Umetnost na kraju veka

Serbian (Latin)
Serbian (Cyrillic)

Project Rastko


Sava Ristovic

Susret za buduζnost / Meeting for the Future

In 1948 the sound recorder eventually gained professional application in radio broadcasting, thus establishing the technological hypothesis of artificial sound control and its development toward the spheres of creativity. Although T. A. Edison found a way to record sound (and reproduce it later), back in 1887, it was the magnetic tape recording which secured sound its autonomy, i.e. the creation of an independent language which helped this medium separate itself from the organized forms of tone, music, words. The materialization of sound is older than cinematography, nevertheless, the first historical recording of light and movement on the recording support (i.e. tape) instituted the basic organisational unit of the system – the shot (the visual period recorded on tape from the moment the camera is switched on until its switching off). The recording of sound onto the vinyl and bakelite cylinders and plates, as well as the direct bond between a pick-up or a microphone and the loudspeaker (radio), were not able to make a technical foundation for a creative superstructure, because the system did not provide for any kind of erasing, recording, editing, and the like. The whole basic vocabulary of the creative sound was realized at the moment when the magnetic tape became the recorded sound support (with its modern offspring – audio cassette, DAT cassette and mini disk); this also lead to defining the unit of expression – the sound recording.[1]

The Language

In the realization of its own esthetic language code, the latest model of creative expression – radioart or radiophony[2] – employs both formally and structurally the attainments of literature, theatre, music, cinematography, even the visual arts. Analogous to film, whose beginnings are found in the form of documents or "recorded theatre", the first steps of radioart could be defined as the reading room of a dramatic text. By introducing music, effects, sound curtain, plans, etc. radio drama gradually got more separate from its literary model (still its source) and moved toward auto-determination, independently in relation to the development of audio technology. The transition from the mimicric, "live" performance of drama (with, for example, an orchestra on the scene, improvised effects, etc.) to simulated space, created in/on the editing table, produced the conditions for new constructional and deconstructional undertakings, thus defining all elements of expression – voice, noise, sound and tone – making it possible for the author to create works of an expressive scope ranging from realism to abstraction. Such works, with all their specific features, can fully be compared with the works of literature, the visual arts, cinema and music, because the inducted intellectual processes are identical, although coming from different perceptive centers.[3]

The process of bringing the basic visual elements on the screen in congruity, or the composition of musical notes into a harmonious whole, can be compared in its methodology to the editing of a sound recording in radioart.

If we take that an audio recording is the basic unit of radiophonic language, then editing represents its grammatical foundation (identical to cinematography). The theory of Dziga Vertov about "cine-eye", which stipulates that "the connected authentic details (shots) lose their specific features and make a more meaningful, beautiful and expressive whole" because "such combinations can show even those details human eye cannot see"[4], can be applied to radioart, since both media impose on their consumers "certain ideas about an object or an event which are analytically recorded, broken-down, in order to be given a new significance through the editing synthesis."[5] The editing is the essence of the principle of conceptual construction preceded by the (sound) analysis of nature, whose final outcome is a re-, simulated or new reality.

The creative bond of ideas and technical possibilities in the process of editing differentiates the following two aspects – linear and vertical[6] – interdependent and inseparable, by which radioart, in its vocabulary, moves away from film (although there are similar solutions of double and duplicate exposition) and comes closer to television. Vertical editing is realized by simultaneous recording (mixing) of two or more audio recordings into a new one (which can theoretically last forever, and in practice depends on tape length). This technological postulate contains a conceptual unification, in a (possibly even minimal) time interval, of several pieces of audio information which establish a balance both of the moment and of duration. In practice, this kind of editing enables one to show, for example, a simultaneous progress of a small child crying and the mother's lullaby, but also how the child stops crying after a certain duration of the mother's song. On the other hand, linear editing is conditioned by the flow of time, expressed even in parts of a second. Linear editing can be performed on the editing table (including cuts, crossfading, blending, doubling, pauses, music, etc.) or on the sound recorder itself (by cutting), but it is the recording support, the tape, that conditions the flow of time by its physical properties, even if its is only 1 cm long (when the audio head revolves at the speed of 38 cm/sec). Furthermore, in creative superstructure, linear editing allows for different physical interventions (cutting, crumpling, change of direction, etc.) on a piece of tape (audio recording). One of the most essential elements of radiophonic language is realized by the combination of the causality of these editing procedures- time – both in its physical, real and imaginary sense.

Beside the exceptional significance of the function of time within the system of creative sound, the fundamental postulate both in the narrative and the abstract expression is the continuity of ideas. A composer, a novelist, a playwright or a ballet choreographer, all of them have to build a structural unity of their work in temporal dimensions, just like the painter, sculptor or architect, build in space. In that sense, continuity is essential in each segment of radiophonic creation, from the most general to the totally individual, in scenes (by a combination of two or more audio recordings), sequences, in the whole work. A disruption of this continuity on any level of the work will challenge the logical supposition which the auditor has to perceive in the way the author has planned.

In order to realize the compositional unity of a radiophonic work, space has to be equally important as time. Film shots (long, waist or close-up...) as well as painted planes are analogous to sound strata, founded on the acoustic characteristics of space which houses the source of the sound. The constant phono connection of the sound source and its surroundings is decoded by the corresponding brain centers as interior, exterior, close or distant, a volume of space, as experienced by human beings, while the intellect compensates the absence of other senses. Counting with this perceptual-intellectual characteristic of man, contemporary radioart utilizes two kinds of space – real and simulated – which differ, despite identical results, only in their places of origin. Real space is created with direct sound recording, and the simulated one is realized in the studio, in/on the editing bench, and its basic, constitutive material consists of the authentic, documentary recordings. In postproduction, the space recorded as real can be turned into a new reality by various interventions (emphasize certain segments, eliminate the superfluous, add new effects, etc.).

In transposition, a radiophonic work takes over the dramaturgy of its literary model. However, the director can during his creative process alter the planned dramaturgy of the scenario by accentuating, expanding or reducing certain parts, or change it totally according to his/her creative principles (or abilities). Parallel to this dramaturgical framework, the director establishes the rhythm of his work, both in parts and the entire product. The complementary quality of the dramaturgy and the rhythm need not presuppose their mutual causality, where dramaturgy stands for character and rhythm for the behaviour of a work. Mathematically speaking, they represent two processes of the same course, while the directions can even be opposite.

The realization, the combination of all of the elements into a whole by means of editing coordination is, like in film, the result of an active (creative) work of a group of experts, i.e. what Ernest Lindgroen calls "the distribution of talent"[7]. The methodology of collective creativity makes the language of radioart original, although similar to film and theatre, even music, where one also encounters a confrontation with the creative quality of individual elements. Contrary to film and theatre, radioart is not burdened by ratings, that is, commercialization, because such works are mostly supported by the production departments of big broadcasting systems, and therefore the distribution of talent is not made according to a possible marketing effect, but solely according to the presumed quality.

The Expression

Considering the "outcome" in the human mind, Claire's definition of a film scenario as "writing in pictures"[8] could be, with certain modifications, transposed to radiophony as well. The essence of this "writing in pictures" in relation to a radiophonic work is most purely described by Bernard Shaw, who said that "there are fifty ways of saying YES and five hundred ways of saying NO, but only one way to write it down." Radioart builds its expression, with an active participation of the listener's associative experience, on different tonalities, intensities, "colours", expressive possibilities, acoustics, depth and pitch (and a number of other characteristics of the tonal environment)[9]. In film, the visual sequence of an opening door is usually accompanied by a creaking sound. In the perception of a radiophonic work, the effect of creaking need not always produce in the mind of the listener the picture of a door opening or closing (it could be a window or a chest). Only when the effect is placed in a tonal context, order or the meaning of speech, its visual identity can be defined. The other group of sound pieces of information are those that have an a priori definition (barking is always associated with a dog, twittering with a bird), and they are frequently used to explain the sound syntax (creaking and barking combined can indicate, for example, a garden gate).

Contrary to film but similar to music, notwithstanding the particular laws of sound syntax, radioart has no precisely defined information (the creaking sound does not indicate the form and kind of the material the door is made of, and the barking sound tells nothing of the race of the dog) so that this kind of creative work is characterized with a general or stylized expression and its final shape is created in the very intellect of the listener. The complex structure of the psychology of perception permits each individual to have his/her own intellectual superstructure over the sound information, and therefore creative sound can (like other arts) be subjected to Kant's understanding of "the power of judgment", where perception and intellect are subordinated to reason, i.e. the subjective has primacy over the objective. This thesis can be found in experimental psychology as well, which has already proven that two human beings, under the same and ideal conditions (same IQ, age, background, education, environment, etc.) will never perceive the same visual/tonal information in the same way; it may even happen that after each repetition of the same information one person has different perceptive impressions.

The narrative form, as the basic expression of radioart, is founded on its basic unit – word – and all of its functional forms – narration, monologue, dialogue. Although the oldest in hierarchy, speech is even today one of the most essential expressive means of the creative sound. Contrary to the theatrical drama composed entirely of dialogue, radiophonic speech can be both the basic carrier of the idea and a subordinate, partial element, or mise-en-scene.

Through the associative property of the sound syntax, whose qualities identify and visualize the desired information in the mind of the listener, a story can be told even without speech, and thereby the local language (of a nation, state or region) is surpassed and the universal language is accepted as the means of expression. Although this type of expression relies in its dramaturgy on a written model, in order to give the whole its final shape, and because of the originally undefined nature of the radiophonic syntax, one has to use specific algorithmic solutions which have their own laws.[10] Sometimes, phono-algorithms become the supporters of the idea, a purpose in itself or determinants of the "narrative". According to this associative relatedness of the information received through the sense of hearing, the most difficult to transpose in this "story without words" are concepts of no visible identification of sound, like, fog, moonlight, heat.

Parallel to these descriptive, narrative and associative modes, radioart is also expressed in its abstract form, which, like the preceding two, has its specific laws of sound syntax. The initial connection of the creative sound to the real, its imitation and simulation, has evolved towards an abstract form of expression, where certain elements of the vocabulary have changed their functions. This process, in a reduced form, can be illustrated by a slowing down of the flow of tape over the tonal head, when the clear sound information is transformed to unrecognizability. In the age of mix-media, abstract radioart approaches the contemporary musical expression, since some parts of their vocabularies are the same (murmur, noise, distortion, dissonance, etc.)[11]

The Visibility

One of the basic rules of art for film and television screenplay writers singles out the difficulty in demonstrating certain states, emotions or the process of thinking in these media, as compared to prose writers or poets. "Pale blush", "the feeling of satisfaction", "vibrations of the heart" or "mind full of sorrow", frequently used in literature, cannot be determined by themselves on stage, film or in a radiophonic work. They must be brought into a structural relationship which will give them meaning. Even when they are not explicitly explained, human mind can place them either as an a posteriori of the context, or as a product of subjective aspiration (experience).

On the other hand, abstract musical compositions can be molded in the complex human psycho-organism into either a feeling or a story. Therefore, what is important is the awareness of something while information may come either from the real or the abstract area.

Although close to music in the perceptive sense, and to film in its creative structure and technology, radioart is in its final issue very comparable to the visual arts, particularly at the present moment, when visual research applies different unconventional means, media and technologies. The sound incentive of the human hearing apparatus is transposed in human mind as a visible notion, as the final instance of imaginative thinking. For Dorfles, thinking in pictures, thinking in notions belongs to the archetypal expression of any communication, and thus "it must not be understood as the exclusive privilege of the visual arts, but as a modality of thinking – thinking activity – present in other art forms as well."[12]

The etymological difference between the visual, the optical, related to sight, and the visible, as obvious and evident, indicates the different structures and causal-consequential connections in the psycho-physical system of information transmission between the source (word, sound) and the image (mind).

Although the visibility of sound, as one of numerous human psycho processes, can primarily be explained by means of associative properties (as has been done in this text for the purpose of better understanding), the complex relationship of thoughts and sound (words, noise, tone) should, nevertheless, be understood as Vigotski did, as "the unity of the meaningful, semantic, side of speech and the exterior, sound, vocal side of speech"[13], where each side has its own rules of mobility. In explaining the functional role of the meaning of words in the process of thinking of, for example, a child whose phrase consists of a one-word sentence, with whom the process of meaning is developed from a sentence towards a word, and the exterior from a word to a sentence, but also putting forward the example of a grown-up man who uses the same phrase (even a curse) to express his thoughts, feelings and deep reflections, Vigotski[14] makes (on the bases of experimental work) psychological-theoretical postulates of the visibility of sound, regardless of where the source lies – in the narrative, the associative or the abstract.

This relationship, which could be generally applied to all forms of art, should be regarded as a part of the universal language of communication. Every work of art is essentially a certain kind of a language of communication between the author and the consumer. In radiophonic tectonics of the relationship between thoughts and words/sounds, two areas are clearly defined – the area of sound (creative) and the area of thought (perceptive) and the movement in the first goes from thought to sound, and from sound to thought in the second. Both areas are within the same intellectual field where the syntax of ideas is transformed into the syntax of sound (and vice versa). This transcendental quality raises radioart into the higher spheres of intellectual (meditative) communication.

The Culture of Listening

A radiophonic work, as a means of communication, belongs to a broad specter of human social behaviour. On the primary level, any communication with a work of art or a literary text is identical to a colloquial relation of two persons. The bond between the human environment and the human mind in it, in the physical sense, is represented by the senses, their bio-physical reaction transporting the information to the central nervous system for further treatment. A human being is constantly subjected to a number of external (and internal) stimulations, and only a part of them is "processed" in the mind. Depending on the level of this "processing" one can speak about the human awareness of the environment. The extremes of these levels can easily be transposed to lexical differences between looking and seeing, or listening and hearing. Only the information treated by the human mind (regardless of the source) gains its significance in the complex mental life of a human being.

In that context, when we talk about thinking in pictures in radioart and its stylized expression, the conceptual syntax is more important than the authenticity of data. Therefore, the example quoted by Miroslav Jokic, about a young man who had recognized in a radiophonic work the sound of the "Ford" '53 engine, although the action was placed in 192915 (unthinkable of in film, because its has a concrete visual syntax, different of sound syntax and therefore of the visible as well) is not an example of a higher culture of listening, only a kind of perception (the so called, out-of-context perception, proof-reader type). In perceiving a radiophonic work (like a literary or a visual work of art, likewise) the central role belongs to foretelling, hope, expectations, to the so called "reading between the lines"[16], which practically means that, for example, it would not be important for a Second World War air fight if the sound of the then contemporary engines was heard, but only that it was the sound of the propeller and not jet planes, which would disturb the continuity of the idea, corresponding to the stylized quality of the radiophonic expression.

The freedom and possibilities of expression in radioart, its relatedness to other arts, its particular features, facilitate a high degree of applicable appropriateness in creation. Despite all this, radioart has appeared only at a few festivals, in a getto-like presentation, and at marginal gatherings like "Radioteque". The offspring of the technology from the second half of the 20th century is still the foundling of art. Man who has completely neglected his sense of smell in his evolution (once a primary sense), has made a movement toward eliminating and intellectualizing the sense of hearing, giving absolute importance to the sense of seeing and the virtual reality which leads him away from his own thoughts.

(Belgrade, 1995)


1 Miroslav Jokic, Ocaravanje uva (Enchanting the Ear), Beograd 1994, p. 13.

2 Although this term points, in an etymological sense, to the technical structure of functioning (radiation, provoking of sound), in the listener's consciousness it is exclusively related to the medium of radio (as opposed to video art which separated from television at the very beginning). On the other hand, if etymologically compared to cinematography (moving and writing), radiophony or radioart can be accepted as the most appropriate definition of the creative sound (although one could also think about phonoscopy as an alternate solution).

3 One could ask here: "How do blind people see?", taking into account the difference between those who are blind from birth and those who lost sight during the life.

4 V. Petric, Razvoj filmskih vrsta (The Development of Film Categories), Beograd, 1970, pp. 97-98.

5 Ibid., p. 98.

6 M. Jokic, op. cit., pp. 94-114.

7 Ernest Lindgren, Umetnost filma (The Art of Film), a collection of papers, Novi Sad, 1978, p. 9-28.

8 Petrit Imami, Filmski scenario (The Film Scenario), a collection of papers, Beograd, 1978, p.15.

9 The quality of the acoustic differences between the exterior and the interior was perfectly exemplified by the boat in the sea, in the work of K. Yamamoto Povratak iz raja (Return from Eden), Drama, pp. 2614, 2615.

10 An example of the "narrative without words" is the work of Miroslav Jokic How to Raise a Ton in Triathlon, where the sound effects of the straining of a weight lifter were used to "tell" the story of his life, RZ, 43.

11 The complementary feature of radiophony and contemporary music is represented in the winner of many awards, the work by Ivana Stefanovic, The Metropolis of Silence – Stari Ras, RZ, 87.

12 Gilo Dorfles, Pohvala disharmoniji (In Praise of Disharmony), Novi Sad, 1991, pp. 32-33.

13 Lav Vigotski, Misljenje i govor (Thinking and speaking), Beograd, 1983, p. 324.

14 Ibid., pp. 311–394.

15 M. Jokic, op. cit., p. 118.

16 Pol Barber, Dejvid Leg, Percepcija i informacija (Perception and Information), Beograd, 1983, pp. 138-139.

// Project Rastko / Art / The art at the end of the century /
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