Ibsen: le designer sonore du théâtre du XIXème siècle / Ibsen: The 19th century theatre sound designer

Dean, Robert (2016) Ibsen: le designer sonore du théâtre du XIXème siècle / Ibsen: The 19th century theatre sound designer. In: Le son du théâtre (XIXe-XXIe siècle) Histoire intermédiale d’un lieu d’écoute moderne. CNRS Éditions, pp. 163-180. ISBN 9782271093561.

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Ibsen’s play When We Dead Awaken (1899) concludes with an on-stage avalanche, an extravagant authorial request that prompted one scholar to conclude that Ibsen never intended the play to be staged:

‘He [Ibsen] was too much a practical man of the theatre not to see that it would hardly be feasible to have a stream on the stage…still less a group of children playing in the distance. And what theatre could provide convincingly a thickening mist…or an avalanche that would sweep them away? Though Ibsen invariably visualised his plays in the clearest detail in the theatre of his own mind, here he thought primarily of reaching not an audience but a reader’ (Watts, 1974, 16).

The rationale given in the above citation overlooks the fact that such effects (crowds, water, and spectacular disasters) were frequently employed in 19th theatrical melodramas. Another important factor not taken into account is that these features are not purely visual. The children playing, the on-stage stream, and the avalanche also carry a sonic charge which will directly influence how the scenes in which they feature are interpreted. However, while the dialogue and visual instructions contained in Ibsen’s dramatic texts have been frequently subjected to analysis, the roles performed by the sound effects and soundscapes he specifies have commanded little academic attention.

This paper will consider the semiotic purposes and dramatic functions of the aural signs Ibsen used in his plays, how they were created, and to what extent they drew on mainstream theatrical techniques. The examples discussed will show that not only were the playwright’s sound requirements achievable prior to the arrival of recorded sound, but that their presence also added resonance, color and depth to the events depicted on stage and the narrative themes communicated.

Keywords:Ibsen, melodrama, thunder, When we dead awaken, sound effects
Subjects:W Creative Arts and Design > W460 Theatre Design
W Creative Arts and Design > W440 Theatre studies
W Creative Arts and Design > W400 Drama
W Creative Arts and Design > W390 Music not elsewhere classified
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts (Fine Arts)
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ID Code:24901
Deposited On:04 Nov 2016 09:53

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