Hostname: page-component-7d684dbfc8-jcwnr Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-09-28T11:14:37.275Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "corePageComponentGetUserInfoFromSharedSession": true, "coreDisableEcommerce": false, "coreDisableSocialShare": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForArticlePurchase": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForBookPurchase": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForElementPurchase": false, "coreUseNewShare": true, "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

Sound Tracks: the Soundscapes of India Song

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 January 2009


In both the play and the film of Marguerite Duras's India Song no verbal exchange is seen to take place on stage or in camera shot and all the dialogue emanates from disembodied voices which reverberate across the filmic or theatrical imagery. The verbal text is woven into a complex, orchestrated soundscape of instrumental music, songs, non-verbal cries and utterances, screams of pain and wretchedness, sound of street shouting, and screeches of exotic birds and animals. These elements together become a score functioning alongside the visual text. In this essay, I want to focus on the composition and the ‘enactment’ of the sound script of India Song and consider the way in which it functions as a stratum of eloquent signifying systems in the performance of this rich and poetic text. My concern will be with the ‘composite’ text of novel/play/ film and the way in which sound is evoked across the spectrum of reader, spectator and auditor, though my intention is not to suggest that the written text, the film and the play performance are interchangeable. I shall refer to the published text, Duras's own 1974 film version, and Theatr Clwyd's performance directed by Annie Castledine and Anabel Arden in 1993.

Copyright © International Federation for Theatre Research 1998

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



1. India Song was originally commissioned by Peter Hall for the National Theatre, London.

2. Duras, Marguerite, India Song (Paris: Gallimard, 1973).Google Scholar This published version is subtitled texte-théâtre-film which suggests a multi-genred text encompassing novel, play and film.

3. India Song, Theatr Clwyd, Mold, 1993, directed by Annie Castledine and Anabel Arden, designed by Iona McLeish, sound designed by Oliver Productions.

4. India Song, p. 13. ‘A tune from between the two wars, ‘India Song’, is played slowly on the piano. It is played right through, to cover the time–always long–that it takes the audience, or the reader, to emerge from the ordinary world they are in when the performance, or the book, begins. ‘India Song’ still. Still. And now it ends. Now it is repeated, farther away than the first time, as if it were being played elsewhere.’ Translation by Bray, Barbara, Marguerite Duras: Four Plays (London: Oberon Books, 1992), p. 122.Google Scholar All translations refer to this edition.

5. As requested by Marguerite Duras in her ‘Remarques générates’ prefacing the published text, the ‘India Song’ melody, composed by Carlos d'Alessio for the film version, was used in the Theatr Clwyd production of the play.

6. India Song, p. 9. ‘The names of Indian towns, rivers, states and seas are used here primarily in a musical sense.’ Four Plays, p. 120.

7. Murphy, Carol J., ‘India Song’ in Alienation and Absence in the Novels of Marguerite Duras (Lexington Kentucky: French Forum, 1982), p. 149.Google Scholar

8. Clarens, C., ‘India Song and Marguerite Duras’, Sight and Sound: International Film Quarterly, Vol. 45, No. 1, 19751976, p. 34.Google Scholar

9. Cohen, Susan, Women and Discourse in the Fiction of Marguerite Duras (London: Macmillan, 1993), p. 57CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Hill, Leslie, Marguerite Duras: Apocalyptic Desires (London: Routledge, 1993).Google Scholar

10. Barthes, Roland, ‘Musica Practica’ in Image–Music–Text, translated by Heath, Stephen (London: Fontana Paperbacks, 1977), p. 153.Google Scholar

11. ‘William Kinderman, From Parody to Transfiguration’, notes for CD, Beethoven, Diabelli Variations, Alfred Brendel, Philips, 1990.

12. Ibid.

13. Scholes, Percy, The Concise Oxford Dictionary (London: Oxford University Press, 1964).Google Scholar

14. Murphy, , Alienation and Absence, p. 150.Google Scholar

15. India Song, p. 21. ‘Sound increases behind the music: the sound of Calcutta: a loud, a great murmur. All around, various other sounds. The regular cries of merchants. Dogs. Shouts in the distance.’ Four Plays, p. 125.

16. Barthes, , ‘Musica Practica’, p. 152.Google Scholar

17. India Song, p. 102. ‘The Vice-Consul appears, shaken with sobs. We see and hear them.’ Four Plays, p. 163. (He is not seen to cry in the film.)

18. India Song, p. 11. ‘Their memory of the love story is illogical, anarchic’ Four Plays, p. 121.

19. India Song, p. 57. ‘All the conversations, whether private or not, whether they make the guests around them go quiet or not, should give the impression that only the spectators hear them clearly–not the guests….the voices should sound, to the spectator, like his own ‘internal reading’ voice.’ Four Plays, pp. 138–9.

20. Connor, Stephen, ‘The Ear's Allurings’ a paper given at The University of Reading, 01 1997.Google Scholar

21. Barthes, , ‘Musica Practica’, p. 153.Google Scholar

22. Connor, , ‘The Ear's Allurings’.Google Scholar

23. Ibid.

24. Cohen, , Women and Discourse, p. 57.Google Scholar

25. In The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs by Simone Benmussa (in Benmussa Directs, translated by Wright, Barbara (London: Calder, 1976)).Google Scholar George Moore is a disembodied voiceover narrator who does not appear in the performance space. All the men in the play are represented only by their voices.

26. Informal conversation with Iona McLeish, the designer of the production.