Voice, personality and suspense

From a contribution to the International Feature Conference in Berlin, 2000

... Some observations while listening recently to a number of Orson Welles programmes, in particular to my favourite called "The Hitch Hiker":

The words and sound effects, even the subject itself seems to be a little dated after 60 years. You might call it trivial. But there is a message behind it - still convincing and motivating for radio producers.

Rule number one, two and three: Never bore the listener.

As a matter of fact, there are different philosophies and techniques how to attract and entertain (= not to bore) listeners. "Attraction" is one of the keywords in the world of radio today.

The air is filled with programmes, like an oriental marketplace. And programme makers tend to act like camel vendors, trying to outroar the others at the top of their voices. In 1994 the legendary sound processor L 1 turned up, a combination of Limiter and Maximizer, and this software from Israel initiated a cold war in the skies with one single objective: acoustic predominance. Sound processing is the technique of enforcing and optimising acoustical signals. The result of this manipulation of sounds and voices is not merely an increase of "loudness" (which is a more subjective perception) but of punch and pressure. Listeners must catch the - commercial - message even, if they lower the output of their amplifiers.

Unfortunately, people get used to the punch of those virtual baseball bats on their ears and minds. So the commercial media industry