TOEFL reading test 31 with answers

Transition to Sound in Film

The shift from silent to sound film at the end of the 1920s marks, so far, the most important transformation in motion picture history. Despite all the highly visible technological developments in theatrical and home delivery of the moving image that have occurred over the decades since then, no single innovation has come close to being regardedas a similar kind of watershed. In nearly every language, however the words are phrased, the most basic division in cinema history lies between films that are mute and films that speak.

Yet this most fundamental standard of historical periodization conceals a host of paradoxes. Nearly every movie theater, however modest, had a piano or organ to provide musical accompaniment to silent pictures. In many instances, spectators in the era before recorded sound experienced elaborate aural presentations alongside movies’ visual images, from the Japanese benshi (narrators) crafting multivoiced dialogue narratives to original musical compositions performed by symphony-size orchestras in Europe and the United States. In Berlin, for the premiere performance outside the Soviet Union of The Battleship Potemkin, film director Sergei Eisenstein worked with Austrian composer Edmund Meisel (1874-1930) on a musical score matching sound to image; the Berlin screenings with live music helped to bring the film its wide international fame.

Beyond that, the triumph of recorded sound has overshadowedthe rich diversity of technological and aesthetic experiments with the visual image that were going forward simultaneously in the 1920s. New color processes, larger or differently shaped screen sizes, multiple-screen projections, even television, were among the developments invented or tried out during the period, sometimes with startling success. The high costs of converting to sound and the early limitations of sound technology were among the factors that suppressed innovations or retarded advancement in these other areas. The introduction of new screen formats was put off for a quarter century, and color, though utilized over the next two decades for special productions, also did not become a norm until the 1950s.

Though it may be difficult to imagine from a later perspective, a strain of critical opinion in the 1920s predicted that sound film would be a technical novelty that would soon fade from sight, just as had many previous attempts, dating well back before the First World War, to link images with recorded sound. These critics were making a common assumption—that the technological inadequacies of earlier efforts (poor synchronization, weak sound amplification, fragile sound recordings) would invariably occur again. To be sure, their evaluation of the technical flaws in 1920s sound experiments was not so far off the mark, yet they neglected to take into account important new forces in the motion picture field that, in a sense, would not take no for an answer.

These forces were the rapidly expanding electronics and telecommunications companies that were developing and linking telephone and wireless technologies in the 1920s. In the United States, they included such firms as American Telephone and Telegraph, General Electric, and Westinghouse. They were interested in all forms of sound technology and all potential avenues for commercial exploitation. Their competition and collaboration were creating the broadcasting industry in the United States, beginning with the introduction of commercial radio programming in the early 1920s. [■] With financial assets considerably greater than those in the motion picture industry, and perhaps a wider vision of the relationships among entertainment and communications media, they revitalized research into recording sound for motion pictures.

[■] In 1929 the United States motion picture industry released more than 300 sound films—a rough figure, since a number were silent films with music tracks, or films prepared in dual versions, to take account of the many cinemas not yet wired for sound. [■] At the production level, in the United States the conversion was virtually complete by 1930. [■]  In Europe it took a little longer, mainly because there were more small producers for whom the costs of sound were prohibitive, and in other parts of the world problems with rights or access to equipment delayed the shift to sound production for a few more years (though cinemas in major cities may have been wired in order to play foreign sound films). The triumph of sound cinema was swift, complete, and enormously popular.


1. The word “regarded” in the passage is closest in meaning to

A. analyzed

B. considered

C. altered

D. criticized

2. According to paragraph 1, which of the following is the most significant development in the history of film?

A. The technological innovation of sound film during the 1920s

B. The development of a technology for translating films into other languages

C. The invention of a method for delivering movies to people’s homes

D. The technological improvements allowing clearer images in films

3. The word “paradoxes” in the passage is closest in meaning to

A. difficulties

B. accomplishments

C. parallels

D. contradictions

4. Why does the author mention “Japanese benshi” and “original musical compositions”?

A. To suggest that audiences preferred other forms of entertainment to film before the transition to sound inthe1920’s

B. To provide examples of some of the first sounds that were recorded for film

C. To indicate some ways in which sound accompanied film before the innovation of sound films in the late 1920s

D. To show how the use of sound in films changed during different historical periods

5. Paragraph 2 suggests which of the following about Eisenstein’s film The Battleship Potemkirf?

A. The film was not accompanied by sound before its Berlin screening.

B. The film was unpopular in the Soviet Union before it was screened in Berlin.

C. Eisenstein’s film was the first instance of collaboration between a director and a composer.

D. Eisenstein believed that the musical score in a film was as important as dialogue.

6. The word “overshadowed” in the passage is closest in meaning to

A. distracted from

B. explained

C. conducted

D. coordinated with

7. According to paragraph 3, which of the following is NOT true of the technological and aesthetic experiments of the 1920’s?

A. Because the costs of introducing recorded sound were low, it was the only innovation that was put to use in the 1920’s.

B. The introduction of recorded sound prevented the development of other technological innovations in the 1920’s.

C. The new technological and aesthetic developments of the 1920s included the use of color, new screen formats, and television.

D. Many of the innovations developed in the 1920s were not widely introduced until as late as the 1950’s.

8. Which of the sentences below best expresses the essential information in the highlighted sentence in the passage? Incorrect choices change the meaning in important ways or leave out essential information.

A. It was difficult for some critics in the 1920s to imagine why the idea of sound film had faded from sight well before the First World War.

B. As surprising as it seems today, some critics in the 1920s believed that the new attempts at sound films would fade just as quickly as the attempts made before the First World War.

C. Though some early critics thought that sound film would fade, its popularity during the First World War proved that it was not simply a technical novelty.

D. Although some critics predicted well before the First World War that sound film would be an important technical innovation, it was not attempted until the 1920s.

9. The word “neglected” in the passage is closest in meaning to

A. failed

B. needed

C. started

D. expected

10. According to paragraph 4, which of the following is true about the technical problems of early sound films?

A. Linking images with recorded sound was a larger obstacle than weak sound amplification or fragile sound recordings.

B. Sound films in the 1920s were unable to solve the technical flaws found in sound films before the First World War.

C. Technical inadequacies occurred less frequently in early sound films than critics suggested.

D. Critics assumed that it would be impossible to overcome the technical difficulties experienced with earlier sound films.

11. In paragraph 5, commercial radio programming is best described as the result of

A. a financially successful development that enabled large telecommunications firms to weaken their competition.

B. the desire of electronics and telecommunications companies to make sound technology profitable

C. a major development in the broadcasting industry that occurred before the 1920s

D. the cooperation between telecommunications companies and the motion picture industry

12. According to paragraph 6, which of the following accounts for the delay in the conversion to sound films in Europe?

A. European producers often lacked knowledge about the necessary equipment for the transition to sound films.

B. Smaller European producers were often unable to afford to add sound to their films.

C. It was often difficult to wire older cinemas in the major cities to play sound films.

D. Smaller European producers believed that silent films with music accompaniment were aesthetically superior to sound films.

13. Look at the four squares [■] that indicate where the following sentence could be added to the passage. Where would the sentence best fit?

When this research resulted in the development of vastly improved sound techniques, film studios became convinced of the importance of converting to sound.

14. Directions: An introductory sentence for a brief summary of the passage is provided below. Complete the summary by selecting the THREE answer that express the most important ideas in the passage. Some sentences do not belong in the summary because they express ideas that not presented in the passage or are minor ideas in the passage. This question is worth 2 points.

The transition from silent to sound films was the most important development in film history.

A.    Although music and speech had frequently accompanied film presentations before the 1920s, there was a strong desire to add sound to the films themselves.

B.     Because of intense interest in developing and introducing sound in film, the general use of other technological innovations being developed in the 1920s was delayed.

C.     The rapid progress in sound technology made possible by the involvement of telecommunications companies transformed the motion picture industry.

D.    Japanese filmmakers had developed the technology for creating sound films before directors in Europe and the United States began experimenting with sound.

E.     Before the First World War, film directors showed little interest in linking images with recorded sound.

F.      The arrival of sound film technology in the United States forced smaller producers in the motion picture industry out of business.



1.B, 2.A, 3.D, 4.C, 5.A, 6.A, 7.A, 8.B, 9.A, 10.D, 11.B, 12.B, 13.B, 14.ABC