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Partners in SuspenseCritical Essays on Bernard Herrmann and Alfred Hitchcock$
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Steven Rawle and K. J. Donnelly

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780719095863

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719095863.001.0001

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The sound of The Birds1

The sound of The Birds1

(p.113) 9 The sound of The Birds1
Partners in Suspense

Richard Allen

Manchester University Press

This chapter explores the role of sound in The Birds. It is well known that Hitchcock does not use a conventional score in The Birds and music is heard only twice in the film. The rest of the soundtrack consists of dialogue and sound effects. However, prominent among the sound effects are the sounds of the birds themselves that were created with the help of an electronic instrument called the Mixturtrautonium devised and played by Oskar Sala. The Mixturtrautonium was a more sophisticated, “solid state,” version of an older valve instrument called the Trautonium, invented by Sala’s mentor Friedrich Trautwein. The “processed” character of the bird sounds, the complex role they play in the film, and the fact that they sound as if they are made by an “instrument” rather than simply being a “naturalized” sound effect, the chapter argues, all contribute to the sense that sound of the birds functions, in certain respects, like an electronic score, as opposed to a source sound.

Keywords:   The Birds, Hitchcock, Herrmann, Dialogue, Sound effects, Electronic score, Soundtrack, Oskar Sala, Mixturtrautonium

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