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Modernist SoundscapesAuditory Technology and the Novel$
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Angela Frattarola

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780813056074

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813056074.001.0001

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Turning Words into Sounds

Turning Words into Sounds

Samuel Beckett’s Repetition and the Tape Recorder

(p.141) 6 Turning Words into Sounds
Modernist Soundscapes

Angela Frattarola

University Press of Florida

Chapter 6 investigates the auditory narrative that is created through Samuel Beckett’s repetition. As Beckett started to repeat and loop phrases in his second novel, Watt (1953), the French radio technician Pierre Schaeffer started experimenting with splicing and looping magnetic tape recordings in the studios of the Paris radio station, Radio Television Français (RTF). Building on the geographical and historical coincidence of these events, this chapter argues that the magnetic tape art of musique concrète can serve as an entry point to analyze the repetition of Beckett’s fiction. The tape recorder, famously used in Krapp’s Last Tape, can aid us in appreciating Beckett’s linguistic loops throughout his novels and short prose pieces. The recorder’s storing and replaying of speech exemplifies Beckett’s repeated suggestion in his fiction that the subject is spoken and alienated through language. Paradoxically, while his repetition empties words of meaning, bringing the reader’s attention to the sounds of words rather than their content, this same repetition, through the course of his fiction, generates its own internal effect and meaning.

Keywords:   Musique concrète, Pierre Schaeffer, Auditory narrative, Watt, Krapp’s Last Tape

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