NMSAT :: Networked Music & SoundArt Timeline

1906 __ Sound effects with phonograph in the theatre
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”. (DJ Bernie Mac)“Stephen Phillips ; The English Poetical Dramatist's New Play, "Nero" -- His Place as a Poet.” in THE NEW YORK TIMES SATURDAY REVIEW OF BOOKS by MONTGOMERY SCHUYLER, March 24, 1906, Saturday.In the last decade of the nineteenth century, some mechanical innovation did reach the English stage. Beerbohm Tree installed a flat of a raked stage in Her Majesty's in 1897, despite pooh-poohing from the profession. [...] The theatre was also capable of a wide variety of sound effects; this, of course, before sound recording. Evidently the first use of recorded sound on the English stage came in the offstage phonographic playing of a baby's cry in a farce, "The Judge", at Terry's in 1890, but using recorded sound never became general; almost all sound effects were produced traditionally. Thunder was done by rattling a sheet of iron or rolling cannon balls down a wooden trough. A good rumbling vibration was produced by striking, a big wooden drum-sticks, or by beating on the drum with wooden balls held by hands in leather gloves. Wind was manufactured by a wind-machine : paddles projecting from a wooden drum (as in a paddle-steamer) were turned by a crank, the paddles rubbing against silk stretched tightly in a frame. The wind rose and fell and changed pitch as the crank handle was turned faster or move slowly. Rain was made by turning a handle attached to a big wooden box or cylinder containing dried peas; the handle turned wooden teeth in the box.or a smaller pea box with wooden skewers passing through it could simply be shaken by hand. These are only a few of the many sound effects produced in the wings or in the flies, and a large proportion of them had also been known in the eighteen century. (Michael Booth)
Source : Booth, Michael (1991), “Theatre in the Victorian Age”, Cambridge University Press, p. 80 and p.93.
Source : Stedman, Jane W. (1976), "Enter a Phonograph", Theatre Notebook, vol. 30, nr. 1, 1976, pp. 3-5.
Urls : http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9A0DEED91531E733A25757C2A9659C946797D6CF (last visited ) http://djsbooth.blogspot.com/2009/03/sound-design.html (last visited )

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