Sound of the Theare: From the Ancient Greeks to the Modern Digital Age

Collison, David

Published by PLASA Limited, 2008
ISBN 10: 0955703514 / ISBN 13: 9780955703515
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280 pages. Binding is tight. Cover is glossy, corners are bumped. First 30 pages & last 15 have staining at head of sheets. Some pages are consequently stuck together. Text is otherwise bright & clean, free of any notations. #67972 Size: 4to. Bookseller Inventory #

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Synopsis: The Sound of Theatre traces the development of theatre sound in the Western world from the Ancient Greeks creating thunder with stones in large copper jars to the modern age of digital technology. The great theatrical spectacles of the 18th and 19th centuries relied heavily upon the creation of realistic storms, fires and battles and many of the early sound effects machines are described and depicted in this book. A chronology of key inventions leads from the discovery of electricity to the development of the telegraph, the telephone and the first recording device, and charts how Hollywood's massive investment in recording and playback equipment for the Talkies led to the burgeoning of amplified sound in the theatre. David Collison gives a detailed account of how theatre sound effects in the 20th century progressed from 78 r.p.m. discs, tape machines, CDs and minidiscs, to digital samplers. He also traces the history of voice amplification for the actors which led to the advent of the theatre sound designer. With many anecdotes and personal recollections, David Collison gives an account of what it was like to be involved in such a rapidly changing world. The contributions made by the pioneering British and American theatre soundmen are described, largely based upon interviews with the individuals themselves or their relatives and associates.

Review: There is no shortage of books on audio technology covering topics as diverse as amateur sound effects (or those on a budget), digital technology, acoustics and live sound engineering. But Collison has produced one of a very few books looking at the history - and possibly the first history book to cover theatre sound specifically. The book commences with an apt quote from Throckmorton's 'Catalog of Theatre' (1937): "This board, you may say, is a tree, this muslin is a wall and that spotlight the tropical sunlight - and the public will imagine it. But a dog's bark must sound like a dog's bark, and a train like a train." This quote perhaps unwittingly gives an idea about Collison himself - modest and precise. While most aspects of theatre have scope for a little artistic licence, audio doesn't, as done well it should be very real and in some respects transparent - skills Collison was renowned for. A lot of research has evidently gone into this book: it begins with a fascinating insight into the emergence of theatre back in the 4th and 5th Centuries BC, and how Aristotle and Pythagoras set the scene for early acoustic work - Aristotle noting that sound waves do not travel in a straight line, as well as the emergence of primitive sound effects - particularly thunder, suitably for a civilisation that worshipped the Gods. The next significant developments begin in the renaissance during the 15th and 16th centuries, a progression largely led by the Italians who resurrected and reprinted the famous architectural manual by Roman architect Vitruvius. This led them to build a new style of theatre which is the style we're accustomed with today, and of course were also pioneers of theatre sound effects to suit as well. The book progresses through Shakespearian theatre effects (many by musical instruments) as well as the emergence of other effects such as wind machines, crashes, horses, carriages and rain, inter alia. The next section takes the reader on a chronological tour of audio developments from 1820. As one can imagine these are plentiful, and as such each is treated necessarily briefly. The technological progress from hundreds of years of wooden instruments and mechanical effects to what we have now is astounding, and well worth reading as it charts the history of this profession. Collison goes on to chart the development of amplified audio in theatre right from the original Magnavox system through the Hollywood financed 'talkies'. A whole chapter is also dedicated to the British pioneers of theatre such as RG Jones, Jack Bishop, Stagesound, Watkins and WEM. The West End progression from acetate disc to tape and the growing use of microphones, processing and amplification essentially saw the emergence of the sound designer (of which many familiar names have been included) and much of the latter parts of this book chart the rise of this role along with the technology, such as the introduction of the radio mic and the mixing desk. In all it is a pleasant read and is peppered with anecdotes and personal ecollections of Collison himself, and if nothing else it is fascinating for those of us of more junior years to see how the technology itself, as well as some companies we take for granted, developed and came into being. Some things never change though, and those who started out in the time-honoured tradition of an unofficial apprenticeship will find a great deal of empathy with Collison's description of his early years. --LSI Online

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Sound of the Theare: From the Ancient Greeks...
Publisher: PLASA Limited
Publication Date: 2008
Binding: Hard Cover
Illustrator: N/a
Book Condition: Fair
Edition: 0.

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