Radio: An Art of Sound & Arnheim on Film and Media Studies


Radio: An Art of Sound by R. Arnheim

Arnheim’s (1936) Radio: An Art of Sound discusses radio as a new form of media. In Ch. 2 “The World of Sound”, the author looks at the properties and meaning of sound.  By the very nature of radio it is only aural, unlike film that is also visual, therefore more hurdles must be overcome. Arnheim uses the example of ‘radio drama’ and music that is broadcasted to work through sound as an important part of our overall senses. How media shapes out experience of the world is a central idea found in Arnheim’s work.

The media, in this case radio, is seen as an artistic expression, which is part of the concept of medium-specificity that is seen throughout the readings. Radio’s defining “virtue and source of expressive potential” come from being an aural medium and is the main theme of Ch. 7 “In Praise of Blindness” (Vancour, 2010, p. 181).

Arnheim on Film and Media Studies by S. Vancour

Vancour starts with a summary of Arnheim’s past works, but with a concentration on the book Radio.  The main purpose of the essay is to shed light onto the lesser-known work Radio. The aesthetics of sound are again discussed. There is a discussion of how Arnheim thought that recorded radio (i.e. ‘radio dramas’ and pre-recorded music) is better than live radio (i.e. live music) because of its ability to be manipulated or edited.  Vancour (2010) points out “Radio raised critical questions concerning the role of external determinants in enabling or limiting particular forms of aesthetic expression” (p. 182).

Radio took programs (i.e. music, plays, etc.) from being a public way to enjoy entertainment and made it possible for it be private. When used properly, radio can be a tool for community building. “Aesthetic form…arose at the dynamic intersection of medium, artist, and social context, as a ‘gestalt’ formed in and through their interaction that was irreducible to any one part” (Vancour, 2010, p. 189).


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