Monday, October 22, 2012

The Life of Radio

Radio is the first 'modern' media form, and had a huge impact on the history of the 20th century. For the first time information could be broadcast,  it could be received by anyone with the right equipment, without wires. The birth of radio ushers in the era of mass communications. Many people have likened the explosion in radio in the 1920s to what is happening with the internet today. Many enthusiasts are setting up their 'broadcast slot' and sharing their knowledge with similar people. Wireless communication has really come full circle, as more and more people turn to mobile phones and handheld computers that can receive internet transmissions. In this blog post, I will share with you my research on simplicity of past radio broadcast and how it compares with today's radio.

The Golden Age of Radio:
 Radio was an intimate medium that took some getting used to. In the early 1930s, some actors were so scared of microphones that engineers devised lamp-shade covers to make them appear more innocuous. Actors stood very close to each other around the microphone when rehearsing and performing, and often found their bodies pressing close to those of other actors. Consequently, breath fresheners became standard fare for radio performers between the 1930s and 1950s. According to radio historian Robert L. Mott, the breath freshener Sen-Sen was effective for disguising boozy breath during rehearsals and performances. It became so popular that “most actors were afraid to use it for fear of being guilty by association.”

Actors usually received $6 an hour for rehearsals and $15 for a broadcast that was usually fifteen minutes long. Some actors worked on as many as four soap operas a day. Being a sound-effect artist was often nerve-racking and uncomfortable, with artists often standing in two feet of water to get the kinds of splashing sounds the director wanted. The biggest dread was dropping anything accidentally, having an equipment failure, or making some other kind of noticeable mistake. One artist, desperate not to let a sledgehammer hit the floor, put his foot in its path and broke his foot.

Todays Radio:
While watching the documentary “Before the Music Dies,” I was able to get a better idea of where radio has gone today. Before the Music Dies is a collection of interviews and short fragments of music that tells a story of the near impossible challenge facing genuine, soulful, ordinary looking musicians trying to build a career. The main culprit for the difficulties in achieving stardom is revealed to be money. Those more interested in profit than art are now the ones running the radio stations and signing the record company cheques - they bow to the shareholder and instant returns over long term artistic integrity. The argument runs that if artists cannot be allowed to develop their work at their own pace - without the pressure of regular, crowd pleasing releases - there can be no new Dylans, Claptons, Beatles, or Hendrix, as there is no time for new artists to find their sound.

Since the "good old days," radio has not looked back and has become one of the popular mediums of portable entertainment. In the 21st century, technological developments have introduced concepts like internet radio, thereby broadening the horizon. Despite all these new developments, some critics of radio are saying that we are in the end times of music, that there's nothing good being made, however, this usually indicates that they are looking in the wrong places. There's always good music, it's just that you might not like it when you hear it.

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