We are preparing a whole lot of stuff to go in our Lyrebird Project part of the Projects site. I hope we can put up grabs/sections from my radio play and Josephine’s sound poem. I haven’t broached this with Tom Kazas, our sound (of mind and character) man, but I hope we can recreate here some of the experience of listening to the different layers of the radio play as they have been assembled. At the moment, in Lyrebird you’ll find a poster we prepared for the Turbulence 2 symposium held at Deakin in late October.
The image accompanying this post is a grab from the poster. I’ve used it here because the image somehow captures an aural quality which we attempted to replicate in the play – windswept maybe, empty, yearning?
Tom will have far more interesting things to say than me on aural theory, but I can talk a little about how radio drama uses sound. Tim Crook’s in Radio Drama: Theory and Practice refers to the ‘assumed hierarchy of the senses’ – that is, that we privilege, as a default, vision above all else. But of course sound precedes vision. We hear in the womb, and establish strong primal bonds through sound. The assumed hierachy opens out to the relationship between film and radio as artforms, where in the history of such things radio becomes a quiant device to be superseded by the domestication of the visual (ie television). But somehow radio drama lingers.
One of the great strengths of radio – or let’s be more broad and in fact accurate, and call it ‘audio’ – is its dimensionality. Essentially when we watch a film we are removed from the action by the necessary presence of a screen. Our imagination does manage to cross the space, but never completely. This is perhaps the nature of visual observation. Sound is far more immersive. The best radio drama exploits this, where we can find ourselves within the thoughts of a character while also experiencing a panorama beyond. And film largely works to shut down the imagination of the spectator, but audio enlists this imagination to construct the visual dimensions of the drama.
This is all quite basic, but the fresh insight I’ve gained from the process of making (rather than just writing) has been the role that sound plays in the construction of a narrative. I know this because the first thing that appeared on tape was dialogue/speech, and hearing this gave me a moment of mild panic – that listening to the whole play right through convinced me that this thing had no narrative cohesion. Even the insertion of sound effects only helped a little. It was the third stage, the soundscaping that created the narrative. This might be something as simple as positioning a character in relationship to the implied position of the listener. Or it might be creating narrative cues which move the listener through different timeframes and into different headspaces.Or is might even be inserting a space (as we have done) into a piece of speech to create a moment of subtext or to shift focus.
We shall discuss this further.