Sound

To describe Sloan’s etchings as noisy is, if anything, an understatement. The prints clamour with contrasting tones and shades, lively crowds of people, and dynamic movement, and each one contains the suggestion of specific sounds that the viewer, reader, or perhaps listener, is encouraged to hear.

In Turning Out the Light we can almost hear the flick of the switch that casts the couple into darkness; in The Little Bride the cheers of the crowd rain over the newly-weds. In The Connoisseurs of Prints hushed tones reverberate, with the gentleman in the foreground tilting his ear presumably to hear his friend’s comment. Man Monkey is one of the loudest prints, with the physical vibrations of sound represented as both light and shade appear to emanate from the drum. The blinkered horse rears up, braying, alarmed by all the noise.

More subtly The Women’s Page insinuates the sounds of the street, with lines in the etching moving away from the open window to suggest a room flooded not just with light but with a wave of sound also. Where the playful child explores the sensory limits of the room with fingers outstretched and ear positioned towards the source of the noise, his mother, with her ear in shade, turns from the audio-visual phenomena of the street to her newspaper. In contrast to this moment of silent absorption, our readings of Sloan’s etchings are filled with noisy possibilities, if we only pay attention to how they sound.

 

Elden Morrow (MA English Literature and Culture)

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