Dramaturgy of Sound in the Avant-garde and Postdramatic Theatre

Dramaturgy of Sound in the Avant-garde and Postdramatic Theatre

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 224
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    Dramaturgy of Sound in the Avant-garde and Postdramatic Theatre
    Book Description:

    Sound is born and dies with action. In this surprising, resourceful study, Mladen Ovadija makes a case for the centrality of sound as an integral element of contemporary theatre. He argues that sound in theatre inevitably "betrays" the dramatic text, and that sound is performance. Until recently, theatrical sound has largely been regarded as supplemental to the dramatic plot. Now, however, sound is the subject of renewed interest in theatrical discourse. Dramaturgy of sound, Ovadija argues, reads and writes a theatrical idiom based on two inseparable, intertwined strands - the gestural, corporeal power of the performer's voice and the structural value of stage sound. His extensive research in experimental performance and his examination of the pioneering work by Futurists, Dadaists, and Expressionists enable Ovadija to create a powerful study of autonomous sound as an essential element in the creation of synesthetic theatre. Dramaturgy of Sound in the Avant-garde and Postdramatic Theatre presents a cogent argument about a continuous tradition in experimental theatre running from early modernist to contemporary works.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8866-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-8)

    This book, strictly speaking, belongs to the field of theatre studies, but to be true to its subject, which is theatre sound, it adopts a multidisciplinary approach and includes discussion of the aural principles and methods of poetry, performance, painting, and music developed in the historical avant-garde and applied subsequently in contemporary theatre. It explores the dramaturgy of sound – at first glance an oxymoronic and paradoxical term that escapes its own verbal root “drama,” thought of as a literary discipline, and connects it to a purely material phenomenon of sound. Indeed, if dramaturgy’s customary concern is the temporal and...

  5. 1 The Performativity of Voice and Sound in Theatre
    (pp. 9-23)

    The breakthrough of the dramaturgy of sound is not an issue of artistic technique or craftsmanship. It is a consequence of the avant-garde’s recognition of the materiality of sound, the revision of the conventional referentiality of artistic means, and the establishment of a new aesthetic that deals with sound as matter, form, and an independent constituent of the work of art. No longer is the question how to produce, by means of sound, a work of art that would represent an object, signify something, or express an aesthetic idea formulated elsewhere in culture, language, or theory. Rather, the question is...

  6. 2 Avant-garde and Postmodern Conceptions of Aurality
    (pp. 24-56)

    The art of the early avant-garde emerged in the first decades of the twentieth century when the peaceful soundscape of countryside and unspoiled nature, a welcoming refuge for the artist’s lyrical soul, had been overwhelmed by the cacophonic, soiled sound of expansive technology, speedy communications, political strife, and frantic city life. In the century that broke out with noise brought about by the surge of industrialization, sheer sound, a most affective/effective¹ sensory attraction became a substantial element of all the arts. In Noise, Water, Meat, Douglas Kahn avows: “Sound saturates the arts of this century, and its importance becomes evident...

  7. 3 Sound Poetry and Bruitist Performance: Words-in-Freedom
    (pp. 57-84)

    With the belief that “only theatrical entertainment is worthy of the true Futurist spirit,” Marinetti and friends started an intense campaign of staging their evenings in grand theatres all across Italy in 1910. They spread from Politeama Rossetti di Trieste and Teatro Lirico di Milano to Teatro Costanzi di Roma, Politeama Garibaldi di Palermo, and Galleria Futurista di Napoli. Futurist performers, mixing poetry declamations, conferences, concerts, exhibitions, and performances, toured Europe as well; the eroiche serate stirred audiences in London and Paris in 1912 and in Moscow, St Petersburg, and Berlin in 1914.¹ A typical Futurist serata would begin on...

  8. 4 Zaum: From a ʺBeyonsenseʺ Language to an Idiom of Theatre
    (pp. 85-113)

    The groundbreaking changes achieved in poetry by Russian Futurists – called literally people of the future (budetlyanskye) – such as Velimir Khlebnikov, Alexei Kruchenykh, Vasily Kamensky, and Vladimir Mayakovsky, preceded or ran parallel to revolutions in the painting, music, and theatre of the historical avant-garde. The revival of the sensorial essence of words, sounds, painterly/sculptural masses, or colours was the fuel of that revolution. This change was already in the air when Impressionists, followers of the scientific in art, discovered that fragmenting light into coloured dots allows for a painterly rendition of nature that approximated retinal perception, and when Symbolists,...

  9. 5 The Dramaturgy of Sound: From Futurist Serate to Sintesi
    (pp. 114-144)

    Francesco Cangiullo’s Piedigrotta, which premiered on 29 March 1914, at Gallery Sprovieri in Rome and, in the next two months, repeated once in Rome and three times in Naples, came as a sign of significant change in Futurist aesthetics and theatre practice. It coincided with a strategic move from arte-azione events for general audiences at theatre halls, called serate futuriste (Futurist evenings), to performances for more sophisticated audiences at exhibition galleries, called pomeriggi spettacolari (theatrical afternoons). The history of Piedigrotta as an exemplary verbo-voco-visual poem leads from its first appearance as a tiny book of lyrics called Piedigrotta Cangiullo (Napoli:...

  10. 6 Sound as Structure: Toward an Aural Architecture of Theatre
    (pp. 145-178)

    Futurist poets substantially disturbed linguistic and literary conventions by turning the spoken, written, and printed word into a verbo-voco-visual ideogram. Both poetic idioms, parole in libertá and zaum, refashioned words into aural and visual icons, sensorial kernels whose intrinsic performance potential made them available for theatre use. Accordingly, Giovanni Lista found it appropriate to include Marinetti’s synoptic table Battle on 9 Levels of Monte Altissimo (Battaglia a 9 piani del Monte Altissimo) in his anthology of theatre. Here the visual setting determined the corporeal, sensory dimension of its declamation and helped the poem/table turn into a synthetic performance by “declamators...

  11. 7 The Avant-garde Dramaturgy of Sound
    (pp. 179-205)

    The historical avant-gardes were the first to put forward the notion that sound can be something that both reveals and is a performance – a notion that has found a sympathetic ear among contemporary theatre creators. Indeed this early recognition of the materiality of sound has contributed to a larger “project” that has more recently come to be called the “performative turn” (Erika Fischer-Lichte) and/or the formation of “postdramatic theatre” (Hans-Thies Lehmann). Proofs of this development seem as elusive as its subject, which is the phenomenon of sound itself. One of the leading figures of contemporary theatre semiotics and performance...

  12. Epilogue
    (pp. 206-208)

    When a cry, a moan, a chuckle, a cough, a mumble, or a stutter emerges from its secure place amid the lines of dramatic dialogue – when the voice springs from the dramatic character, abandoning its cocoon for stage space – it is reborn as part of an evolving theatrical noise/sound pattern that has a life of its own. As an audience member I no longer face only psychologically motivated actions of madness, joy, or grief, but also theatrical sound itself. To my ears and my mind the sound appears emotionally engaging, empathetic, but at the same time concrete and...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 209-232)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 233-244)
  15. Index
    (pp. 245-252)