In the 1920s and 1930s, filmmakers in Germany, the Soviet Union, and the United States created synthetic sounds by printing photographic or drawn patterns directly onto a filmstrip's optical soundtrack. This essay examines these practices alongside the radical film theories of Dziga Vertov and Jean Epstein in order to test the limits of sonic epistemology—and, ultimately, to imagine what it might mean to conceive of synthetic sound as documentary sound.

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