Producing Perspective in Radio

in Theater of the Mind

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780226853505
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226853529 | DOI:
Producing Perspective in Radio

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In the 1930s, dramatists created radio plays that evoked spatial and temporal structures in the mind by relying on a set of sonorous marks that could inform auditors where they “were” and signify movement from one scene to the next. These devices ranged from music to sound effects. While keynotes established places, kinetic dramas of space and time were achieved by moving listeners around within those places. This was made possible by making sound produce an auditor's vantage point in the scene, a place we “hear from.” This “sound perspective” was described by radio director Earle McGill as nothing less than “the rational basis upon which radio drama as we now know it stands.” This chapter examines McGill's “rational basis,” focusing on the perspectival qualities in the conventional use of acoustics, sound effects, and amplitude, arguing that in the dramas of space and time, theory of sound perspective can help grasp palpable tensions. It concludes by performing a close reading of Archibald MacLeish's radio play “The Fall of the City.”

Keywords: radio drama; space and time; Earle McGill; Fall of City; sound perspective; acoustics; sound effects; amplitude; radio plays

Chapter.  9387 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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