CfP (Journal): Sounds Good / Good Vibrations

Special Issue of Theatre & Performance Design

Deadline for proposals: 1st October 2015 (350-500 words)
Notifications of acceptance: Sent out w/c 6th July.
First draft deadline: 1st May 2016
Publication: Autumn/Winter 2016 (following peer review)

Email abstracts to Claire Mokrauer-Madden at

Guest editors: David Roesner & Adrian Curtin

An implicit goal of sound design across different genres is to achieve a result that ‘sounds good’. What this means, how it might be achieved, and why it so often fails in theatre are issues that have rarely been discussed and analysed in an academic context. As audio technologies evolve and cultures of listening change, the question of what ‘sounds good’ in theatre is continually open to debate.

Listening to music or to a ‘non-musical’ sonic environment can make us feel good, of course, and there is a linguistic connection in English between bodily health and ‘soundness’ (e.g. to be ‘a sound person’, ‘sound in mind and body’). How does theatre make this connection or achieve this effect? What is the ideological significance of making ‘good’ sounds/vibrations in performance? Is there a moral as well as an aesthetic component to this?

In Sonic Experience: A Guide to Everyday Sounds, Jean-François Augoyard and Henry Torgue discuss the idea of ‘sharawadji’, which they characterise as ‘the feeling of plenitude that is sometimes created by the contemplation of a sound motif or a complex soundscape of inexplicable beauty’ (117). The sharawadji, like Roland Barthes’ notion of the photographic ‘punctum’, is an aesthetic effect that strikes the perceiver personally and unexpectedly, possibly the result of accident or chance. (How) might such an effect emerge in theatrical performance? What role, if any, does sound design play in this?

This issue will aim to investigate the unspoken assumptions, tacit agreements, aesthetic preconceptions, etc., about what ‘sounds good’ in the theatre. What do theatre makers and audiences mean when they refer to the sound being ‘good’? How do the following elements inform this judgment?


  • aesthetic appropriateness
  • affective response
  • clarity/audibility
  • timbre
  • volume
  • balance/mix
  • origin & type of sound
  • acoustics
  • socio-historical context
  • audience composition & dynamics
  • listener expectations

How do music, sound effects, voice, dramaturgy, scenography, choreography, technical equipment, environment, and architecture interplay in this endeavour?

Contributions are solicited for essays that engage one or more aspects of this topic and focus on examples drawn from any genre of theatrical performance, historical or contemporary. Contributors may include images and audio or video files as part of their submission (subject to clearing copyright).

See here for more information.

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