The Sound of Violence

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This creative learning exercise encourages you to explore the aesthetics of mediated violence through mismatching the visual and aural elements of a piece of media.

Critical concepts: aesthetics, violence, affective media.
Creative task: make a mashup.
Author: Dr Jodie Taylor & Dr Toby Wren, SAE Creative Media Institute.

This tutorial task accompanies an online lesson on media violence. Please make sure you have completed the online lesson prior to your tutorial class.  This activity may be completed in class time or in your own time.

What makes something violent?

A violent creative work could draw on symbolic, actual, or even implied violence in the construction of a violent aesthetic. Violence in media is by no means a new concept, Plato lamented the tragic poets for inducing “a disordered psychic regime or constitution” (Griswold, 2003). But violence in media continues to be a large focus of media discourse, which tends to focus on the question of the effects of media violence without ever questioning why we have violence in media at all. The answer of course is too uncomfortable – we like it. “If you ask me how I feel about violence in real life, well, I have a lot of feelings about it. It’s one of the worst aspects of America. In movies, violence is cool. I like it.” (Tarantino Newsday press conference, 1994).

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“…if murder can be experienced aesthetically, the murderer can in turn be regarded as a kind of artist — a performance artist or anti-artist whose specialty is not creation but destruction.” (Black, 1991, p. 14).

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Some theorists draw a distinction between aestheticising violence and the kind of incidental violence that we might see in action films. Aesthetic violence is obvious to us because of its excess: think of the way that Quentin Tarrantino uses violence to artistic effect.

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But aesthetic violence can also often serve a purpose, such as drawing attention to an issue by making an audience feel uncomfortable. An aesthetics of violence might include the subject matter or narrative, but a violent atmosphere can also be created through seemingly benign aspects of the creative product such as the soundtrack, cinematography, lighting or other elements of design.

THE ORIGINAL Scary 'Mary Poppins' Recut Trailer


Using existing creative commons (or your own) footage and audio, construct a remix that plays with the aesthetics of violence. You might consider alternative models, such as re-voicing (overdubbing) a pre-existing video; or attempting to neutralise the violence in a violent scene by changing the music. Make sure to include a trigger warning if your video includes violent visual content (yes, legislation privileges the visual)…

How do you do it?

There are a number of simple video editing platforms available. If you have a mac you could use iMovie, but one of the simplest is YouTube video editor (link below):

Free online video editing using the YouTube Video Editor

Edit videos & video settings

Find videos to watch Change video settings Watch videos on different devices Comment, subscribe, & connect with creators Save or share videos & playlists Troubleshoot problems playing videos Purchase and watch movies and TV shows

  1. Click the ‘CC’ icon to select a video from creative commons, and drag and drop your selected video to the editing pane.
  2. Select an audio track from the huge number of CC audio tracks available (click the music note icon) and drag that to the editing pane.
  3. You may wish to change the length of your audio/video, or combine or edit video segments before publishing.
  4. Post your video to Padlet.


Chouliaraki, L. (2006). “The aestheticization of suffering on television” (PDF). Visual Communication 5 (3): 261–285.
Griswold, C. (2003). “Plato on Rhetoric and Poetry”. In Edward N. Zalta. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2004 ed.). Stanford, CA: The Metaphysics Research Lab, Center for the Study of Language and Information, Stanford University.