Though we might see ourselves inhabiting a visual world, our lives have always been hugely influenced by our need to hear and be heard. To tell the story of sound—music and speech, but also echoes, chanting, drumbeats, bells, thunder, gunfire, the noise of crowds, the rumbles of the human body, laughter, silence, conversations, mechanical sounds, noisy neighbors, musical recordings, and radio—is to explain how we learned to overcome our fears about the natural world, perhaps even to control it; how we learned to communicate with, understand, and live alongside our fellow beings; how we've fought with one another for dominance; how we've sought to find privacy in an increasingly noisy world; and how we've struggled with our emotions and our sanity.
Oratory in ancient Rome was important not just for the words spoken but for the sounds made—the tone, the cadence, the pitch of the voice—how that voice might have been transformed by the environment in which it was heard and how the audience might have responded to it. For the Native American tribes first encountering the European colonists, to lose one's voice was to lose oneself. In order to dominate the Native Americans, European colonists went to great effort to silence them, to replace their "demonic" "roars" with the more familiar "bugles, speaking trumpets, and gongs."
Breaking up the history of sound into prehistoric noise, the age of oratory, the sounds of religion, the sounds of power and revolt, the rise of machines, and what he calls our "amplified age," Hendy teases out continuities and breaches in our long relationship with sound in order to bring new meaning to the human story.
Individual chapters explore the changing structures of the radio industry, the way programmes are produced, the act of listening and the construction of audiences, the different meanings attached to programmes, and the cultural impact of radio across the globe. David Hendy portrays a medium of extraordinary contradictions: a cheap and accessible means of communication, but also one increasingly dominated by rigid formats and multinational companies; a highly 'intimate' medium, but one capable of building large communities of listeners scattered across huge spaces; a force for nourishing regional identity, but also a pervasive broadcaster of globalized music products; a 'stimulus to the imagination', but a purveyor of the banal and of the routine. Drawing on recent research from as far afield as Africa, Australasia and Latin America, as well as from the UK and US, the book aims to explore and to explain these paradoxes - and, in the process, to offer an imaginative reworking of Marshall McLuhan's famous dictum that radio is one of the world's 'hot' media.
Radio in the Global Age is an invaluable text for undergraduates and researchers in media studies, communication studies, journalism, cultural studies, and musicology. It will also be of interest to practitioners and policy-makers in the radio industry.