"Sound Effects: Incidental Sound as Text and Performance in the Transition from Silent to Sound Movies in the American Film Industry" Emily Thompson

Emily Thompson (History, Princeton University) Thompson's books include The Soundscape of Modernity: Architectural Acoustics and the Culture of Listening in America, 1900-1933 (MIT Press, 2004). Her current work focuses on the transformation of technical work during the transition from silent to sound film in the American film industry.

Sound Effects: Incidental Sound as Text and Performance in the Transition from Silent to Sound Movies in the American Film Industry
During the transitional years between silent and sound film (1926-1933), musicians and technicians in the United States developed a variety of practices for organizing and deploying sound effects. Two basic approaches will be described; a textual approach located in studios' sound effects libraries and editing suites, and a performative approach embodied in Jack Foley and other sound-enactors. The transition, however, is best characterized by exploring the interplay between these two approaches, and the merging of sonic tradition and innovation into new, hybrid forms and practices.

Sound File:
Victor SE-3, 78 rpm disc, 1929
"Mixed Laughter"

This recording, one cut on a record that also included "Applause" and "Mixed Cheers," was part of an extensive library of music and sound effects records offered by RCA Victor to motion picture theater staff - musicians and projectionists - to create semi-synchronized sound accompaniment to silent films in theaters equipped for recorded sound reproduction. "Mixed" refers to men's and women's voices.