The Hardest Sell

“The Hardest Sell”: Creating Health Related Radio Messages in Ethiopia Communication Journal of New Zealand / He Kohinga Korero, Volume 11, July 2010


“Sonic Persuasion” Book Review

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My review of “Sonic Persuasion – Reading Sound in the Recorded Age” by Greg Goodale, University of Illinois Press, 2011, was been published in the March edition (No. 86) of “Viewfinder”, the journal of the British Universities Film and Video Council.

Greg Goodale is assistant professor of communication studies at Northeastern University and his excellent book is a welcome addition to the emerging field of sound culture studies. He addresses the lack of sonic scholarship with a thorough investigation of audio tropes, sonic manipulation and shifting oratory styles that draw from recorded examples dating as far back as the marketing of Edison’s automatic phonograph in 1888.

Goodale’s analysis draws attention to the rich meaning laden within the accents, articulation and phraseology of the language and music we hear – along with the background noise that often accompanies them. He points out that our ears can perceive events the eye cannot, thanks to their ability to hear simultaneous sounds from all directions.

Conveying the subtle nuances of sound with printed words is clearly problematic. It’s a situation much like the overused comparison of writing about music being akin to “dancing about architecture”. However, it’s this conundrum which forms one of the central tenets of the book; sound carries far more meaning than the written text can ever hope to convey. To his credit, Goodale draws from examples that can be found without too much searching online – giving readers the opportunity to hear the audio being assessed for themselves.

Sonic Persuasion is the first in the University of Illinois Press series: Studies in Sensory History. The project aims to publish and promote “work on the history of the senses from ancient times to the twenty-first century”. It seems fitting that a publication focusing on sound should mark the beginning of this ambitious series, since hearing is the first of our senses to develop in the embryo. Goodale’s exploration of sound and its ability to be “read” is certainly a very good place to start. As he points out in the book: “one can never close ones ears”.


Book Chapter; “Radio and Society: New Thinking for an Old Medium”

Chapter Six  / Page 83 “Bowie’s Waiata”: Radio Documentary and Fandom

This book was edited by Matt Mollgaard from AUT in Auckland, NZ, and is described as;

“…a collection of contemporary research by radio scholars from the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It explores different aspects of this both simple and complex medium, from early radio histories to the contemporary developments of radio on the Internet. Chapters engage with critical debates about the role of government, business and communities in how radio is used in our societies. Some chapters provide important new insights into making radio, and radio as a cultural force. Other chapters explore developments in research methodologies that enable deeper insights into contemporary radio and its audiences. This book provides a range of platforms for engaging with radio and radio research as a rich, vibrant and fruitful way to further our understandings of the media and ultimately, ourselves.”

The introduction to my chapter contribution reads…

“Sam Coley discusses music and radio documentary too, while also exploring ideas of fandom and how fans use the Internet to repurpose collectable material and to display their devotion. By taking us from the height of David Bowie’s musical career, to discovering a previously unheard Bowie song and then to documentaries made 25 years later and remixed by Bowie fans, Coley interrogates notions of fandom and also radio content on the Internet, providing us with insights into how the Internet can expand radio’s potential, but also how audiences can re- imagine radio content, given the right tools and motivations.”

Editor: Matt Mollgaard / Cambridge Scholars Publishing

Date Of Publication: Mar 2012
Isbn13: 978-1-4438-3607-4
Isbn: 1-4438-3607-9

More details available here.


Book Chapter; “The Music Documentary: Acid Rock to Electropop”

“Sound and Vision: Radio Documentary, Fandom, and New Participatory Cultures”, Chapter co written with Prof. Oliver Carter in The Music Documentary: Acid Rock To Electropop Edited by Benjamin Halligan, Robert Edgar, and Kirsty Fairclough-Isaacs, Routledge, 2013

The Music Documentary offers a wide-range of approaches, across key in the history of popular music, in order to define and interrogate this prominent genre of film-making.”

This new book was published by Routledge as part of their “Music and Screen Media” series. Although it mainly focuses on music documentary relating to film – my  colleague Oliver Carter and I have contributed a chapter which looks at specifically at music radio and online fan engagement with documentaries. It also touches on the similarities and differences between music documentary production techniques for film and radio.

More info about the book, edited by Benjamin Halligan, Robert Edgar, and Kirsty Fairclough-Isaacs, can be found on the Routledge website.

“The writers in this volume argue persuasively that the music documentary must be considered as an essential cultural artefact in documenting stars and icons, and musicians and their times – particularly for those figures whose fame was achieved posthumously.”

“The reader will find comprehensive discussions of the history of music documentaries, insights in their production and promotion, close studies of documentaries relating to favourite bands or performers, and approaches to questions of music documentary and form, from the celluloid to the digital age.”


Book Contribution; “Spirit of Talk Talk”

“A richly illustrated, beautifully designed book celebrating the music and art of the legendary Talk Talk.”

I provided a few thoughts on the band Talk Talk, which stemmed from an interview I conducted with James Marsh, for my “Xfm 25″ radio documentary about the album “The Colour Of Spring”. James is the wonderful illustrator whose artwork has become synonymous with Talk Talk’s music. He designed all of the bands album sleeves along with posters and the covers of their numerous 45’s and 12” singles.

The interview was conducted over a Skype connection and James turned out to be a superb contributor. In fact, he was pretty much the only primary source of content – since the band split in 1991 and have been reluctant to grant interviews since.

James asked me for some comments about the group for his book “Spirit of Talk Talk” which he co-authored with Toby Benjamin and was published in September 2012. The book features 100 written contributions from bands, label owners, DJs and “creatives”.

Click here for more information about the book.

Published by Rocket 88 books, an imprint of Essential Works