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Early Radio Production and the Rise of Modern Sound Culture BY SHAWN VANCOUR

T

he early twentieth century witnessed a profound transformation in the history of modern sound

media, with workers in U.S. film, radio, and record industries developing pioneering production methods and performance styles tailored to emerging technologies of electric sound reproduction that would redefine dominant forms and experiences of popular audio entertainment. Focusing on broadcasting’s initial expansion during the 1920s, “Making Radio” explores the forms of creative labor pursued for the medium in the period prior to the better-known network era, assessing their role in shaping radio’s identity and contributions to broader regimes of early twentieth-century sound recording.

Left: Operating the Michigan Radio Network board, 1937

EXCERPT F RO M THE BOOK

The opening decades of the twentieth century ushered in a new era in popular sound entertainment in the United States, with producers across the nation’s expanding film, music, and radio industries developing production practices and performance styles tailored to emerging technologies of electric sound reproduction. “Making Radio” explores these emergent processes of mediamaking, focusing on the forms of sonic labor pursued by early twentieth century radio workers and tracing their contributions to broader changes in popular sound culture. The programming forms, production practices, and performance styles developed by radio workers during broadcasting’s initial boom period in the 1920s, I argue, not only established key precedents for network-era productions in the decades that followed, but also created formative styles and sensibilities that resonated across neighboring record and film industries. Perched on the cusp of a new era of electric sound reproduction, early radio workers pioneered production practices that shaped the future of U.S. broadcasting and contributed to a series of broader transformations in modern sound culture. In mapping the institutionalization of mediamaking practices for aural broadcasting, this book stages a strategic departure from previous radio scholarship and fills a persistent gap in larger histories of modern sound media. Historical work on radio has been defined by two main waves of scholarship, to which “Making Radio” remains deeply UCLA Ed&IS SPRING 2019 17

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The UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies’ magazine highlights the public scholarship of our faculty. The cover of this...

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