The Voice of Technology: Soviet Cinema's Transition to Sound, 1928-1935

The Voice of Technology: Soviet Cinema's Transition to Sound, 1928-1935

The Voice of Technology: Soviet Cinema's Transition to Sound, 1928-1935

The Voice of Technology: Soviet Cinema's Transition to Sound, 1928-1935


As cinema industries around the globe adjusted to the introduction of synch-sound technology, the Soviet Union was also shifting culturally, politically, and ideologically from the heterogeneous film industry of the 1920s to the centralized industry of the 1930s, and from the avant-garde to Socialist Realism. In The Voice of Technology: Soviet Cinema's Transition to Sound, 1928-1935, Lilya Kaganovsky explores the history, practice, technology, ideology, aesthetics, and politics of the transition to sound within the context of larger issues in Soviet media history. Industrialization and centralization of the cinema industry greatly altered the way movies in the Soviet Union were made, while the introduction of sound radically influenced the way these movies were received. Kaganovsky argues that the coming of sound changed the Soviet cinema industry by making audible, for the first time, the voice of State power, directly addressing the Soviet viewer. By exploring numerous examples of films from this transitional period, Kaganovsky demonstrates the importance of the new technology of sound in producing and imposing the "Soviet Voice."


Edison invented the motion pictures as a supplement to his
phonograph, in the belief that sound plus a moving picture
would provide better entertainment than sound alone. But in a
short time the movies proved to be good enough entertainment
without sound. It has been said that although the motion picture
and the phonograph were intended to be partners, they grew up
separately. and it might be added that the motion picture held the
phonograph in such low esteem that for years it would not speak.

     —Edward W. Kellogg, Journal of the smpte, June 1955

The first public demonstration of sound recorded simultaneously with pictures on film took place at the University of Illinois Urbana campus on June 9, 1922. Joseph T. Tykociner’s double-feature motion picture included ringing a bell and reading the Gettysburg Address. Tykociner had been working on developing a system for recording and reproducing synchronized sound on motion picture film since 1918, and on June 9, 1922, he publicly demonstrated for the first time a motion picture with a sound track optically recorded directly onto the film. in the first sounds ever publicly heard from a composite image-and-audio film, Helena Tykociner, the inventor’s wife, spoke the words, “I will ring,” and then rang a bell. Next, Ellery Paine, head of the University of Illinois Department of Electrical Engineering, recited the Gettysburg Address. the demonstration was written up in the New York World on July 30, 1922.

Joseph Tykocinski-Tykociner (1877–1969) was born into a Jewish family in Włocławek, a town in the Polish territory then under Russian control. Thus, we might say that from the very beginning, there was a connection between Russia and sound film. At the age of eighteen Tykociner first came to the United States to study science. in New York City he met Nikola Tesla and became an expert in shortwave radio. in 1901 he worked for Guglielmo Marconi in London at the time the first radio signal was . . .

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