Hush! The Aesthetics of Silence in Early Sound Film (c. 1927–1934)


Duration: 2016 – 2018

Research Areas
Cinema Studies


My current research project, ‘The Aesthetics of Silence in Early Sound Film (c. 1927–1934)’, examines the role of silence as a new audio-aesthetic category during the media transition from silent to sound cinema. The project aims to gain an understanding of how sound films from this period were characterized not only by new possibilities for audible dialogue, songs, and diegetic sound, but also by their unprecedented uses of ‘recorded silence’. While it has often been noted that the frequent lack of ambience, musical score, and sophisticated sound effects – especially in the very first sound films – could bring about conspicuous pauses within dialogues, or even longer stretches of silence throughout whole scenes, substantial research on the topic has not yet been conducted. I am particularly interested in how silence in early sound films was conceived of and discussed in contemporary discourse (e.g. trade journals, reviews, film theory), how (and why) filmmakers started to work with it creatively, and how it changed the cinema-going experience. My goal is to conduct case studies in various national cinema contexts, including those of Germany, France, and Great Britain.

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