"The Sound of L.A. Noir"

Annika Eisenberg
Ph.D. Student, Goethe University Frankfurt

The visual aesthetics of Los Angeles in hard-boiled crime fiction and film noir have already been extensively examined - after all, it is the flashing neon lights, the inky shadows and the blinds obscuring windows that come to mind as characteristics of these genres and most prominently of 1940s film noir. But is it really only the visual aesthetics that establish a coherent impression of the urban landscape or is it rather the way we as the viewers have been trained to perceive these spaces? What kind of sounds make the 'soundscape' of L.A. and what do they tell us about the city and its inhabitants? In my poster, I want to shift the focus of studies on space and place in crime fiction to the auditory qualities of the urban environment. In doing so, I look at a prime example of the noir genre: Raymond Chandler’s novels as well as their adaptations for radio and screen. I want to investigate if the gloomy image of Los Angeles that is evident in crime and noir literature, film and radio drama of the 1940s is matched with an equally dark and dusky sound portrait.