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‘Listening back’: exploring the sonic interactions at the heart of historical sound effects performance

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Publication details

JournalThe New Soundtrack
DateAccepted/In press - 18 Oct 2016
DateE-pub ahead of print - 1 Feb 2017
DatePublished (current) - Mar 2017
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)15-30
Early online date1/02/17
Original languageEnglish


The cinematic sound design practice of Foley developed from a rich history of performative sound design through materials, objects and mechanical devices created for theatrical performance, magic lantern shows and silent cinema screenings in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Now, as virtual and digital methods become available in film sound design production, it is time to evaluate the contribution of these historical sound design methods through the discipline of Sonic Interaction Design (SID). Exploring the use of everyday objects and sound effects devices in the creation of a soundtrack allows us to ‘listen’ back and forward simultaneously. Our knowledge of historical sound practice can be updated and new practices can be generated, at the same time deepening our understanding of sound for screen that is performative in nature. This article investigates the interactivity inherent in historical sound effects performance through a case study of a mechanical and digital wind machine reconstruction, and explores its potential to inform new interactive digital methods for sound design.

Bibliographical note

© Edinburgh University Press and Fiona Keenan and Sandra Pauletto. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details

    Research areas

  • sound design, sound perception, sonic interaction design, Foley, sound performance, historical sound effects

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