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Unformatted text preview: undamental standard of historical periodization conceals a host of paradoxes. Nearly every movie theater, however modest, had a piano or organ to provide musical accompaniment to silent pictures. In many instances, spectators in the era before recorded sound experienced elaborate aural presentations alongside movies' visual images, from the Japanese benshi (narrators) crafting multivoiced dialogue narratives to original musical compositions performed by symphonysize orchestras in Europe and the United States. In Berlin, for the premiere performance outside the Soviet Union of The Battleship Potemkin, film director Sergei Eisenstein worked with Austrian composer Edmund Meisel (18741930) on a musical score matching sound to image; the Berlin screenings with live music helped to bring the film its wide international fame.
Beyond that, the triumph of recorded sound has overshadowed the rich diversity of technological and aesthetic experiments with the visual image that were going forward simultaneously in the 1920s. New color processes, larger or differently shaped screen sizes, multiplescreen projections, even television, were among the developments invented or tried out during the period, sometimes with startling success. The high costs of converting to sound and the early limitations of sound technology were among the factors that suppressed innovations or retarded advancement in these other areas. The introduction of new screen formats was put off for a quarter century, and color, though utilized over the next two decades for special productions, also did not become a norm until the 1950s.
Though it may be difficult to imagine from a later perspective, a strain of critical opinion in the 1920 s predicted that sound film would be a technical novelty that would soon fade from sight, just as had many previous attempts, dating well back before the First World War, to link images with recorded sound. These critics were making a common assumption—that the technological inadequacies of earlier efforts (poor synchronization, weak sound amplification, fragile sound recordings) would invariably occur again. To be sure, their evaluation of the technical flaws in 1920 s sound experiments was not so far off the mark, yet they neglected to take into account important new forces in the motion picture field that, in a sense, would not take no for an answer.
These forces were the rapidly expanding electronics and telecommunications companies that were developing and linking telephone and wireless technologies in the 1920s. In the United States, they included such firms as American Telephone and Telegraph. General Electric, and Westinghouse They were interested in all forms of sound technology and all potential avenues for commercial exploitation. Their competition and collaboration were creating the broadcasting industry in the United States, beginning with
the introduction of commercial radio programming in the early 1920s. With financial assets considerably greater than those
in the motion picture industr...
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This note was uploaded on 09/17/2013 for the course LANGUAGE 13DL208 taught by Professor Wang during the Fall '13 term at East China Normal University.
- Fall '13