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Title:Beyond sound effects: Designing sound for the American theatre in the 1970s
Author(s):Hsieh, Yu-Yun
Director of Research:Robinson, Valleri
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Robinson, Valleri
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Mitchell, Tom; Stevens, Andrea; Scholwin, Richard Michael
Department / Program:Theatre
Discipline:Theatre
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:Ph.D.
Genre:Dissertation
Subject(s):Theatre
Sound Design
Abstract:This dissertation investigates the engagement between American theatre and sound reproduction technologies in the 1970s. Through an analysis of Abe Jacob’s sound design for Broadway and productions created by experimental theatre practitioners such as Robert Wilson, Richard Foreman, and the Wooster Group, I explore how these productions extended formal theatre sound design practice in response to the advent of the recording and reproduction technologies, from microphones, loudspeakers, phonograph, tape recorders, and later digital computers. Although live theatre never had the resources to invest in technical research projects, it was very adept at adapting the latest innovations from other fields. I contend that the development of sound technologies not only shaped the formal innovations in electronic music composition, recordings, radio, and film, but that it compelled theatre artists to incorporate sound as a constituent part of the overall scenography. Tracing the way the sound was dramatized and staged, each chapter sounds out a pairing of the changes in design processes alongside the new approaches to the practice of listening and sound making in the age of mechanical and electronic (re)production: namely, Abe Jacob’s rock and roll sound system and Broadway’s mediatic resistance; Robert Wilson’s auditory landscape and sound event; Richard Foreman’s use of a tape machine to create sound objects; and the Wooster Group’s use of sound to foreground different modes of listening. The conclusion reflects upon my own sound design for Ping Chong and encapsulates the influences of sound technologies on theatre discussed in previous chapters. While the discourse of theatre sound is mostly comprised of step-by-step sound design instructional textbooks, this dissertation focuses not only on the type and variety of sounds made but also the artistic rationale behind the creative process by combining analyses of dramatic texts, production history, newspaper reviews, interviews and video recordings. Even though these new practices of sound in theatre were driven by sound technologies, this study reveals that the artistic rationale behind the creative process played an important role in transforming the technology to meet the needs of the production. Ultimately, by providing an account that interrelates the development of sound technology with its users from different artistic fields, this dissertation demonstrates the importance of sound in theatre and opens up the approaches to designing sound beyond its causal and semantic strictures of sound effect.
Issue Date:2018-08-06
Type:Text
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/102881
Rights Information:Copyright 2018 Yu-Yun Hsieh
Date Available in IDEALS:2019-02-08
Date Deposited:2018-12


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