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1926 __ « Radio and Restructuring of Music Life » — « On the Psychology of Creating Radio Programs »
Kurt Weill (1900-1950)
Comment : The inevitable march of technological devices [...] informed Kurt Weill's attitude toward radio, but instead of providing new tools of conditions to set free a certain class of artists, as Apollinaire thought would be the case for poets, Weill felt that an entirely new art form would come into existence. The meteoric rise of radio in the Weimar Republic prompted Weill to write in 1926 : « Within a remarkably short period, radio has become one of the most essential elements of public life. Today, it is one of the most frequently discussed topics among all segments of the population and in all organs of public opinion ». Yet it was still too early to "foresee what new types of instruments and sound-producing devices may develop", but there could be no "doubt that the preconditions for the development of an independent artistic genre of equal stature [with the other arts] are present". Just as radical proponents of sound film warned against using it simpliy to reproduce theater, Weill argued that radio must resist "reproduction of earlier artistic achievements" and instead work to develop an autonomous "radio art". (Douglas Kahn)The latter-half of the 1920s, in the Weimar Republic, saw the meteoric rise of radio, as Kurt Weill wrote in 1926, ``Within a remarkably short period of time, radio has become one of the most essential elements of public life. Today, it is one of the most frequently discussed topics among all segments of the population and in all organs of public opinion." It was still too early, according to Weill, to ``foresee what new types of instruments and sound-producing devices may develop," but there could be no ``doubt that the preconditions for the development of an independent artistic genre of equal stature (with the other arts) are present." Just as radical proponents of sound film warned against using it simply to reproduce theatre, Weill argued that radio must resist ``reproduction of earlier artistic achievements" and instead work to develop an autonomous ``radio art.". (Douglas Kahn)In his essay of 1926, “Radio and the Restructuring of Music Life”, Kurt Weill envisioned a “special type of radio art” that would ultimately “go far beyond a more or less perfect ‘reproduction’ of earlier artistic achievements”. Weill argued that rather then simply offering reproductions of live concerts, radio had the potential to become an altogether new part of musical life, which would involve new ways of composing and performing. “A special technique of singing and playing for radio purposes will develop”, he predicted, “and sooner or later we will begin to find special instrumentations and new orchestral combinations suited to the acoustic requirements of the broadcast radio”. (Albin Zak)[On German radio stations and especially on Berlin station] [p]lays and other literary works constituted 10 percent of airtime in 1928. Even more hours (26 percent of airtime) weredevoted to lectures, many of which lauded the classical writers and composers who took up such a disproportionate amount of the literary and musical programming. This cultural overload strained the patience of radio audiences. The condescending attitude of programmers was highly irritating, as Kurt Weill noted in his essay "" in 1926. [...] But such cautionary words generally went unheeded, and eventually German radio’s cultural overkill seemed downright ludicrous. In 1928, after five years of broadcasting, the author Fred Angermayer contented that listeners “do not want to hear for the undred thousandth time that Goethe was our greatests poet and Beethoven our greatest composer”. Friedrich Bischoff, director of the Breslau station, admitted in 1929 that “during the first years of radio, the presentation of literature was impeded by a well-meaning but philologically tinged education-mongering (“Bildungshuberei”). It was the era of literacy cycles, standardized surveys of world literature, etc.”. Bored by this repertory, listeners flooded the radio stations with complaints. Moreover, it was not just the supposedly uncultured lower classes who were unhappy. Kurt von Boeckmann, director of the Munich station, admitted, “The call for a ‘light program’, which we find so embarassing, often comes precisely from the so-called higher social strata and the bourgeois middle class”. The “better” classes that had flocked to film a generation earlier, much to the dismay of cultural purists, were now calling for more popular fare on radio as well. Station directors were well aware of such complaints, but they were not sure how to respond. To listeners, it sometimes seemed that programmers simply did not care. [...] Bertolt Brecht had a typically caustic assessment of the situation. Capitalism’s technology had outrun its cultural potential; having invented radio, the bourgeoisie was now scrambling to fill airtime. This situation demonstrated how the dominant classes “simultaneously developed the means to tell the whole world what they had to say and allowed the whole world to see that they had nothing to say”. In this fraught situation, where the “means of production searched anxiously for raw materials”, radio became a “proxy” (“Stellvertreter”) -- “a proxy of theater, of opera, of concerts, of lectures, of coffeehouse music, of the local affairs section of newspapers and so on”. Be that as it may, radio programmers responded to the call for more diversity and less pretension by turning into a “wireless department store” or an “acoustic department store”. (Peter Jelavich)
Original excerpt : « The populace does not want to be lectured at, it will not tolerate under any circumstances cultural patronizing that is proclaimed loudly and publicly. If the radio stations want to gain cultural influence, if they want to bring new intellectual walues to their public, they must do son inconspicuously, they must newer stress of emphasize that aim. » (Quoted in “Berlin Alexanderplatz : radio, film, and the death of Weimar culture” by Peter Jelavich, University of California Press, 2006)
Source : Kahn, Douglas (2004), “Art and Sound”, In “Hearing History: a reader”, Edited by Mark Michael Smith, Athens, University of Georgia Press, pp. 36-48; Abridged from "Introduction: Histories of Sound Once Removed", in Douglas Kahn and Gregory Whitehead (Eds), "Wireless Imagination : Sound, Radio, and the Avant-Garde", Cambridge, Mass : The MIT Press, 1992, pp. 1-29.
Source : Kahn, Douglas (1990), “Audio Art in the Deaf Century”, In “Sound by Artists”, edited by Dan Lander and Micah Lexier, Toronto : Art Metropole : Banff : Walter Phillips Gallery, 1990, pp. 301-309.
Source : Weill, Kurt (1926), "Radio and the Restructuring of Music Life", in "Writings of German Composers", eds. Jost Hermand and James Steakley, New York : Continuum, 1984.
Source : Weill, Kurt (1926), “On the Psychology of Creating Radio Programs”
Source : Zak, Albin (2001), “The Poetics of Rock : Cutting Tracks, Making Records”, University of California Press, pp. 5-6.
Source : Jelavich, Peter (2006), "Berlin Alexanderplatz : radio, film, and the death of Weimar culture” University of California Press, 2006, pp. 69-70.
Urls : http://www.oldradio.com/archives/international/hk.html (last visited ) http://www.rthk.org.hk/ (last visited ) http://www.rthk.org.hk/classicschannel/history.htm (last visited ) http://www.soundtoys.net/journals/audio-art-in-the (last visited )

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