Listening in entertainment contexts

Parallel session B6 (Chair: Byron Dueck)
25 Oct 2015
15:10 - 16:10
Parry Room 2

Listening in entertainment contexts

Overtures, intermissions, entr’actes, and exits; or, the possibilities of closed-curtain listening

Dr Ben Winters, The Open University

The idea of encountering a variety of listening practices in the context of silent cinema is now fairly well accepted, thanks to the research of scholars like Rick Altman, Annette Davison, and Julie Brown. The exhibition practices of sound-era cinema, however, also generated a variety of cinematic listening practices that have yet to receive the same attention. The prints shown in roadshow screenings of Hollywood films from the 1930s to the 1960s, for instance, often included ‘optical’ sound that was designed to replicate the live overture, intermission, entr’acte, and exit music familiar from silent-era practice. As suggested by the special instructions sent out to exhibitors, this ‘vision-less’ film music would usually be heard with the screen curtains closed and house lights up—though there are notable exceptions. Using evidence in part provided by these exhibitor instructions, this paper explores some of the functions undertaken by this ‘extra’ music of sound-era roadshow cinema—which ranged from attracting patrons back from the lobby, or showing off technological advances in sound reproduction, to transitioning an audience between the theatrical exhibition space and the world of a film (through music’s combination with controlled house lighting or specially designed static images). The listening practices that resulted indicate that ‘cinematic listening’ may have extended beyond the sound-film text, as it is usually defined, in a number of intriguing ways.

Discotronical psychedelic thrills – the sounds of the fairground

Ian Trowell, University of Sheffield

This paper will provide an overview of current research looking in to the relationship between UK fairgrounds and the consumption of music in the post-war period. It will provide insights and theorisations from a previously unexplored current of both listening to music and the symbiotic use of the music within the structural and cultural context of its arena.

Central to the research is the relationship between the burgeoning post-war subcultures and the fairground. This extends from early sub-cultural music consumption and (ownership of) space through to the fairground as a hothouse for contemporary working class micro-genres of dance music (donk, tartan techno, scouse house, power-stomp, etc). Of key interest is the feedback of sub-cultural imagery and language into the art and design of the fair (reconsidering the work of Peter Blake as a ‘double-feedback’ flowing from the fairground, to the mod scene, and back to the fairground).

The paper will address the key themes of the conference in various ways. Listening to music on the fairground is a unique process in terms of social effects, predominantly through the integration of sounds and lyrics with the movement of thrill machinery, the performative space of the fairground, and the liminal encouragement of losing control. The social context is combined with the ‘anti-geographical’ nature of the fair which presents itself as nomadic, temporary and a reconfiguration of the spaces of everyday life.