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February 1994


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Bob Kosovsky <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 1 Feb 1994 05:40:56 EST
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Lately there's been lots of talk about radio with Orson Welles a subject of
interest.  Despite the lack of availability of Welles's scripts, there is
still a lot of excellent material available.  As I and (someone who's name
I forgot) mentioned Welles kept on revising up until air-time, so even his
scripts would not always represent his intended ideas.
Beginning with the late 1930s a lot of books were published dealing with
how to write, direct - even how to compose music for radio.  Additionally,
there are several good collections of scripts.  If enough people want a
very brief bibliography, I'll upload one.
What has all this got to do with cinema studies?  Depends on whether you
want to use it or not.  Like tv, radio was virtually always under the
restraint of time.  Radio writintypically evinces desire to be act,
economic, creating the grpression with the least amount of meansnt of means.
Unlike tv or film however, the images conjured by radio were dependent on
the listener's vision.  Radio could quickly take you through a sound collage
that, if tied to visuals, would appear clumsy.
That touches on what I feel is the best reason to study radio:  for the
sensitivity to sound.  I would posit that there is not a single film created
today that does not have an enormous attention put on the soundtrack -
and I don't mean music, but just the mixing of sounds.  I believe this
was radio's contribution to film - the idea that careful attention to
sounds - even ones that appear natural - can contribute just as lighting,
cinematography, etc. to the final film product.
Of course this is not to say that there was "no" attention prior to the
popularization of radio.  Elisabeth Weis discusses a some of Hitchcock's
British films in her book "The Silent Scream."  Given radio's nascent
stage, I doubt that it influenced him at that time.
Several authors of radio-writing manuals say that the proper incorporation
of sounds into a radio script is an art; that one must pay special
attention in order to use sound effectively.  Go back and look at CITIZEN
KANE and MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS once again and you'll see that Welles
really treated sound very differently and with much more sensitivity than
anyone else at the time (again I point you to that simulataneous 6-person
conversation at the end of the Amberson party - each voice was dubbed
separately, then mixed to achieve total control of sound).  Even Dieterle's
makes occasional use of expressionistic sound, though that film is heavily
influenced by Welles.
Radio music also had a noticeable influence on film, basically by utilizing
shorter span of music (aha!  but that's going to be the last chapter of
my dissertation! ;-) )
Bob Kosovsky
Student, PhD Program in Music                   Librarian
Graduate Center                                 Music Division
City University of New York                     The New York Public Library
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