Les États généraux du film documentaire 2009 Scam: Radio Night

Scam: Radio Night

A few questions which apparently, but only apparently, are unconnected. Why, at concerts of classical music, do some listeners close their eyes? Why, at the height of the May 68 political crisis, did De Gaulle use radio (and not television) to reassert his control of power? Why has Woody Allen devoted one of his features to radio (Radio Days)?

These questions contain their own answers, serious and not spurious answers, like that which explains listening eyes shut as giving oneself up to a deep irresistible sleep, or again — concerning de Gaulle — that he preferred radio because on television it would not have been "presentable" to show himself in a cold rage overwhelmed by events...

The reader has understood: in one case as in the other is expressed the supremacy of sound over image. The spectator-listener in a symphony concert does not want to be disturbed or troubled by any visual element. As for De Gaulle, no need to be a great psychologist to imagine that he understood the importance of language, the magic of the word, the impact of sound to mobilise once again as he had done so well on 18 June. The sequence of events confirmed his intuition because as of 30 May he had restored his authority.

All of this was highlighted by Woody Allen in his cinematic gem Radio Days where we could see — and hear — a small New York community lap up the radio shows of the thirties. It was a period when, as a result of repeated family gatherings around the radio set, people ended up "watching the radio"...
But let's make no mistake. We are not about to sink into nostalgia, give ourselves over to "ah, how much better it was before", yield to the delights of some morose glorification of the past...

At this beginning of the twenty-first century, sound has held its place in the face of the so-called domination of the image. In the expression "audio-visual" there is the word "audio": this is what the Scam (French Multimedia Authors Society) reminds us during this " Radio Night" where documents from 1946 rub shoulders with others from 2009.

And rather than yield to the facile nature of an oxymoron like "the eye hears, the ear sees..." I prefer to leave the last words — little known — to a writer who also, in his time, celebrated the radio:

You little box, held to me escaping
So that your valves should not break
Carried from house to house to ship from sail to train,
So that my enemies might go on talking to me,
Near my bed, to my pain
The last thing at night, the first thing in the morning,
Of their victories and of my cares,
Promise me not to go silent all of a sudden.

And it is signed Bertold Brecht.

Pierre Bouteiller, President of the Sound Works Commission of the Scam.

Coordination : Suggested by Janine Marc-Pezet, a member of the sound commission of Scam, with the invaluable support of Christian Clères and Frédéric Fiard. A programme carried out with the participation of Véronique Jolivet (sound archives Ina).