Thursday, October 9, 2008
ARTICLE: Rudolf Arnheim: In Praise of Blindness
"The wireless artist must develop a mastery of the limitations of the aural. The test of his talent is whether he can produce a perfect effect with aural things, not whether his broadcast is capable of inspiring his listeners to supplement the missing visual image as realistically and vividly as he can."
—Rudolf Arnheim, "In Praise of Blindness," 1936
Arnheim discusses the use of the radio as a means of transmitting art. He describes the radio (or “wireless” in his dated parlance) as something incomplete in real experience but not lacking, if successful, because it creates a whole experience for the listener.
In order to succeed in this form the broadcaster must “develop a mastery of the limitations of the aural”. Arnheim is of the opinion that aural performances that inspire the listener to imagine the work visually have failed to provide the necessary components of experience to the audience.
Arnheim makes the distinction between two types of broadcast: the radio play and the relay. A radio play (take for example Radio Tales of the Strange and Fantastic) “is self-sufficient, completes itself in the aural” whereas a relay simply rips the audio wholesale from an event very much rooted in the real world and reliant on other sense (a live theatrical production or a sporting event, for example).
Arnheim describes silence, what he calls “the acoustic void”, as having a necessary and complementary role in the radio play, much like an empty stage. For the relay, however, silence suggests to the listener that there is much that they are missing and destroys any illusion of unity in the work."
Arnheim, Rudolf. 1936. “In Praise of Blindness; Emancipation from the Body,”
in Radio (trans. Margaret Ludwig). London: Faber and Faber, pp. 133-
"In Praise of Blindness" and many other readings can be found in the excellent Radio Text PDF from Self Learn Los Angeles [PDF LINK DEAD] http://www.selflearnla.org/2011/05/25/radiotexte-pdf/