Vocal Tracks: Performance and Sound Media

Vocal Tracks: Performance and Sound Media

Vocal Tracks: Performance and Sound Media

Vocal Tracks: Performance and Sound Media

Synopsis

This entertaining and innovative book focuses on vocal performance styles that developed in tandem with the sound technologies of the phonograph, radio, and sound film. Writing in a clear and lively style, Jacob Smith looks at these media technologies and industries through the lens of performance, bringing to light a fascinating nexus of performer, technology, and audience. Combining theories of film sound, cultural histories of sound technologies and industries, and theories of performance, Smith convincingly connects disparate and largely neglected performance niches to explore the development of a modern vocal performance. Vocal Tracks: Performance and Sound Media demonstrates the voice to be a vehicle of performance, identity, and culture and illustrates both the interconnection of all these categories and their relation to the media technologies of the past century.

Excerpt

Imagine that you are the audience for a phonograph record in the first decade of the twentieth century. You might be listening through ear tubes at a public phonograph parlor in an urban shopping area, or at home with your ear cocked to a large amplifying horn. The first sound you hear is a voice, which speaks the following words in a stentorian tone: “The Laughing Spectator, by Steve Porter, Edison Records.” After a short orchestral prelude, a male voice asks, “Say, Mac, where’s your partner?” “Why, he’s not here,” another man answers. “But say, Professor, after I get through you’ll never miss ’im. Listen.” A higher-pitched male voice announces, “Hello, Mac!” The lower voice replies, “How are ya, Reilly?” “What’s the matter, Mac?” asks Reilly. “You look upset!” “I am upset,” Mac answers. “My bank busted and I lost me balance!” On the heels of this joke, you hear the laughter of an audience that seems to be attending a vaudeville comedy routine. “Say, Mac,” Reilly continues, “where’re you goin’ for the summer?” “I’m not goin’ for it,” Mac replies. “I’m gonna wait till it comes here.” The audience laughs again, but this time a particular audience member stands out from the rest: a man whose outrageous bray is so jarring that it causes Mac to step out of his stage persona and ask, “What’s that?” Mac and Reilly continue with the act, but now each time you hear the audience’s response, you cannot help focusing your attention on the raucous and idiosyncratic laughter of the unnamed spectator. The comedians are equally distracted: “Is that a man or a goat?” Mac asks, causing the audience to . . .

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