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Palgrave Macmillan

Avant-Garde Theatre Sound

Staging Sonic Modernity

ISBN 9781137324788
Publication Date April 2014
Formats Hardcover Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan
Series Avant-Gardes in Performance

Sound experimentation by avant-garde theatre artists of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries is an important but largely ignored aspect of theatre history. In this book, Curtin shows how attention to this activity enhances our understanding of artistic practice (modernism) and historical circumstance (modernity) and considers how avant-gardists staged sonic modernity by exploring its conceptual and communicative possibilities as well as its experiential realities. He critically examines avant-garde theatre through a composite analysis of dramatic texts, historical productions, sound recordings, philosophical speculations, and social movements.

  • Winner of the 2015 TaPRA Award For New Career Research In Theatre/Performance Prize

Adrian Curtin is a Lecturer in Drama at the University of Exeter, UK. He has written journal articles and book chapters on the subjects of theatre sound, modernism, and musical performance. He is the winner of the 2010 New Scholar's Prize, awarded by the International Federation of Theatre Research.

Introduction: The Sound of No Hands Clapping
1. The Acoustic Imaginary
2. Theatre Sound in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
3. Reinventing Language: Sense and Nonsense
4. Hearing Affectively: The Noise of Avant-Garde Performance
Conclusion: A Resounding...


"In this engaging and penetrating study, Curtin relates the theatrical avant-garde's interest in sonic experimentation to several key features of sonic modernity. Ranging from modernity's 'acoustic imaginary' to the 'exuberant noise' of avant-gardism itself, Curtin recovers a lively historical dialogue between modernist theatre practices and the shifting soundscapes of modern culture." - Andrew Sofer, Boston College, USA
"Avant-Garde Theatre Sound lends an expert and well-tempered ear to the often clamorous but strangely overlooked soundscapes of modern avant-garde theatre. Eschewing the excitable acousmania of many other sound theorists, Curtin offers searching and historically informed explorations of the intrigues and elations of noise in modern performance. This book puts the question of sound firmly and unignorably into the history of theatre, just as it puts theatre at the heart of sound studies." - Steven Connor, University of Cambridge, UK
". . . Curtin's is a genuinely original book that effectively challenges received approaches to the theatrical avant-garde, one that more than accomplishes his goal to challenge the organizational categories of theatre history-making and of periodization and genre in modernist studies" - Theatre Research International
". . . [Curtin's] attempt at re-constructing specific 'keynote sounds' of modernity, as well as how they must have been experienced and how they live on today, is enthralling." - The Year's Work in Critical and Cultural Theory
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