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date: 25 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article appears in the Oxford Handbook of Sound and Image in Digital Media edited by Carol Vernallis, Amy Herzog, and John Richardson. This essay examines the soundscape and architecture of Punchdrunk’s immersive theater installation Sleep No More (New York, 2011). Although many of its sonic references are drawn from well-known analog sources, their deployment marks a shift in the role of sound in theater and film. The installation’s sound environment establishes ambience and also guides and synchronizes the actions of the individual audience- and cast members who navigate the space during each performance. The use of sonic cues, in this context, draws directly from the logic of role-playing video games. Moreover, the use of rhythm and repetition in Sleep No More resonates on an even deeper register with similar architectures of meaning in some of the work’s key points of reference. A careful examination the work’s structure reveals a complex deployment of sonic patterning that activates new connections with historical texts and challenges our understanding of the experience of sound, touch, and performance in the digital era.

Keywords: theater, performance, immersive theater, installation, video games, noise, William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Bernard Herrmann, Punchdrunk

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