It was entertaining and instructive to develop radio documentary beyond the borders between journalism and art (sound art, radio drama) within the last centuries. We all have learnt a lot. Considering the crisis of radio as a whole and particularly radio documentary – shrinking audiences and budgets worldwide – we must give clear outlines / contours to our genre once more.
I’ve grown up in the pre-TV age. Radio had to create images. There was no home cinema. So our brain had to be the screen for cinematographic
scenes and pictures. In a way, they were substitutes. But working on them, we found other qualities and possibilities. And joy.
Unfortunately by the impact and pressure of visual media, joyful sound in the radio is more or less confined to small circles of sound addicts and to programme makers themselves, including technicians. The innocent age of sound rich radio never will come again.
My clue (call it a theory, if you like):
There are different categories of sound – all of them have their values,
- words (spoken language of all kinds)
- ambient sound
- sound of processes (like casting a bell in Leo Braun’s “Bells in Europe”)
- metaphoric sound
Today sound must be meaningful, if we decide on using it. There is no “must” to use sound apart of spoken language in a radio documentary.
Sound must communicate, speak by itself.
For instance: the sound of walking steps through corridors or staircases
generally doesn’t mean much more than people moving from point A to point B (exceptions granted).
Sounds – in our days – should be taken much more serious concerning their meaning and impact. Intentional !
We are talking to listeners. We talk with words and sounds. We are no painters, no composers. Leave art to artists, (sound-)canvas to (sound-)painters – to other categories beyond the border.
Let’s stay DOCUMENTARISTS who reach their audience with all tools of the radio – using them effectively and intelligently but not for their own sake.