During her lifetime (1755-1831), English actress Sarah Siddons was an international celebrity acclaimed for her performances of tragic heroines. We know what she looked like—an endless number of artists asked her to sit for portraits and sculptures—but what of her famous voice, reported to cause audiences to hyperventilate or faint? In The Sarah Siddons Audio Files , Judith Pascoe takes readers on a journey to discover how the actor's voice actually sounded. In lively and engaging prose, Pascoe retraces her quixotic search, which leads her to enroll in a "Voice for Actors" class, to collect Lady Macbeth voice prints, and to listen more carefully to the soundscape of her life.
Bringing together archival discoveries, sound recording history, and media theory, Pascoe shows how romantic poets' preoccupation with voices is linked to a larger cultural anxiety about the voice's ephemerality. The Sarah Siddons Audio Files contributes to a growing body of work on the fascinating history of sound and will engage a broad audience interested in how recording technology has altered human experience.
"The theatre scholar's daunting but irresistible quest to recover some echoes of performance of the past has never been more engaging presented than in Pascoe's account of tracing the long-silenced voice of Sarah Siddons. Her report is a warm, witty and highly informative exploration of the methodology and the pleasures of historical research."
—Marvin Carlson, author of The Haunted Stage: The Theatre as Memory Machine
"Along the way, the author aptly developed her own voice—her gift for felicitous, first-person writing, still a skeptically viewed undertaking in academic monographs. . . . Pascoe succeeds in creating an account, personal and learned, of her quest . . . She spices The Sarah Siddons Audio Files with lively writing . . . a literary counterpart to Siddons's riveting voice.”
—The Chronicle of Higher Education
"Judith Pascoe, in her new book, The Sarah Siddons Audio Files: Romanticism and the Lost Voice, writes engagingly and humorously about the process of historical recovery."
—Daniel Cavicchi, The Ardent Audience
"Richly informed by archival research and theories of new media supplemented by first-hand experimentation, and written in a lively, first-person voice, The Sarah Siddons Audio Files is a vibrant and sure-to-be-influential work of scholarship."
—Amy Muse, Comparative Drama
Honorable Mention, Joe A. Callaway Prize for Best Book on Drama or Theatre
Winner of the Barnard Hewitt Book Award from the American Society for Theatre Research
Copyright © 2011, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.
Read: Review Chronicle of Higher Education | May 16, 2011