Radio Culture

TV&R Course #25.3
Code #1421
Fall 2001
Monday & Wednesday 10:30 - 11:45
402 Whitehead Hall

Professor: Martin Spinelli
Office: 406 Whitehead
Office hours: Monday 11:45 - 1:45
Wednesday 11:45 - 12:45

(Also at other times by appointment. I will typically be on campus Tuesday and can arrange to meet you then as well. Either email me or call the Department of Television & Radio at 951-5555.)


As we work longer hours, commute longer distances, and log-on to more and more information/entertainment options, radio is the only traditional medium experiencing audience growth. This course examines the past one-hundred years of radio technology and the culture it has made possible. In different ways radio has provided a sense of identity to four generations, created an acoustically conscious society, invented a new kind of personality politics, allowed cultures to trade and pilfer music, and collapsed the distance of continents long before such an idea became a chief selling point of the internet. But radio not only shapes culture, it is also utterly shaped by it. This course endeavors to understand that somewhat circular relationship by investigating: the different methods for conceiving of audience and how stations relate (and have related) to listeners; how people listen and how modes of listening matter socially; how radio voices have changed to better address or challenge dominant cultural voices; and how radio art experiments engaged with culture and society through broadcasting.

By the end of this course students should:
Assignments and Grades:
Advisory #1: Assignments are due when I tell you they are due. I have no patience for excuses involving faulty equipment, hungry dogs, dead grandmothers, delinquent siblings, acts of natural disaster, and the like. Similarly, notes from Dr. Mom will gain you no sympathy. I do NOT accept late work. If you feel you might be unable to meet a deadline you must discuss it with me during a class meeting before the assignment is due. Only then will I consider granting you an extension.
Advisory #2: As each class meeting will build on the material presented in previous sessions, attendance is extremely important. If you miss more than three class meetings I reserve the right to lower your final grade one-half of a letter for each subsequent absence. Showing up on time is equally important. I will allow a five-minute grace period at the beginning of class; if you show up later than 10:35 you will not receive attendance credit and may be locked out of class.

Your final grade will be calculated as follows:

Option #1, the creative option: a substantial radio project of almost any kind (series of features, documentary, series of live interviews for WBCR, literary/artistic magazine, a special program for WBCR, etc.) Given that this is not a production class, in order to choose this option you must have some experience as a radio producer. You will discuss your ideas for this option with me before the middle of the semester.

Option #2, the critical option: an eight- to ten-page paper addressing any aspect of radio history, art or culture. Serious research is required for this option. It must be more than your impressions of a given period of radio history and must demonstrate a thoughtful engagement with a program, series, audience, law, genre, method of broadcasting, production technique, etc.

Required Reading:

Susan Douglas, Listening In: From Amos 'n' Andy and Edward R. Murrow to Wolfman Jack and Howard Stern
Tim Crook, International Radio Journalism
(both available at the campus bookstore)
Plus regular handouts from Wireless Imagination, Radiotext(e), Radio Rethink, Sound States, Radio Voices, and Sound by Artists.

Weekly Schedule:
Week 1: Introduction: Approaching radio as a critical-listener and approaching it as fan-listener; the diversity of audiences and the diversity of services; media analysis within the larger field of cultural studies
Week 2: Modes of listening across radio's history; "distance listening" (DXing); early radio: the radio hobbyist in America and the radio avant-garde in Europe (Luigi Russolo and Futurist radio experimentation)
Week 3: Radio in the 1920s: Jazz, variety, poetry and radio democracy; comparative analysis of the rhetoric of the early days of radio and the early days of the internet
Week 4: Early radio drama; Paul Lazarsfeld and the invention of the audience; the effect of early format on exploratory listening; the "Musak Manifesto" and the birth of acoustic-wallpaper
Week 5: Radio and World War II: Edward R. Murrow and the new journalism of war correspondence; from commentary and personality to "objectivity"; Norman Corwin's On a Note of Triumph and the radio-poetics of patriotism
Week 6: "The Golden Age of Radio (Drama)": studios and network productions from Orson Welles to Himan Brown; the social role of radio dramas: an antidote to war and depression
Week 7: Post-war radio recording and editing technology and Antonin Artaud's censored broadcast of Having Done with the Judgement of God; the development of sportscasting in America: from boxing to baseball
Week 8: Transistor radios and super-high power AM; "break-out" listening, rock-n-roll and 1950s youth response to radio format; the birth of the DJ
Week 9: The (re)invention of FM and the programming it makes possible; Jean Shepherd, the radio narrative and AM's counter-counter-revolution; an American community of radio innovation: New American Radio
Week 10: European radio experimentation of the 1970s; Peter Leonard Braun's Bells in Europe and the zenith of the radio documentary; Kunstradio in Austria and the BBC's Third Programme
Week 11: Talk radio in the 1980s: Rush Limbaugh and the "average guy's" radio response to the threats of "political correctness"; talk radio's relationship to conservative American politics
Week 12: Howard Stern, shock jocks and the efficacy of radio "transgression"; Pacifica vs. the FCC and the establishment of "community standards" for radio decency
Week 13: International broadcasting on shortwave: news and propaganda; analyses of the BBC's World Service, The Voice of America, Radio Marti and Radio Havana
Week 14: Webcasting and digital audio production: an invitation to discover a new radio semantics; seamless editing vs. self-conscious editing; Japanese sampling art and high-speed listening; the resurgence of community radio