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Title: The poetry of sound : Jean Cocteau, film and early sound design
Author: Anderson, Laura
Awarding Body: Royal Holloway, University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 2013
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Jean Cocteau's (1889-1963) involvement in the musical sphere spanned genres such as ballet, oratorio, music hall and theatre pieces, and adaptations of his poetry for song. His creative exchanges with Satie, Stravinsky, the Ballets Russes, and Les Six are famous, and the fact that Georges Auric (1899-1983) composed the music for all of his films is also well known. However, no detailed study of Cocteau's film soundscapes as a whole has yet been undertaken from the director's perspective. Given that Cocteau had eclectic artistic interests, and clearly engaged with music and sound in his stage works, it is perhaps unsurprising to discover that he himself was actively engaged with the music and sound of his films. In this thesis, I examine Cocteau's approach to music and sound in his cinematic work, tracing the development of his approach throughout his career. His films span a thirty-year period, from early sound film to 1960. I argue that Cocteau's film soundscapes constitute an important stage in the development of French film sound, and link his approach with the emergence of musique concrète and approaches to sound in New Wave cinema. His embrace of emerging technologies suggests links between his film soundscapes and developments in art music. The thesis comprises case studies of Cocteau's film soundscapes and is presented in three sections. The first section outlines how he drew on Symbolist aesthetics and Wagnerian rhetoric in writing about and arranging his early soundscapes. The second section centres on his film adaptations; as music was not part of the source material for these films, Cocteau was forced to reflect on its role to ensure that music did not become merely an accessory to a preexisting artwork.1 The final section invokes issues of musical self-reflection in a study of two films for which Cocteau chose Orpheus as his thematic material. Given that the Orpheus myth centres on the gap between sight and sound, I read Cocteau's soundscapes in these films as reflections on cinema itself. If sound design is understood to be the creative process that results in the complete soundscape, then Cocteau's decisions concerning the sonic atmosphere throughout these films merit the view of him as a proto-sound designer.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Jean Cocteau ; Sound Design ; French film music