Hearing Voices in Shostakovich: Uncovering Hidden Meanings in the Film Odna

Open Access
Smith, Carole Christiana
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Music
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Eric Mc Kee, Thesis Supervisor
  • Dr. Eric John McKee, Thesis Supervisor
  • Charles Dowell Youmans, Thesis Supervisor
  • Mark Edward Ballora, Honors Advisor
  • Dmitri Shostakovich
  • Odna
  • Alone
  • film music
  • Soviet cinema
  • silent film
  • sound film
While the concert works of Dmitri Shostakovich have been subject to much research and analysis by scholars, his works for film remain largely unknown and unappreciated. Unfortunately so, since Shostakovich was involved with many of the projects that are hallmarks of Soviet Cinema or that changed the course of the country’s cinematic development. One such project, the film Odna (1931), was among the first sound films produced in the Soviet Union and exhibits the innovative methods of combining sound and image in order enhance to audience’s understanding of the films message. This thesis will examine the use and representation of the human voice in the sound track of Odna and how its interaction with the visual track produces deeper levels of meaning. In designing the sound track, Shostakovich employs the voice in several contexts: recorded dialogue, songs, and vocal “representations” whereby music mimics speech. These vocal elements will be examined through theoretical analysis in the case of music, and dramatic importance in the case of dialogue and sound effects. Also, conclusions concerning the voice’s narrative role are drawn from the voice’s synchronization with the visual track as a diegetic, nondiegetic, acousmatic, or “inner voice” entity. The sound techniques that Shostakovich developed for this film had a lasting influence on the development of Soviet sound cinema as a whole.