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Murphy, Thomas H. (ed.) / Wisconsin alumnus
Vol. 73, Number 1 (Oct. 1971)

Schmitz, Jody
No, you haven't heard everything,   pp. 14-16

Page 16

tronic Synthesizer, once the exclu-
  sive toy of musical composers,
  will be used, and some manipula-
  tion of the reader's voice by techni-
  cal means will be tried.
  Among binaural experiments here,
  one that showed very dramatically
  how this all-around-you sound can
  transport the listener into the mid-
  dle of the action, was done by NCAE
  staff member Kim Hodgson. He
  took "Herman" and a portable tape
  recorder into the middle of actual
  situations-student rap sessions,
  a student protest and confrontation
  with police, an improvised play in a
  Madison elementary school-and
  came out with moving documentaries.
  In another production, a scene called
  for conversation between a couple
  driving around town during a rain
  storm. This was actually recorded" in
  a station wagon as it was driven
  through a UW parking lot. Even
  the weather man cooperated: a real
  rain storm made the use of "canned"
  rain unnecessary.
  Of course, the transmission of the
  ''you are there" feeling can be done
  best by recording on location,
  but NCAE has also simulated real-
  ity by recording the dialogue over
  a previously taped "sound bed."
For example, when scenes were laid
in a restaurant or bus depot where
it would be difficult to control the
non-actors, the sounds of the real
thing were taped binaurally, to be
later recorded "under" the actors'
Eight full-length dramatic programs
have been taped binaurally, many of
them on location. The center hopes
to offer a series of such programs
to all stereo-capable public sta-
tions in the country, of which there
are about fifty.
Last May the center brought John
Reeves, the distinguished CBC radio
arts director and Italia prize win-
ner, to do "Nathan and Tabileth"
by Barry Bermange, a mood piece
with emphasis on words. Reeves used
a technique similar to film edit-
ing in producing that drama. Sec-
tions of the play were recorded
separately and then "mixed" in the
final editing.
One of the big questions posed by
binaural sound is how it will affect
young listeners. Staff members asked
themselves: Would children hearing
a binaural program become so
interested in the listening experience
as such that they might miss the
content of the show?
A program recorded last summer
will provide some insight into
that problem. A crew recorded
binaurally a School of the Air script
entitled "Old MacDonald Sold His
Farm," which had been produced
five years ago in monaural sound in
the Radio Hall studio. They en-
listed the same cast members who
had done the earlier show, but
moved the entire production out to
a real farm among natural sounds.
(Even the rooster came through
on cue, according to Burrows. As
he recorded the narration in the barn-
yard, the scene-stealing rooster
insisted on crowing in the back-
ground.) Will it seem natural or will
it distract? The monaural and
binaural recordings will be played
for children, and tests will tell which
is best for getting information
Once binaural broadcasting is used
by radio stations, it can be heard
on a regular stereo set with good
earphones. Although binaural sound
can also be heard over stereo
speakers, the feeling of being in
the middle of the action is lost.
"In 'stereo' we attempt to bring the
recorded event into your living
room with loudspeakers. In 'binaural'
we attempt to take you to the event
where the recording was made.
You become a participant. Your
relationship is much more intimate,
much more real, than with other
systems," Voegeli says.
If you use phones, reality is sharp,
sounds come at you from all direc-
tions and you can be easily trans-
ported to another place in the isola-
tion provided by the headphones.
Some people object to wearing
headphones for that reason. They
don't like to be cut off from the en-
vironment, unable to hear the tele-
phone or talk with a friend while
they listen. Yet this "flaw" holds
promise for the student who can be
removed from distractions by the
phones which keep him "glued in"
on the recording.
It brings up a paradox pointed out
by the center in its newsletter:
"Can mankind be brought closer
together by further isolating the indi-
vidual? Is the shared experience
of the concert hall or town meeting
in which a man or woman actively
participates any more satisfying,
enlightening, or educational, any
more conducive to humanity's well-
being and the success of common
effort, than the experience afforded
to an individual silently locked in
the privacy of his headphones?
Is the hypnotic spell of the 'tube' any
worse than the mesmeric trance
induced by binaural sound? If mes-
sage and medium are identical,
how can we avoid creating a race
of bemused zombies? Consider, how-
ever, that the Mona Lisa smiles
for each individual in turn and there
is no wilderness lonelier than the
crowd. To state the paradox is per-
haps to answer it."
Speakers or phones . . . binaural
or stereo or monaural ... it's nice to
know somebody is concerned about
the quality of the sounds that are
broadcast into our homes at a time
when we seem deluged by what
some environmental critics call
"noise pollution."
Wisconsin Alumnus

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