The Wright stuff

This conveniently showed up at the beginning of audio week in ds106. Old-time radio is great for insights into audio storytelling because they were good at it, with lots of experience, yet they did it simply and low-tech. Today, we can do more with sound, and get better sound, with everyday tools. But rather than get lost in all the technological possibilities we have, we can look to works from the past to see what works and how it works.

I took some time to listen to the Meet Frank Lloyd Wright: A biography in sound episode, because I’ve been a fan of Wright for most of my life. Wright was an architect, so the subject begs not only for visuals, but also a spatial experience. The best way to experience his work is to tour one of his buildings. At the time this show was produced, radio was one of the dominant forms of mass media, but it doesn’t allow for any kind of visuals.

The program is mostly voice, but it contains several voices arranged in juxtaposition and conversation with each other. The narrator is particularly effective in using his voice. Note how he uses rhythm and inflection to hold our interest. The story shifts the focus from Wright’s art to his life, and in particular the controversies around his life and work. To show the controversies, and Wright’s impact on other people, the show brings in people’s voices to personalize the story. While it doesn’t give a feel for the physical or aesthetic nature his work, we do that it was revolutionary by the impact it had on people.

This show is made available through the Internet Archive, which is a great resource for all kinds of digital media. There’s a bunch of sound effect recordings which could be put to good use:


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