The Art Of Actuality

Overview

This dissertation is a study of the sound of and the sounds on German radio in the Weimar era, in particular the way in which radio served as a medium for the sound of "real voices" and "actual locations," of "live events" in "real time." The new medium of radio was the locus for an expanded acoustic access to the world outside the studio, thanks to a series of technical innovations and new perceptual experiences. Location broadcasting and recording, increased sonic detail, and the newly transmissible phenomena ...
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Overview

This dissertation is a study of the sound of and the sounds on German radio in the Weimar era, in particular the way in which radio served as a medium for the sound of "real voices" and "actual locations," of "live events" in "real time." The new medium of radio was the locus for an expanded acoustic access to the world outside the studio, thanks to a series of technical innovations and new perceptual experiences. Location broadcasting and recording, increased sonic detail, and the newly transmissible phenomena of background and ambient sound lent a palpable sense of reality, materiality and exteriority to radio's transmissions and representations. The concrete technical basis for these developments was the shift from pre-electric to electro-acoustic technology---part of a broader technical revolution of which radio was the vanguard medium. Specifically, this brought increased frequency and dynamic range, introduced the microphone as a universal acoustic interface, and inaugurated the electronic processing of sound, leading to new modes of recording, mixing and editing. New effects of reality and presence, however, were not directly produced by new machines: technology does not determine culture, but enables and interacts with it. Drawing on literary and theoretical texts, but above all on sound recordings and contemporary journals, I focus on new radiophonic forms and their associated effects of presence in two interrelated strands of analysis. The first strand is more direct, examining the technologies, practices, and discourses of "real sound." I begin with the microphone---a sine qua non of electro-acoustic technology---tracing the changes in the cultural imagination of this device as it leaves the studio. Analyzing discourses of liveness, acoustic spatiality and the new plasticity of reproduced sound, I reconstruct media events---from sports and opera broadcasts to the live coverage of popular adventure flights---which mobilized these properties. Turning to radio drama and other art works, later chapters examine the difficulty such pieces had in reproducing the compelling effects of remote broadcasting, and reconstruct listeners' disappointed responses to the substitution of the bathetic for the sonic sublime. These new modes of mediation and representation also raised more theoretical questions, which I broach in the second strand of my analysis. I do so by tracing the media-aesthetic connections---technical, formal, dramaturgical, discursive, experiential---between radio and film in this period. I focus on "cinematic" radio works, which borrowed form, techniques or technologies from film, in order---paradoxically---to develop forms specific to radio. Works referred to as "radiofilms" (or Horfilme) included avant-garde sound montages and some radio plays, but also early live-event broadcasts. What these diverse forms shared, I suggest, is their deployment of location sound---in other words, a particular use of microphones outside the studio. More generally, despite the apparent differences between a "silent" and an "acoustic" medium, I argue that film offered a proto-theoretical vocabulary allowing contemporaries to acknowledge and consider the relation between, on the one hand, radio's novel indexicality and sensory verisimilitude, and on the other, the mediatedness and constructedness of its representations.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781243703910
  • Publisher: BiblioLabsII
  • Publication date: 9/8/2011
  • Pages: 466
  • Product dimensions: 7.44 (w) x 9.69 (h) x 0.94 (d)

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