Representational technologies including photography, phonography, and the cinema have helped define modernity itself. Since the nineteenth century, these technologies have challenged our trust of sensory perception, given the ephemeral unprecedented parity with the eternal, and created profound temporal and spatial displacements. But current approaches to representational and cultural history often neglect to examine these technologies. James Lastra seeks to remedy this neglect. Lastra argues that we are nowhere better able to track the relations between capital, science, and cultural practice than in photography, phonography, and the cinema. In particular, he maps the development of sound recording from its emergence to its confrontation with and integration into the Hollywood film. Reaching back into the late eighteenth century, to natural philosophy, stenography, automata, and human physiology, Lastra follows the shifting relationships between our senses, technology, and representation.
This reader collects primary documents on the phonograph, cinema, and radio before WWII to show how Americans slowly came to grips with the idea of recorded and mediated sound. Through readings from advertisements, newspaper and magazine articles, popular fiction, correspondence, and sheet music, one gains an understanding of how early-20th-century Americans changed from music makers into consumers.
In this rich study of noise in American film-going culture, Meredith C. Ward shows how aurality can reveal important fissures in American motion picture history, enabling certain types of listening cultures to form across time. Connecting this history of noise in the cinema to a greater sonic culture, Static in the System shows how cinema sound was networked into a broader constellation of factors that affected social power, gender, sexuality, class, the built environment, and industry, and how these factors in turn came to fruition in cinema's soundscape. Focusing on theories of power as they manifest in noise, the history of noise in electro-acoustics with the coming of film sound, architectural acoustics as they were manipulated in cinema theaters, and the role of the urban environment in affecting mobile listening and the avoidance of noise, Ward analyzes the powerful relationship between aural cultural history and cinema's sound theory, proving that noise can become a powerful historiographic tool for the film historian.
A vibrant history of acoustical technology and aural culture in early-twentieth-century America. In this history of aural culture in early-twentieth-century America, Emily Thompson charts dramatic transformations in what people heard and how they listened. What they heard was a new kind of sound that was the product of modern technology. They listened as newly critical consumers of aural commodities. By examining the technologies that produced this sound, as well as the culture that enthusiastically consumed it, Thompson recovers a lost dimension of the Machine Age and deepens our understanding of the experience of change that characterized the era. Reverberation equations, sound meters, microphones, and acoustical tiles were deployed in places as varied as Boston's Symphony Hall, New York's office skyscrapers, and the soundstages of Hollywood. The control provided by these technologies, however, was applied in ways that denied the particularity of place, and the diverse spaces of modern America began to sound alike as a universal new sound predominated. Although this sound--clear, direct, efficient, and nonreverberant--had little to say about the physical spaces in which it was produced, it speaks volumes about the culture that created it. By listening to it, Thompson constructs a compelling new account of the experience of modernity in America.
The seemingly effortless integration of sound, movement, and editing in films of the late 1930s stands in vivid contrast to the awkwardness of the first talkies. Film Rhythm after Sound analyzes this evolution via close examination of important prototypes of early sound filmmaking, as well as contemporary discussions of rhythm, tempo, and pacing. Jacobs looks at the rhythmic dimensions of performance and sound in a diverse set of case studies: the Eisenstein-Prokofiev collaboration Ivan the Terrible, Disney’s Silly Symphonies and early Mickey Mouse cartoons, musicals by Lubitsch and Mamoulian, and the impeccably timed dialogue in Hawks’s films. Jacobs argues that the new range of sound technologies made possible a much tighter synchronization of music, speech, and movement than had been the norm with the live accompaniment of silent films. Filmmakers in the early years of the transition to sound experimented with different technical means of achieving synchronization and employed a variety of formal strategies for creating rhythmically unified scenes and sequences. Music often served as a blueprint for rhythm and pacing, as was the case in mickey mousing, the close integration of music and movement in animation. However, by the mid-1930s, filmmakers had also gained enough control over dialogue recording and editing to utilize dialogue to pace scenes independently of the music track. Jacobs’s highly original study of early sound-film practices provides significant new contributions to the fields of film music and sound studies.
The late 1960s and 1970s are widely recognized as a golden age for American film, as directors like Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, and Martin Scorsese expanded the Hollywood model with aesthetically innovative works. As this groundbreaking new study reveals, those filmmakers were blessed with more than just visionary eyes; Designing Sound focuses on how those filmmakers also had keen ears that enabled them to perceive new possibilities for cinematic sound design. Offering detailed case studies of key films and filmmakers, Jay Beck explores how sound design was central to the era’s experimentation with new modes of cinematic storytelling. He demonstrates how sound was key to many directors’ signature aesthetics, from the overlapping dialogue that contributes to Robert Altman’s naturalism to the wordless interludes at the heart of Terrence Malick’s lyricism. Yet the book also examines sound design as a collaborative process, one where certain key directors ceded authority to sound technicians who offered significant creative input. Designing Sound provides readers with a fresh take on a much-studied era in American film, giving a new appreciation of how artistry emerged from a period of rapid industrial and technological change. Filled with rich behind-the-scenes details, the book vividly conveys how sound practices developed by 1970s filmmakers changed the course of American cinema.
How did the introduction of recorded music affect the production, viewing experience, and global export of movies? In Movies, Songs, and Electric Sound, Charles O’Brien examines American and European musical films created circa 1930, when the world’s sound-equipped theaters screened movies featuring recorded songs and filmmakers in the United States and Europe struggled to meet the artistic and technical challenges of sound production and distribution. The presence of singers in films exerted special pressures on film technique, lending a distinct look and sound to the films’ musical sequences. Rather than advancing a film’s plot, songs in these films were staged, filmed, and cut to facilitate the singer’s engagement with her or his public. Through an examination of the export market for sound films in the early 1930s, when German and American companies used musical films as a vehicle for competing to control the world film trade, this book delineates a new transnational context for understanding the Hollywood musical. Combining archival research with the cinemetric analysis of hundreds of American, German, French, and British films made between 1927 and 1934, O’Brien provides the historical context necessary for making sense of the aesthetic impact of changes in film technology from the past to the present.
Sheds light on emergent Latin America cinema that addresses the politics of environmental destruction, the uneveness of climate change consequences, and new ways of visualizing the world beyond the human. Pushing Past the Human in Latin American Cinema brings together fourteen scholars to analyze Latin American cinema in dialogue with recent theories of posthumanism and ecocriticism. Together they grapple with how Latin American filmmakers have attempted to "push past the human," and destabilize the myth of anthropocentric exceptionalism that has historically been privileged by cinema and has led to the current climate crisis. While some chapters question the very nature of this enterprise—whether cinema should or even could actualize such a maneuver beyond the human—others signal the ways in which the category of the "human" itself is interrogated by Latin American cinema, revealed to be a fiction that excludes more than it unifies. This volume explores how the moving image reinforces or contests the division between human and nonhuman, and troubles the settler epistemic partition of culture and nature that is at the core of the climate crisis. As the first volume to specifically address how such questions are staged by Latin American cinema, this book brings together analysis of films that respond to environmental degradation, as well as those that articulate a posthumanist ethos that blurs the line between species. Carolyn Fornoff is Assistant Professor of Latin American Literatures and Cultures at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Gisela Heffes is Associate Professor of Latin American Literatures and Cultures at Rice University.
The transition from silent to synchronized sound film was one of the most dramatic transformations in cinema's history, as it radically changed the technology, practices, and aesthetics of filmmaking within a few short years. In France, debates about sound cinema were fierce and widespread. In French Musical Culture and the Coming of Sound Cinema, author Hannah Lewis argues that the debates about sound film resonated deeply within French musical culture of the early 1930s, and conversely, that discourses surrounding a range of French musical styles and genres shaped audiovisual cinematic experiments during the transition to sound. Lewis' book focuses on many of the most prominent directors and screenwriters of the period, from Luis Buñuel to Jean Vigo, as well as experiments found in lesser-known films. Additionally, Lewis examines how early sound film portrayed the diverse soundscape of early 1930s France, as filmmakers drew from the music hall, popular chanson, modernist composition, opera and operetta, and explored the importance of musical machines to depict and to shape French audiovisual culture. In this light, the author discusses the contributions of well-known composers for film alongside more popular music hall styles, all of which had a voice within the heterogeneous soundtrack of French sound cinema. By delving into this fascinating developmental period of French cinematic history, Lewis encourages readers to challenge commonly-held assumptions about how genres, media, and artistic forms relate to one another, and how these relationships are renegotiated during moments of technological change.
The Routledge Companion to Latin American Cinema is the most comprehensive survey of Latin American cinemas available in a single volume. While highlighting state-of-the-field research, essays also offer readers a cohesive overview of multiple facets of filmmaking in the region, from the production system and aesthetic tendencies, to the nature of circulation and reception. The volume recognizes the recent "new cinemas" in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Mexico, and, at the same time, provides a much deeper understanding of the contemporary moment by commenting on the aesthetic trends and industrial structures in earlier periods. The collection features essays by established scholars as well as up-and-coming investigators in ways that depart from existing scholarship and suggest new directions for the field.
Crafton (communication and theater, U. of Notre Dame) departs from revisionist accounts that stress the systematic development of film, and portrays the transition to sound as partly rational and partly confused. He maintains that even though the studios tried to develop a proactive approach to the transition, they were concerned with reducing risks, and often behaved in a retroactive way. Topics include the effects of the depression, the struggles for control over the new technology, and the popular reception of the talkies. Annotation copyrighted by Book News, Inc., Portland, OR
Sounding American: Hollywood, Opera, and Jazz tells the story of the interaction between musical form, film technology, and ideas about race, ethnicity, and the nation during the American cinema's conversion to sound. Contrary to most accepted narratives about the conversion, which tend to explain the competition between the Hollywood studios' film sound technologies in qualitative and economic terms, this book argues that the battle between disc and film sound was waged primarily in an aesthetic realm. Opera and jazz in particular, though long neglected in studies of the film score, were extremely important in defining the scope of the American soundtrack, not only during the conversion, but also once sound had been standardized. Examining studio advertisements, screenplays, scores, and the films themselves, the book concentrates on the interactions between musical form and film technology, arguing that each of the major studios appropriated opera and jazz in a unique way inorder to construct its own version of an ideal American voice. The book's central question asks what the synthesis of opera and jazz during the conversion reveals about the stylistic and ideological norms of classical Hollywood cinema and the racial, ethnic, gendered, and socially stratified spaces of American musical production. Unlike much of the scholarship on film music, which gravitates toward feature film scores, Sounding American concentrates on the musical shorts of the late 1920s,showing how their representations of the stage, conservatory, ballroom, and nightclub reflected what opera and jazz meant for particular groups of Americans and demonstrating how the cinema helped to shape the racial, ethnic, and national identities attached to this music. Traditional histories of Hollywood film music have tended to concentrate on the unity of the score, a model that assumes a passive spectator. Sounding American claims that the classical Hollywood film is essentially an illustrated jazz-opera with a musical structure that encourages an active form of listening and viewing in order to make sense of what is ultimately a fragmentary text.
The opening decades of the twentieth century witnessed a profound transformation in the history of modern sound media, with workers in U.S. film, radio, and record industries developing pioneering production methods and performance styles tailored to emerging technologies of electric sound reproduction that would redefine dominant forms and experiences of popular audio entertainment. Focusing on broadcasting's initial expansion during the 1920s, Making Radio explores the forms of creative labor pursued for the medium in the period prior to the better-known network era, assessing their role in shaping radio's identity and identifying affinities with parallel practices pursued for conversion-era film and phonography. Tracing programming forms adopted by early radio writers and programmers, production techniques developed by studio engineers, and performance styles cultivated by on-air talent, it shows how radio workers negotiated a series of broader industrial and cultural pressures to establish best practices for their medium that reshaped popular forms of music, drama, and public oratory and laid the foundation for a new era of electric sound entertainment.
This book explores the cultural, intellectual, and artistic fascination with camera-eye metaphors in film culture of the twentieth century. By studying the very metaphor that cinema lives by, it provides a rich and insightful map of our understanding of cinema and film styles and shows how cinema shapes our understanding of the arts and media. As current new media technologies are attempting to shift the identity of cinema and moving imagery, it is hard to overstate the importance of this metaphor for our understanding of the modalities of vision. In what guises does the "camera eye" continue to survive in media that is called new?
The 1920s and 1930s marked some of the most important developments in the history of the American mass media: the film industry's conversion to synchronous sound, the rise of radio networks and advertising-supported broadcasting, the establishment of a federal regulatory framework, and the birth of a new acoustic commodity in which consumers accessed stories, songs, and other products through multiple media formats. The innovations of this period not only restructured and consolidated corporate mass media interests while shifting the conventions of media consumption. They renegotiated the social functions assigned to mass media forms. In this impeccably researched history, Steve J. Wurtzler grasps the full story of sounds media, proving that the ultimate form technology takes is never predetermined but shaped by conflicting visions of technological possibility in economic, cultural, and political realms.
As a director, actor, writer and producer, Tod Browning was one of the most dynamic Hollywood figures during the birth of commercial cinema. Known for his fantastic collaborations with Lon Chaney in numerous silents, and for directing the horror classic Dracula and the still-controversial Freaks, Browning has been called "the Edgar Allan Poe of the cinema." Despite not entering the profession until he began acting in his early thirties, he went on to helm more than 60 films in a 25-year career. His work continues to influence directors such as David Lynch, John Waters, and Alejandro Jodorowsky. These essays critically explore such topics as the connection between Browning, Poe and Kant; Browning's cinematic techniques; disability; masochism; sound and suspense; duality; parenthood; narrative and cinematic trickery; George Melford; surrealism; and the occult. A Browning filmography is included.
In December 1967, Time magazine put Bonnie and Clyde on its cover and proudly declared that Hollywood cinema was undergoing a 'renaissance'. For the next few years, a wide range of formally and thematically challenging films were produced at the very centre of the American film industry, often (but by no means always) combining success at the box office with huge critical acclaim, both then and later. This collection brings together acknowledged experts on American cinema to examine thirteen key films from the years 1966 to 1974, starting with Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, a major studio release which was in effect exempted from Hollywood's Production Code and thus helped to liberate American filmmaking from (self-)censorship. Long-standing taboos to do with sex, violence, race relations, drugs, politics, religion and much else could now be broken, often in conjunction with extensive stylistic experimentation. Whereas most previous scholarship has examined these developments through the prism of auteurism, with its tight focus on film directors and their oeuvres, the contributors to this collection also carefully examine production histories and processes. In doing so they pay particular attention to the economic underpinnings and collaborative nature of filmmaking, the influence of European art cinema as well as of exploitation, experimental and underground films, and the connections between cinema and other media (notably publishing, music and theatre). Several chapters show how the innovations of the Hollywood Renaissance relate to further changes in American cinema from the mid-1970s onwards.
Today, in a world of smartphones, tablets, and computers, screens are a pervasive part of daily life. Yet a multiplicity of screens has been integral to the media landscape since cinema’s golden age. In On the Screen, Ariel Rogers rethinks the history of moving images by exploring how experiments with screen technologies in and around the 1930s changed the way films were produced, exhibited, and experienced. Marshalling extensive archival research, Rogers reveals the role screens played at the height of the era of “classical” Hollywood cinema. She shows how filmmakers, technicians, architects, and exhibitors employed a variety of screens within diverse spaces, including studio soundstages, theaters, homes, stores, and train stations. Far from inert, screens served as means of structuring mediated space and time, contributing to the transformations of modern culture. On the Screen demonstrates how particular approaches to the use of screens traversed production and exhibition, theatrical and extratheatrical practice, mainstream and avant-garde modes, and even cinema and television. Rogers’s history challenges conventional narratives about the novelty of the twenty-first-century multiscreen environment, showing how attention to the variety of historical screen practices opens up new ways to understand contemporary media.