Sep 212011

I’m reading Tim Crook’s excellent book Radio Drama, and its great to find out that the work that we are attempting in a very piecemeal manner with Audiotheque has already been given a go and achieved. Putting audio drama on the web and trying to appeal to an audience that is younger than the traditional BBC Radio 4 audience is nothing new then.

One thing that has changed since the mid 1990s when Independent Radio Drama Productions was established is the rise of social media. Commentators often like to call this Web 2.0. Personally, I regard it as exactly the same version of the internet that came out of the Xerox Palo Alto laboratories in the late 1960s. Computers talking to each other. Instead, we have use woken up to the idea that this is what computers do really well. They connect people in synchronous and asynchronous communication using a range of media forms, including visual, auditory, textual and interactive.

Anyway, one of the objectives of the review of the Audiotheque website that is slowly getting under-way at the moment, is the re-categorisation of the different types of content that the site wants to host and encourage users to share. These categories are going to be very important for users of the site to find their way around the site and understand the relationships between different types of content.

So the question is: what name do we give these categories?Should we stick with the tried and tested assumptions that drama is categorised as ‘Comedy’, ‘Tragedy’ or ‘Escapism’? Or should we attempt to redefine a set of categories that are more related to some other properties of the content? Tim Crook rightly identifies that “Sound drama in all its technical, literary and performance elements builds to create a phonic texture that depends on rhythm, imagination and the physical impact of the sound via the listener’s auditory perception” (Crook 1999: p.78).

Here there are six categories that intersect around the idea of ‘phonic texture’ and the listeners perceptions of these sounds:


While I’m not suggesting that we use these particular categories, they do have a very strong logical sense, and would make the users and visitors to the Audiotheque site think about the range of categories that might be possible to construct. Tim Crook goes on to question the potential categories of organisation for audio drama by comparing sound with fine art:

“Does sound have line or contour? Linearity depends on a boundary of any two- or three-dimensional shape. Or does sound have a ‘masses’ quality? does it communicate in indeterminate patches of colour or sound rather than delineated and drawn shapes with clear contours and outlines? Does time determine the linearity of sound? Timing is fundamental to rhythm. The language of music is determined by time. It depends on a value of so many sounds to a second. So sound does have linearity and contour. Does it have mass? Sound can be expressed very effectively in indeterminate splashes and effusions of noise. Speech can be expressed without regular patterning. It does not have tone underscored by meter or rhythm” (Crook 1999: p.78).

When we think about audio drama in this light we can start to get a sense of the difficulty involved in structuring the categories and descriptive networks in which we place audio drama. Should we maintain a traditional approach based on genre and audience expectation? Or, can we come up with some new categories that might take us into new and interesting directions? What is certain is that many people have struggled with this taxicological conundrum. Perhaps the only starting place is it keep reading them and occasionally flag-up what they say for wider discussion.

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