Robert Altman’s film Nashville from 1975 interweaves the stories of twenty-four different characters in and around the country music business and the election campaign of a certain Replacement Party. Rick Altman pointed out that the number 24 in this film makes reference to the recording technique with multitrack recording equipment. Thus, Nashville thematizes its own production method, for which Robert Altman, in particular since California Split (1974), is well known: the use of multitrack tape equipment with up to twenty-four parallel audio tracks, part of the technical repertoire of music studios; or more precisely: up to three eight-track devices, each with a track for synchronization. To do this, the sound engineer Jim Webb used wireless microphones that had been attached directly to the actors’ bodies as well as additional microphones for individual sources of noises and sounds.[1] The image-sound relationships in Nashville indicate a structure described by Philip Brophy on the basis of the film California Split: while in a conventional film the image presents a totality of simultaneously parallel elements and the linear audio track is fragmented (either a noise or music or dialogue), Altman effectively reverses this relationship.[2] The restriction of the individual booms, which normally dominate the sound perspective in the film scene, is thus replaced by a duplication and dehierarchization of the points of audition.[3] In this way, overlays of simultaneous dialogues and sounds are created at the sound level. Although the volume relationships may be mixed according to alternating, almost sauntering sound perspectives, it nevertheless enables the viewer to follow an audio track that is not being focused on by the camera. In addition, the individual locations in Nashville are joined with the sound coming from the Replacement Party’s sound truck. The multitrack technique thus comprises a matrix of simultaneity set over by the film’s narration, whose temporal structure might be referred to as vertically nonlinear.


  • original Title: Nashville
  • Date: 1975
  • Genre: Film

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