Accepted paper:

The Mouth of the Cave and the Giant Voice: sound, text and voice in Okinawan war memory


Angus Carlyle (University of the Arts London)
Rupert Cox (Manchester University)

Paper short abstract:

This experimental film explores the evidential value of oral testimony and documentary images in the particular spaces of the Okinawan environment where memories of the Pacific war are stirred up by the sounds made by the activities of US military bases on the island.

Paper long abstract:

It is a strange and bitter irony that the US naval bombardment which launched the Battle of Okinawa in 1945 was called the 'typhoon of steel', invoking the turbulent winds that annually buffet this small island. Okinawans in coastal villages, such as Sunabe where the US forces made their landings, sought shelter from this mechanical, yet elemental force of destruction in one of the many caves that scatter the landscape. War planes still fly over Sunabe today, from the United States Air Force base of Kadena. Distinguishing and measuring these sounds and their effects on the health and livelihood of Sunabe residents has been the work of a Japanese acoustic scientist, Kozo Hiramatsu. Over the past twenty five years he has listened to and made sense of these sounds through the stories of individuals like Yogi-san who as a child took refuge in the cave and after the battle returned to take up residence in a house adjacent to the boundary fence of Kadena. It is in resonant spaces like the cave (gama) where he conducted the interview that is the subject of this film, that we may hear how war memory becomes a way of listening to the environment and how Yogi-san's words, solidified as text and witness to history and expressed through the mixing of the sounds of natural elements and military machinery convey the experience of many Okinawan lives like his, suspended between the American wars of the past, present and future.

panel P40
Film, audio and multimedia programme: symbiosis: sound, vision and the senses