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Silent Film Sound (Film and Culture Series)

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0231116633
ISBN-10: 0231116632
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Frequently Bought Together

  • Silent Film Sound (Film and Culture Series)
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Editorial Reviews


Weighty and ambitious....This thoroughly researched and copiously illustrated book is recommended for large libraries and all cinema collections.

(Roy Liebman Library Journal)

Silent Film Soundis a bible of reference information and vintage photos.


Edison's pioneering work...is given a large amount of space in a fascinating new book.

(Steve Ramm Groove Magazine)

Rather than reinventing the wheel or allowing for too many examples in his analysis, Altman successfully dispels notions of a homogenous turn-of-the-century soundscape and interweaves salient but ignored aspects of early cinema and its coinciding entertainments...Highly recommended.


A magisterial effort of a type rarely seen in cinema today... Altman's history is precise, reflective, and human.

(Cinemas Journal)

Rick Altman's Silent Film Sound is revisionist film history at its best.

(Marshall Deutelbaum New Review of Film and Television)

Nothing short of a classic, definitive work.

(Jacob Smith Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film)

A major contribution to the history of early cinema.

(American Studies)

His groundbreaking, encyclopedic book represents a crucial contribution to the scholarly understanding not only of early film sound, but also of the full range of film history.

(Kecia D. McBride Film Criticism)

Rick Altman has given us a magnum opus... a stunningly original work of film history.

(Tom Gunning Film Quarterly)

[A] majestic book... Readable as the most complete account of early American cinema.

(Dana Polan Screening The Past)

Silent Film Sound is a superb contribution to many scholarly fields in addition to film history, including musicology, media studies, sound studies and American history.

(Katherine Spring Film International)

Silent Film Sound is a top pick for any serious college-level film library.

(California Bookwatch)


Altman radically rewrites the history of sound practices in silent cinema in the United States. He boldly challenges the basic assumptions of earlier work and carefully develops a series of cogent arguments about the complexity and swiftly changing nature of American silent cinema in which sound often had an importance equal to that of the moving image. The arguments are based on extensive, meticulous research in primary sources, many of them examined for the first time. This book is simply an extraordinary achievement.

(Richard Abel, University of Michigan)

New historians usually assert that history is always already an act of "interpretation" and that it thus always has to be re-done, over and over again, to fit new generations, new modes of thought. With this masterful work by Rick Altman, other historians can take a break from their efforts! Altman's interpretations are so solid that they will remain operative for much longer than usual.

(André Gaudreault, University of Montreal)

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Product Details

  • Series: Film and Culture Series
  • Paperback: 462 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (February 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231116632
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231116633
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 1 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,489,413 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Mention 'silent film' and most will think of images with the absence of sound but in fact, the silent film was accompanied by sound, and original research her provides a challenge to the ideas of earlier histories, revealing the changing nature and sounds of early American silent movies. In reality, silent films were not always accompanied, nor were accompaniments uniform: there was an evolutionary process to silent film sound which involved both evolving technology and changing ideas of film production. From peep show and projection to nickelodeon and the campaign to standardize film sounds, Silent Film Sound is a bible of reference information and vintage photos.
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Format: Paperback
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