Whatever the idea or the theory behind any particular broadcast, it’s the way that it is listened to that counts. The sound-picture
To be able to think of radio in terms of feelings, pictures and different landscapes of sound is one of the secrets of creating great radio. The cry of a seagull, and you can almost see the sea. The noise of a school playground at break-time, and your childhood memories come flooding back. Radio really has the power to transport the listener through time and space. Whether it’s news or drama, the radio man or radio woman can weave into one broadcast very disparate events and places. The one limit, one which must be respected, is the comprehension of your listeners. They have only their ears to follow the story, and you have to make sure they are with you every step of the way.
The Rhythm of a broadcast
Rhythm is the organisation, in a limited amount of time, of strong points and weak points, of heavy and light, of fast and slow, of short and long, of verbal and non-verbal, of noise and silence. Rhythm is the art of breaks and transitions. It can suddenly break monotony and grab the attention of the listener, it play a part in creating an atmosphere. It consists of structuring the lengths of the various sequences within a broadcast. A succession of sequences all the same length will create the impression of monotony – regardless of how interesting their content.
Tone and atmosphere
The tone of a broadcast depends on its rhythm. The tone of a broadcast can be serious, light, nostalgic, or worrying.
Like all forms of discourse, radio discourse has its own syntax.
The different elements of a broadcast can be linked to one another like the different elements of a sentence.
Moving from one idea to another, from one place to another, or from one interviewee to another, means using specific forms of links.
A rapid delivery, a high-pitched tone, a rasping voice, can create an atmosphere of urgency, of stress, or of confusion. A lower-pitched voice, a slower, more deliberate and calmer delivery lends authority.
Music is one of the basic tools of radio. The musical "colour" of a broadcast depends on the choice of clips, on their ability to evoke an idea or atmosphere.
Just like with music, sound effects are chosen for their ability to evoke. This effect can be direct or metaphoric. On could, for example, evoke a crowd of people taking the metro by recording a flock of sheep! To use an effect such as this, however, you must be sure that the metaphor is sufficiently obvious to the listener.
Silence is powerful. A silence of several seconds after a sequence is one of the most powerful ways there are to accentuate strength, to prolong emotion. It can have a dramatic effect in an interview. And after all, isn’t radio the art of mastering silence?