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The echo of the theatre. Dynamics and construction of the phonic memory

L'écho du théâtre : dynamiques et construction de la mémoire phonique

20th-21st centuries

XXe-XXIe siècles

*  *  *

Published on Wednesday, March 04, 2015


Depuis la fin du XIXe siècle, le développement des technologies d’enregistrement, de production et de diffusion du son a constitué une masse sans précédent de documents sonores dans le champ théâtral. Ces nouvelles expériences auditives et acoustiques ont profondément nourri le travail des artistes, et l’on assiste au XXe siècle à l’essor des réflexions et des créations autour de la matière phonique du théâtre : voix parlées, mais aussi musique, chansons, bruits de scène et de salle. Ce colloque souhaite ainsi interroger les dynamiques et les processus à l’œuvre dans la constitution d’une mémoire phonique du théâtre, en vue de contribuer à une ré-écriture de l’histoire récente du théâtre occidental et, au-delà, à une redéfinition contemporaine de l’expression, de la mémoire et de l’écoute verbales.



 Since the end of the 19thcentury, the development of sound recording, production and broadcasting technologies has contributed to the creation of a new phonic memory of the theater, from the spoken word to the sonic worlds recorded by microphones (sound effects, noises and music). Phonograms (on cylinders, records, magnetic tape), and in particular those broadcast by radio, have built up an unprecedented mass of documents (dramatic creations or recreations, audio-recordings of theatrical shows, interviews with actors) that have trained the audience’s ears to the variety and novelty of sounds. Since the invention of the « Théâtrophone » (the theatre phone) in 1881, audiences have been able to experience an acousmatic listening of theatrical voices. The phonograph and the radio then became available, ensuring the diffusion of such a listening mode, and thus making for its evolution. Actors, stage directors and theater managers were thus rapidly confronted with the new questions raised by audio broadcasting, and later by the radio production of their creations.

These new sonic, acoustic, and auditory experiences have deeply fed the work of artists, and throughout the 20th century reflexions about and creations based on the sound material of the theatre have been on the rise: the spoken voice of course, but also music, song, stage and audience noises, as well as - an essential element - silence, playing out its endless modulations. All places of storage and creation, from the beginning of the 20th century, became aware of the importance of such sonic traces of the stage, and soon began to build an archive, thus taking an active part in the constitution of a new research field.

This colloquium takes place within the framework of the ANR ECHO project [Writing the history of orality. The rise of a modern orality and aurality. Phonic movements in stage imagery (1950-2000)]. Its aim is to question the dynamics and processes at work in the build-up of a phonic memory of the theatre. Where does such a memory build up ? How does it ? What have been the various devices available to capture it, from the end of the 19th century up to our times, and what the criteria used to constitute it as archive through time ? How do individual and collective memories link up?

If one postulates that sound memory can hardly be examined without dealing with its verbal expression, written or oral, how can the shift occur from the memorial inscription of a scene to its formulation, how does one describe a memory of sound ? What does the study of such a memory tell us of the expectations, representations, reception and evolution of the spoken voice and other sounds in theatre ? How do the traces and observable signs left by the evolution of diction, of the rhythms of delivery, accents and idioms, of the status of the spoken word on stage contribute to a renewed vision of theatrical conceptions and practices?

This research project is also a sequel to that dedicated to « Le son du théâtre / Sound technologies and the theatre » undertaken by the French-Québecois ARIAS/CRI research team, the results of which have given birth to several publications. The project now consists in turning this endeavor into a long-term investigation contributing to a re-writing of the recent history of the theatre in the West and, beyond this, to a contemporary re-definition of verbal expression, memory and listening, along our customary interdisciplinary lines.

This colloquium aims at approaching the question of phonic memory (voice and sound) in its various dimensions.

Main themes

Proposals could therefore be considered under the following angles : 

1-    The institutionalization of phonic memory

The constitution of sound archives in centres of creation and storage : physical media, modalities, availability, what is at stake. 

2-    The build-up of phonic memory

Typology of recording equipment (diversity of recordings : acoustic, electric, digital), the evolution of norms and is consequences on the representation of sounds (what happens, for example, to the memory of sounds when new technologies replace former means in the name of acoustical « improvement » ?) 

3-    The memory of spectators

Archival access, questionnaires, interviews, written and oral verbalization of audience memory ; its forms of transmission beyond direct testimony (i.e. contemporary creations dealing directly with audience memory).

4-    The memory of actors

History and techniques of textual memorization by the actor : sources, evolution, transmission. « Prompting » : permanence and mutations. 

5-    Place memories

Acoustical history of theatres. Reconstitution of their conception and equipment, work on archives, use of the digital model (auditory « magnifying glass »). 

6-    Radio : creation and preservation of phonic memory

The radio as practical and imaginary sound laboratory for the theatre ; as a place of creation and preservation of theatrical phonic memory. 

7-    Cognitive approach of verbal, vocal and sound imprints on memory

Memory of the spoken voice and memory of inarticulate sounds. The spoken voice among other sensory memories. Imprint and reactivation of an auditory experience.

Submission guidelines

Proposals, in french or english, must have a title and include an abstract (1500 signs, and blanks) as well as a list of keywords. Indication of the rubric(s) chosen is required, as well as a short bio-bibliography of the proponent (500 signs, and blanks). They should be sent by e-mail in Word or plain text format to Hélène Bouvier (helenebouviersmith@gmail.com) and Marion Chénetier-Alev (marion.chenetier@gmail.com),

before June 1st 2015.

Answers will be given by August 2015.

The international colloquium will be held at the ENS, 45 rue d’Ulm, 75005 Paris, the 19th and 20th November

All additional informations about the colloquium can be found on this adress  : https://echo-projet.limsi.fr/doku.php/echo_du_theatre



Scientific committee

  • Anne-Françoise BENHAMOU, Études théâtrales, professeur, directrice du DHTA (Département d’histoire et théorie des arts), ENS, membre statutaire de THALIM, équipe ARIAS
  • Hélène BOUVIER, Ethnologie, chargée de recherche au CNRS, membre statutaire de THALIM, équipe ARIAS
  • Jeanne BOVET, Histoire et esthétique du théâtre, professeur, CRIalt (Centre de recherches intermédiales sur les arts, les lettres et les techniques) / Université de Montréal
  • Marion CHÉNETIER-ALEV, Études théâtrales, maître de conférences, Université François-Rabelais de Tours, chercheur associé à THALIM, équipe ARIAS
  • Daniel DESHAYS, Techniques et écritures du son, directeur du département Son (ENSATT, Lyon), chercheur associé à THALIM, équipe ARIAS
  • Sandrine DUBOUILH, Études théâtrales, professeur, Université Michel de Montaigne Bordeaux, chercheur associé à THALIM, équipe ARIAS
  • Joël HUTHWOHL, directeur du Département des arts du spectacle, BNF
  • Brian F. G. KATZ, Acoustique, chargé de recherche au CNRS, LIMSI-CNRS (Laboratoire d’informatique pour la mécanique et les sciences de l’ingénieur)
  • Jean-Marc LARRUE, Études théâtrales, professeur, CRIalt (Centre de recherches intermédiales sur les arts, les lettres et les techniques) / Université de Montréal
  • Marie-Madeleine MERVANT-ROUX, Études théâtrales, directeur de recherche au CNRS, directrice adjointe de THALIM, équipe ARIAS
  • Viktoria Tkaczyk, Arts and New Media, assistant professor, Université d'Amsterdam; Institut Max-Planck, Berlin, Dilthey Fellowship Research Group Leader.


  • Ecole Normale Supérieure - 45 rue d'Ulm
    Paris, France (75005)


  • Monday, June 01, 2015


  • théâtre, mémoire, son, voix parlée, acoustique, radio, archives sonores, musique, chanson, diction, acteurs, spectateurs


  • Marion Chénetier-Alev
    courriel : marion [dot] chenetier [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Hélène Bouvier
    courriel : helenebouviersmith [at] gmail [dot] com

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Marion Chénetier-Alev
    courriel : marion [dot] chenetier [at] gmail [dot] com


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« The echo of the theatre. Dynamics and construction of the phonic memory », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, March 04, 2015, https://doi.org/10.58079/s5s

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