Re: Radiophonic

Subject: Re: Radiophonic
From: Christos Hatzis (
Date: Tue Aug 20 1996 - 10:17:31 EDT

I think the qualifying difference between pieces written specifically
for radio and electroacoustic works written for the concert hall or any
other medium is intention. The airwaves as a medium of diffusion is
likely to influence certain decisions during the composing stage and
certainly during mixing. In the two radio pieces that I have composed so
far (The Idea of Canada, 1992 and Footprints in New Snow, 1996) I was
conscious of the fact that the audience of these works can be
considerably larger than that for my other music and the tunning devices
they might use at the receiving end would most likely be less than
ideal. Rod Crocker the CBC mixing engineer for both works doublechecked
all my mixing senarios on a cheap mono speaker attached to an audiofile
digital mixing board. Very often our original mixing plans had to be
changed, because the low-tech reception created phase discrepancies or
balance problems (especially between speaking and music). I personally
would have not compromised the mix of an electroacoustic work composed
for the concert hall (even if at some point it was to be diffused over
the airwaves), but with a work intended primarily for radio...I saw the
wisdom of optimizing the diffusion for the average end-user.

I personally tend to think of a radiophonic work as placing greater
emphasis on the the documentary component than it would be the case in a
electroacoustic piece. Of course there is nothing in the definition
"radiophonic" which warrants such an interpretation, but here in Canada
at least there is a tradition of this kind of radiophonic work (Glenn
Gould's northern trilogy comes readily to mind). The potential audience
for a radiophonic work may well outnumber the specialized audience of
electroacoustic music (especially if the piece is not meant to be only
played in new music radio programs such as CBC Radio's Two New Hours).
In that case, the documentary component of such a work will function as
a hook, a familiar method of discourse the listener can hold on to and
through it make sense of the musical aspects of the work.

Perhaps some colleagues who have extensive experience with the medium
could outline their approaches. I would certainly be very interested to
know how other people treat radio as a medium.
Christos Hatzis
Faculty of Music
University of Toronto
Edward Johnson Building
Toronto, Ontario


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