Listening in the dark: night-time radio and a ‘deep history’ of media

Hendy, David (2010) Listening in the dark: night-time radio and a ‘deep history’ of media. Media History, 16 (2). pp. 215-232. ISSN 1368-8804

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Attending to the history of night-time radio – and to a wider tradition of listening to music and sounds in the dark – allows us to explore a qualitatively different kind of ‘media consumption’ to that habitually understood as applying to the daylight hours. We find, for instance, a strong tradition of more esoteric programming and evidence of a greater intensity to listening at night. The nature of night-time radio listening shifts over time and from place to place: a particular focus on programming on BBC radio in the 1960s and 1970s is offered as a case study of this historical and geographical specificity. But the paper also argues for a number of historical continuities between radio listening and other kinds of listening in the nineteenth century and earlier, such as at phonograph séances or prehistoric shamanistic trances. In seeking to tease out parallels across long periods of time, it suggests that the ‘magical’ and uncanny elements of listening to disembodied voices and sounds needs to be given more attention in any historical study of radio audiences: a concern with affect in order to enrich more instrumental approaches. Further, in drawing upon the ideas of the Harvard historian Daniel Lord Smail, with his stress on the ‘neurophysiological legacy of our deep past’, this brief history of listening is offered as a tentative example of what might be termed a ‘deep-history’ approach to the media.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: radio, listening, BBC, audiences, phonograph, neuroscience
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Film and Music > Media and Film
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics > P0087 Communication. Mass media
Depositing User: Sarah Maddox
Date Deposited: 09 Nov 2012 09:40
Last Modified: 03 Jul 2019 01:19

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