglected Art (1992) goes into much detail about the art of film scoring, and delivers information about the musical and singing as it is related to film scoring, based on his many years of experience as a preeminent Hollywood music editor, working steadily in the industry since 1980.

Sound Technology

When I began my research into this topic, my understanding of sound technology in the film industry was rudimentary at best. The above-mentioned books about Hollywood film music all helped me to understand sound technology somewhat better, but I knew that I needed to learn more. If I was to understand how aural illusions are created in films, especially those aural illusions of song, I needed to have a thorough grasp of the history and practice of sound technology in film culture.

Bollywood and Playback Technology

With a basic knowledge of how sound technology works in the film industry, I needed to look more specifically at the recording of songs. I turned first to Bollywood, since they readily acknowledge the hand of technology in song production because they use credited playback singers. Information about Bollywood songs and playback technology can be found in a variety of sources. Once again, I began with ethnomusicologist Alison Arnold, whose writing had given me good background information about Bollywood in general. In Arnold’s doctoral dissertation of 1991, she relates that when film studios were able to separate the recording of sound and picture due to changes in technology, the new process ‘enabled the artist to concentrate solely upon his singing’ during sound recording, and then to also turn his attention fully to acting when the picture was recorded, ‘having only to move his lips in synchronization with the song lyrics being “played back” via the song recording’ (1991: 102)

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Hollywood and Playback Technology

When I first began my research, it seemed that any information about the use of playback technology in the United States and the Hollywood film industry would be impossible to find. Given Hollywood’s compunction to keep it all ‘rather hush hush’ (Wagner 1998), evidence of the use of dubbing artists, ghost singers, or voice doubles (as they are variously called) took some effort to uncover. I was mostly dependent on articles in magazines, journals, newspapers and on-line sources, with sometimes only one line of relevant information to provide the necessary evidence. As I tried to find someone who would talk to me about this, too, I found few who were open to having a discussion about it, and received several e-mails of brisk dismissal.

Table of Contents :

  • Preface
  • Abstract
  • Table of Contents
  • Chapter 1: Introduction
    • 1.1 Bollywood
    • 1.2 Hollywood
    • 1.3 Meeting Bollywood
    • 1.4 Looking again at Hollywood
    • 1.5 Playback, Dubbing and More: some definitions
    • 1.6 Picturization
    • 1.7 ‘The Play’s the Thing’
    • 1.8 Example: A Romantic Duet Comparison
    • 1.9 Suspension of Disbelief
    • 1.10 Perception
    • 1.11 Reality in Sight and Sound
    • 1.12 Illusion in Sight and Sound
    • 1.13 Western Audience Perception: Seeing is Believing
    • 1.14 Overview of Contents
      • 1.14.1 Chapter Two: Literature Review
      • 1.14.2 Chapter Three: Research Design and Methodology
      • 1.14.3 Chapter Four: Lip-Synching to the Music
      • 1.14.4 Chapter Five: Lata Mangeshkar
      • 1.14.5 Chapter Six: Marni Nixon
      • 1.14.6 Chapter Seven: Conclusion and Recommendations
  • Chapter 2: Literature Review
    • 2.1 Bollywood Film Music
    • 2.2 Hollywood Film Music
    • 2.3 Sound Technology
    • 2.4 Bollywood and Playback Technology
    • 2.5 Hollywood and Playback Technology
    • 2.6 Bollywood Audience Response to Playback Technology
    • 2.7 Bollywood and Hollywood Compared
    • 2.8 Lata Mangeshkar
    • 2.9 Marni Nixon
    • 2.10 Illusion and Reality
    • 2.11 Conclusion
  • Chapter 3: Research Design and Methodology
    • 3.1 Research Method and Design Appropriateness
    • 3.2 Research Questions
    • 3.3 Scope and Limitation of the Study
    • 3.4 Conclusion
  • Chapter 4: Lip-synching to the Music
  • Chapter 5: Playback Icons: Lata Mangeshkar
  • Chapter 6: Playback Icons: Marni Nixon
  • Chapter 7: Conclusions and Recommendations


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