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Pieces of Sound

Pieces of Sound: German Experimental Radio

Daniel Gilfillan
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Pieces of Sound
    Book Description:

    Since the rise of film and television, radio has continued to evolve and any understanding of the development of radio depends on closely examining the artistic ventures that preceded commercial acceptance. Daniel Gilfillan offers a cultural history that explores these aspects of the medium by focusing on German radio broadcasting, providing a context that sees beyond programming to consider regulations, cultural politics, and social standardization.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6784-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xi)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xii-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xxvi)

    Radio has formed an integral but often unnoticed part of the background of everyday life in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Located in the borderland between public discourse and private enjoyment, radio can be a device for communication and a medium for artistic practice and experimentation. It may serve as a tool for propaganda or protest, a collector’s item, or a site for familial and community building. In addition, a majority of contemporary radio audiences most likely perceives the template-style programming of commercial radio and its broadcasts of news and entertainment as being the only possible types of programming offered...

  6. ONE Wiretapping the Beast: Radio, Hyperspatiality, and a New Network for Art
    (pp. 1-21)

    When American modernist painter Jackson Pollock was asked to comment on his unconventional painting technique in a 1951 radio interview, he teased out some intriguing connections between artistic expression and innovations in technological progress:

    My opinion is that new needs need new techniques. And the modern artists have found new ways and new means of making their statements. It seems to me that the modern painter cannot express this age, the airplane, the atom bomb, the radio, in the old forms of the Renaissance or of any other past culture. Each age finds its own technique.¹

    Pollock locates his art...

  7. TWO Between Military Innovation and Government Sanction: Early German Radio and the Experimental
    (pp. 22-86)

    The first broadcast of a German poem occurred in Berlin radiospace on November 3, 1923, just five days after the radio waves had been authorized for entertainment broadcasts by the still fledgling and volatile Weimar Republic government.¹ And so began the airwave collaboration between the world of literature and the medium of radio in Germany. The poem chosen for this honor was Heinrich Heine’s “Seegespenst” (Sea Apparition) (1825/26), the tenth short poem in the first of a two-part cycle devoted to the North Sea.² From a twenty-first-century perspective the reading of a poem through a microphone hardly seems to scratch...

  8. THREE Donʹt Touch That Dial: Transmitting Modes of Experimentation from Weimar to Postwar West Germany
    (pp. 87-113)

    The radio performs on several levels. Bertolt Brecht’s panegyric to the radio casts one possible network of performances within the narrative framework of exile, positioning it as a unilateral conduit between the spectacular, triumphant hypernationalism of the National Socialists and the internalized, yet still very public, transitory space of his own forced exile.¹ The unlikely mobility of the radio not only upsets its traditional focal point in the security of the family living room by virtue of its own flight from the household, but also calls attention to its gossamer fragility when juxtaposed against the commanding voices of propaganda. The...

  9. FOUR Opening the Radio Up: Tactical Media and Alternative Networks
    (pp. 114-163)

    The radio, as we have seen, opens up a realm of utilitarian possibilities for entertainment, for communication, and for information transmission. In doing so, it takes advantage of naturally occurring electromagnetic frequencies to create points of access to our homes, our automobiles, our public squares, our places of work, and wherever the portability of sound finds us. When coupled with the unidirectional configuration of broadcast, the omnipresence of these electromagnetic waves sanctions a purely hierarchical approach to telecommunications media like radio and television. However, artistic and theoretical experimentation with the radio medium has long sought to dismantle these hierarchical approaches,...

  10. CODA: The Longevity of Radio and the Impermanence of Sound
    (pp. 164-170)

    These are two very different and differently utopian approaches to the radio as artistic medium. Rudolf Arnheim’s 1936 musings celebrate the radio as a vanguard medium able to leap across national borders and provide the intimacy of sound to spaces of isolation and silence in an almost conquistadorial fashion, while Gregory Whitehead’s 1994 framing is much more about the multiplicity of radiophonic space and the innumerable relationships allowed to thrive within it.¹ Both invoke the obvious pairing of radio and sound to describe the medium and the material it delivers, but Arnheim privileges the role of sound in that pairing...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 171-202)
  12. Index
    (pp. 203-212)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 213-213)