The Evolution of Sound

One of the technological advancements that intrigued me the most from what we have learned this semester is the evolution of sound. Although we take sound in film for granted today, this was not the case when films first started being made at the end of the nineteenth century. I think that it is important to learn about the process of how sound came to be what it is today because it shows the dedication that moviemakers put into the creation of a project that helped shape cultures across the globe, especially the American culture. I particularly enjoyed learning about the different ways in which producers struggled in trying to produce sound, such as in hiding microphones, yet still picking up sound, or in controlling volume. One example of this is present in the movie Singing in the Rain, which came out in 1952. When trying to film the movie, the character Lina Lamont is having trouble understanding that the microphones present only pick up sound when it is in close proximity. I have included a link to a video below for reference. When the film was aired, it produced a great response from the audience as it was very comical to hear which sounds were surprising the loudest, such as Lina’s pearls, compared to other more appropriate sounds such as dialogue, and also how some of the speech got lost.

One thing that I thought was very important was the fact that the emergence of sound also allowed for the creation of whole new genres of film. Some of these included musicals, of course, and also screwball comedies and gangster films. Sound also paved the way for horror movies by offering a crucial component that helped enhance the “edge of your seat” effects on the viewer. I find it fascinating that before films had sound embedded in them, orchestras used to accompany films in the audience.

From the films that we had the opportunity to watch in class, I found that sound was particularly important, or played an interesting role, in Bringing Up Baby and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. In Bringing Up Baby, the producers played with sound in a way such that the audience could understand that the leopard was present without actually showing the animal on screen. The were able to do this because the audience could hear the roar of the leopard in the background. This would never have been possible without the development of sound. In Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, the musical numbers and meanings behind conversations would not have been possible without the use of sound. Lorelei and Dorothy perform several acts that are extravagant and simply would not have had the same effect if the audience could not hear the lyrics and thrilling music. This is also true for the musical number that the olympic team carries out. Sound was also crucial for the conversations between the characters. Dorothy offers advice to Lorelei on several occasions, and the two of them also work together to uncover a scheme that Gus Edmond’s father, with the help of his PI, Ernie Malone, has planted against Lorelei. This complicated situation would have been impossible for the audience to understand without knowing what each character was thinking, which was made known through their conversations with each other.

I think that sound plays a key role in what movies are today and I found it very interesting to learn about the process of how it came to be what we know it as today.


Singing in the Rain Lina Lamont scene:



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