NMSAT :: Networked Music & SoundArt Timeline

1927 __ « Rasputin, the Romanoffs, the War and the People that rose against them »
Comment : Possibly the first use of recorded sound in the theatre, as mentioned in Michael Booth’s book ‘Theatre in the Victorian Age’, was a phonograph playing a baby’s cry in a London theatre in 1890. Sixteen years later, Beerbohm Tree definitely used recordings in his London production of Stephen Phillips’ tragedy NERO. The event is marked in the Theatre Magazine (1906) with two photographs; one showing a musician blowing a bugle into a large horn attached to a disc recorder, the other with an actor recording the agonizing shrieks and groans of the tortured martyrs. The article states: “these sounds are all realistically reproduced by the gramophone”. In 1920 Raoul Hausmann used a phonograph in a Dada-Soir[é]e in Dresden: ``The stage was surrounded by a huge green velvet curtain, through whose slit I shoved the gramophone horn and began to play some glorious jazz-music. Behind the curtain we heard the roar of the crowd. From time to time I tossed a couple of firecrackers to the stage." Iwan Goll, Erwin Piscator and others incorporated phonography amidst other contraptual wonders into theatrical staging. As cited by Bertolt Brecht, there was a play about Rasputin written in (1927) by Alexej Tolstoi and directed by Erwin Piscator that included a recording of Lenin's voice. It would not be however until the 1950s, when Hollywood directors started directing Broadway productions, that sound design would start growing. Still, there was no sound designer in those plays; it was the stage manager's duty to find the sound effects and an electrician played the recordings during performances. But even though the sound designer has basically assumed these roles, time and technology have not ruled out non-sound designers having a hand in sound production. For instance, since today's audiences are savvier and can readily distinguish between live and recorded sounds, live backstage sound effects are still used (e.g. gun shots) by the stage manager (or assistant stage manager) for premium "aural illusion.". (Compiled from various sources)Piscator used a specific stage : the hemispheric stage with projected film on screen suspended from removable top, and other projections, and the use of a gramophone directly on stage. Traugott Müller [...] had devised a great hemisphere, symbolising the world and painted silver, which turner on the revolve, with thick flap-like doors opening at different points to reveal various scenes and rooms. On it, surprisingly effective considering its balloon-like surface, the accompanying film was projected, or sometimes on a screen above its top. Much of the the film material was drawn from Soviet sources, the German archives this time being less helpfull; and [Anatoly Vasilyevitch] Lunarcharsky [the first Soviet People’s Commissar of Enlightenment responsible for Culture and Education, between 1917 to 1929] himself saw a rehearsal of the production, which was timed to coincide with the USSR’s tenth anniversary celebrations. (John Willett)
Source : Kahn, Douglas (1990), “Audio Art in the Deaf Century”, In “Sound by Artists”, edited by Dan Lander and Micah Lexier, Toronto : Art Metropole : Banff : Walter Phillips Gallery, 1990, pp. 301-309.
Source : Berg, Jerome S. (2008), "Broadcasting on the Short Waves, 1945 to Today", McFarland, p. 17.
Source : Willett, John (1986), “The Theatre of Erwin Piscator : Half a Century of Politics in the Theatre”, Taylor & Francis, p. 87-90.
Urls : http://www.soundtoys.net/journals/audio-art-in-the (last visited )

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