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Electrified voices. Acoustic Communities in the Soviet Union, Germany and Great Britain at the beginning of electronic voice reproduction

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East versus west through audio transmissions and recordings

Better understanding of how radio and voice shaped culture, communication with the masses and dissemination of propaganda helps to examine the historical east-west divide under a different light.

Digital Economy

Voice recordings and radio speeches played an important part in how societies and communities evolved in Europe and in the Soviet Union. From the proliferation of radio, or 'radiofication', to the creation of an 'acoustic culture', the role that electronic voice reproduction played in shaping communities progressed quite uniquely in the Soviet Union. The EU-funded ELECTRIFIED VOICES (Electrified voices. Acoustic communities in the Soviet Union, Germany and Great Britain at the beginning of electronic voice reproduction) project analysed early sound sources and public debate on radio and film to understand this phenomenon. It examined and cross-compared three countries in this respect, namely Germany, Great Britain and the Soviet Union, to document the rise of a new type of media community in the Soviet Union. The main focus was on understanding the mediatisation of religious, professional and gender-based communities in the country. Investigating the dynamics between sound and community – particularly the social implications – showed how communication in the Soviet Union evolved very differently from that in the west. It considered the voice of the omniscient narrator, intended exclusion of music, environmental noise and role of a mobile cameraman in creating ideologies in both the east and the west. The project also examined the formation of techno-scientistic types of communality, particularly in Soviet society, where science was entitled to solve social problems. It noted how being under state control until the 1980s, sound production in the USSR blurred distinctions between entertainment, propaganda and brainwashing. Also examined was the communication concept of stage sound, which takes its origin from the theatre, to build traditional types of communality based on common history, shared collective memory and identity. Studying the interrelationship between sound and community terms of sound consumption also revealed that the spread of radio, sound film and telephone technologies in Russia was radically different from Europe. Research also showed the discomfort that Russian leaders had behind the microphone between 1930 and 1999. Project results offer a very interesting angle on electronic voice reproduction and communication, along with social and political repercussions, helping further explain the east-west divide and its symptoms in recent decades. Researchers, sociologists and historians working in the area of media culture will certainly gain new insight from this endeavour.


Radio, east-west divide, acoustic culture, electronic voice reproduction, collective memory

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3 December 2021