Radiolab - three different approaches


  • Ola Stockfelt
  • Ansa Lønstrup
  • Torben Sangild



The three papers in this ‘suite’ have a special background and context. At the 2010 conference SoundActs in Aarhus the three panellists were each given the task to provide a paper with an analysis of the same sound object, thus exhibiting and contrasting different scholarly approaches to sound studies. The object was selected by Torben Sangild, who was familiar with the chosen context: the signature of the US radio programme and podcast Radiolab. The two other participants did not know the context and chose to analyse the sound object without further contextual investigation. This object was chosen for several reasons. First of all, it is brief (less than 17 seconds), which meant that it was possible to make a detailed analysis; at the same time, though, it is relatively complex, which means that it can accommodate three different analyses. It is a sound object with a global audience, taken from one of the most popular podcasts worldwide, accessible on the internet. Finally, it is a piece of functional sound design, rather than a work of art, which raises the question of context more clearly. The result is three rather different approaches: 1) a process analysis, observing analytical listening strategies towards the constructed object, 2) a vocal analysis, regarding the sound object as a polyphony of voices, and 3) a contextual analysis, framing the sound object as a radio signature. Ola Stockfelt analyses the sound object as something that is constructed via his own repeated listening process – as a scholarly-analytical analysis of the subjective act of creating meaning. He draws on presumptions and prejudices, demonstrating the impossibility of a purely structural listening. The analysis relates these hermeneutical reflections to formal musicological observations of harmony, timbre, space and rhythm in some detail. Ansa Lønstrup’s paper analyses the sound object as a polyphony of voices. Her analysis is inspired by two phenomenologists: Don Ihde, whose notion of ‘voice’ is understood in a more general sense as the voices of all things, and Lawrence Ferrara, who methodologically operates within tree levels of investigation: 1) the syntax, 2) the semantic and 3) the ontology level. Accordingly, this analysis is conducted, as if the sound object was performed by a vocal ensemble oscillating ‘between a musical and a speech act’. Torben Sangild’s paper focuses on the concrete function of the sound object as a radio signature. This prompts a generic analysis and a semantic model of radio signatures in general, eclectically employing formal, indexical, gestural, discursive and contextual levels of meaning. The analysis of the Radiolab signature focuses on the overall gesture of tension and release as well as the semantic elements in a constellation with the content and style of the radio programme. After the three individual contributions, a brief summary and conclusion will follow, answering any questions that may arise in the process.




How to Cite

Stockfelt, O., Lønstrup, A., & Sangild, T. (2012). Radiolab - three different approaches. SoundEffects - An Interdisciplinary Journal of Sound and Sound Experience, 2(1), 113–154.