Siddons Speaks! Theatre Voices, Acoustic Change, and Recorded Memory


ACLS Fellowship Program




This study pursues a cultural history of the voice in the romantic period by examining the ways in which the voice of the renowned actress Sarah Siddons was celebrated, documented, and memorialized. The study argues that romantic theater goers lived through a moment of acoustic transformation which focused attention on the fragility of actors' voices and which inspired efforts to preserve the voice in advance of sound recording technology. Attention to actors' voices serves to animate once-popular plays, helping us to understand theatrical works that lie dead on the page, and illuminating the pre-history of sound recording technology.