Radio and the Literary Imagination
Chapter one shows how the outburst of aurality that triggered a new sonic regime and that untethered sound from linguistic meaning not only cleared the way for more radical forms of radio art but also provoked cultural nervousness about the status of sound. Critics worried that if sound did not always coincide with meaning, then listeners might stray from radio’s message, caught up in a tide of acoustic drift. As the first chapter of this book shows, while the literary turn in radio would prove itself willing to embrace the disruptive side of sound, acoustic drift was not entirely welcome in network programming. In their quest to dominate the market, creators of soap operas, such as Anne and Frank Hummert, developed a form of sound-averse melodrama that attempted to curb radio’s sonic exuberance. Despite the Hummerts’ commercial success, however, innovative experiments with sound effects—such as the Martian “hum” that occurs halfway through The War of the Worlds or the evocative soundscape of Lucille Fletcher’s The Hitch-Hiker—made it clear that acoustic drift would be the key to unlocking the hidden power of sound.
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