Day in day out, radio items have meaning – most clearly so in phone-ins, local speech based radio, the parts where two people are communicating live or as live. 5 Live is a good outlet for this. It’s much less the case in “factual” programmes, the type generally heard on Radio 4.
A big-idea, a meaning, has become essential, in the 15 years or so that This American Life has become the medium’s mammoth in the US, and that has spread across here.
You know what? Big idea – good idea. It helps wrap things up, and can help keep the story and content with you after listening. Maybe for the rest of the day, the week, or a whole stage of your life.
BUT… let’s withstand the urge to go beyond a “big idea” to “meaning”. What producer has a a special insight into “meaning”. No more than a novelist should be trusted as a guru of the human condition, my having positioned a microphone and reeled through the recordings does not mean I understand something better, greater, more insightfully or omnipotently than anyone else. Seriously, if we had that would we need to make radio?
That’s why I’m happy with portraits and profiles. Happier, it seems than my peers are. Colleagues at In The Dark
all wanted that bit more of the big idea, the meaning, to an item we recently auditioned. I loved
the item, in the moment. It didn’t change my life, that’s true. But the sound was delicious! I love delicious sound, with some hook – a story or an insight. I’m less demanding than others on that front. Of course, if you can have delicious sound and something that helps the listener learn something about themselves, then that’s Radiolab, that’s brilliant – in fact, it’s more than brilliant. “Brilliant” describes the delicious sound programmes. “Brilliant” plus insight equals your brain lighting up all over, in all sorts of different places. More than any of the individual components – all of them together, in symphony, or perhaps in opera
. The full orchestra, the sight, the stage set, the man and woman making your chest shake with the power of their voice, and, in a Wexford dress rehearsal, dizzily cheering and stamping you feet and clapping your hands sore afterwards. And remembering it, as a beautiful part of yourself, years and years on.
Excuse: Today was supposed to be an audio day, but after wrapping up a cracking job application, I procrastinated the vox-popping by pondering the theory behind what radio I’d love to make. The Evernote is all a bit ego-centric, and I’ve only tidied it up slightly, so forgive me for that.
Oh and I’ve thought of an exception. StoryCorps. I tend to find it bland. But my colleagues at ITD tend to love it. I think this may be tied to the complicated topic of accents. That’s for another Evernote.