Of Sound Mind: Mental Distress and Sound in Twentieth-Century Media Culture

Carolyn Birdsall, Senta Siewert


This article seeks to specify the representation of mental disturbance in sound media during the twentieth century. It engages perspectives on societal and technological change across the twentieth century as crucial for aesthetic strategies developed in radio and sound film production. The analysis engages with sonic representations of mental distress through a number of media moments, from Orson Welles’ famous THE WAR OF THE WORLDS broadcast and avant-garde radio to the expanded sound design techniques from the 1970s onwards in cinema. Not only technological developments – in tape technology, cinema surround sound and digital editing – are crucial, but also an acknowledgement of the changing social functions of the media themselves and the context in which consumption takes place.

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ISSN: 2213-7653