Distant echoes: evoking the soundscapes of the past in the radio documentary series 'noise: a human history'

Hendy, David (2016) Distant echoes: evoking the soundscapes of the past in the radio documentary series 'noise: a human history'. The New Soundtrack, 6 (1). pp. 29-49. ISSN 2042-8855

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Abstract

This article asks whether radio can ever successful evoke an accurate sense of the sound of the past. It does so through a reflective critical analysis of the 2013 BBC Radio 4 documentary series, Noise: a Human History, by its own writer and presenter. It explores how the ‘sound design’ of the series met the challenge of providing a longue durée history of sound without having recourse to authentic sound archive recordings for most of the period being covered. Through an analysis of key sequences, and by highlighting the significance of the broader context of production, it argues that it is possible for epistemologically valuable history to emerge, even via a medium that treats sound more as a device for evoking the imagination than as something possessing evidential status in itself. The article does this by invoking the series as a practical example of ‘historical acoustemology’, and by suggesting that in radio notions of subjectivity and perceptual mimesis are key to understanding the medium’s success. In doing so, the article calls for a redefinition of the notion of the radiogenic – arguing for a move away from seeing ‘raw’ sound as the key ingredient of sound-design, and towards greater attention to the influence of radio’s other characteristics as a time-based, institutionally-produced mass medium.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Radio, Documentary, Soundscapes, Sound Design, History, BBC, Radiogenic, Acoustemology
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Film and Music > Media and Film
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics > BJ1725 Ethics of social groups, classes, etc. Professional ethics
D History General and Old World
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D016 Methodology- General works
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology > GN301 Ethnology. Social and cultural anthropology > GN397 Applied anthropology
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology > GN301 Ethnology. Social and cultural anthropology > GN406 Cultural traits, customs, and institutions > GN451 Intellectual life Including communication, recreation, philosophy, religion, knowledge, etc.
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GT Manners and customs (General) > GT2400 Customs relative to private life Including children, marriage, eating and drinking, funeral customs, etc.
H Social Sciences > HE Transportation and communications > HE7601 Telecommunication industry. Telegraph > HE8689 Radio and television broadcasting
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
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Depositing User: David Hendy
Date Deposited: 20 Oct 2015 13:08
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2017 05:53
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/57234

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