Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Dewey, Walter S.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Theatre Arts


Theaters--Sound effects


This thesis is concerned with a search for simple, inexpensive devices with which live operators can produce varied sound effects for live audiences in support of live actors. Tape recorded sound effects are widely used by theatre groups in the United States and yet they are not always the best way of helping actors gain an emotional response from an audience. A single recorded effect always has the same, composition and quality while audience and actor reactions are capable of infinite variation. A sound created at the moment of its hearing can, with a sensitive and properly rehearsed operator, have an appropriateness to that moment that a pre-recorded effect could not have. While mechanical effects have a potential aesthetic superiority, the author was unable to find recent research on the commonly used effects of thunder, wind and rain. The author's library research showed no published refine­ments in the thunder screen since 1951; dowel rod waved through the air by an electric motor for wind sound is a 1930's refinement of a 17th century idea and falling water drops for rain sound goes back to at least 1880. One hundred forty-two of tests were conducted with inexpensive, commonly available materials in the course of this study. The sounds pro­duced were picked up with phonograph cartridges and contact microphones, amplified and reproduced through loud speakers. One result of the trials was an improved thunder screen; the majority of people who heard this screen "live" preferred it to a thunder screen made on more con­ventional lines and to commercially recorded thunder. A further positive result was the discovery of a simple method of fly loft reverberation that added desirable complexity and a sense of natural spaciousness to the electronically amplified mechanical sounds.


Includes bibliographical references.||Includes illustrations.


viii, 172 pages




Northern Illinois University

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