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Special SoundThe Creation and Legacy of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop$
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Louis Niebur

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195368406

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195368406.001.0001

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Radio Drama and the Birth of Electronic Music

Radio Drama and the Birth of Electronic Music

(p.3) 1 Radio Drama and the Birth of Electronic Music
Special Sound

Louis Niebur

Oxford University Press

For lowbrow comedy, children's science fiction, and experimental Third Programme broadcasts, the gradual addition of electronic noise in sound effects technicians' arsenal in the 1950s offered new sonic options to BBC producers. At first, the mere presence of “electronic sound” was a novelty, but soon, as these sounds began to appear in programming with greater frequency, several producers within the Drama Department began to explore Continental musical techniques. This chapter tells this history and discusses how this curiosity led to the first deliberate domestic productions using concrete techniques. It also introduces a radio‐specific adaptation of Michel Chion's concept of the acousmêtre, traditionally any sound in a film for which the source is invisible, as a way of understanding the appeal of electronic sound in both science fiction and Theatre of the Absurd productions, including Samuel Beckett's All That Fall (1957), the success of which precipitated the opening of the Radiophonic Workshop a year later.

Keywords:   Theatre of the Absurd, acousmêtre, Beckett, BBC, electronic music, musique concrète, radiophonic, Chion, radio music, sound effects

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