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Audio vs. Video

Mircea Pricăjan

Publicat Duminică, 5 Noiembrie 2006, ora 18:27

      I’ve always liked to listen, better than to watch. Listening to a radio show, to a play or to an audio book is much more interesting, I believe. It just cracks open the door of your imagination and leaves you space to open it as wide as you like; while watching a movie broadens your imaginative powers.

      In the Romanian culture the audio sensibility of the consumer should be more acute, but, unfortunately, it proves quite the contrary nowadays. During the communist regime—which lasted for more that forty years—everything that a person could do as of culture-consuming was, apart from the occasional plays and movies on cinema or TV (which were both very well supervised and filtered through the unique Party propaganda), was to listen to the radio. I have to admit that I don’t remember much of that, as I was only nine when the ‘89 revolution occurred, but I do have dispersed recollections of feelings I have felt back then. On those I have founded the will to investigate better the cultural means of expression one had back then. And I can now state without erring too much that the radio played an important part in the cultural development of a person living under the communist regime. Radio Free Europe, to be more exact. Of course, that happened firstly because of the things that were said there and not because of the mere pleasure of listening to the radio. But still, unaware, one increased his/her imagination on those bases.

      What followed and what I do remember—the explosion of records containing everything, from rock music to Shakespeare plays and fairy-tales—was a natural step on the scale of that development. I grow up to the sound of those scratched fairy-tales and plays records. And I don’t regret it. Not at all. As I have just said, listening to a story (and before the records, my grandfather did a great job of replacing them by reading me an Ispirescu bed-time fairy-tale every evening) powers-up your imagination incommensurably more than watching the exact same story on screen. Because, for instance, the table the author tells you about takes the shape your own self intellectual structure gives it, and its red paint can take any shade you want—you can see it scarlet-red or you can see it painted in purple-red, whichever suites you better. This is just one example, a quite trivial one, but it encompasses ‘in nuce’ the whole idea, I think. I can still quote entire lines, entire dialogues from those audio recorded plays; I can still go to that place of wonders whenever I hear a tune the executive-producer (or whatever his status was) had chosen as soundtrack for one of my favorite stories—and I can tell you that it usually was a fragment of the world’s greatest symphonies. I would never trade a recorder version of a story for a staged one. Never.

      The trouble with this new visual era can be easily understood from the lines above. Even though every movie or staged play has its advantages and each of it gives something to the perceiver, it limits the imagination, it incarcerates it behind a paper-thin translucent surface which can give the illusion of a far and limitless horizon, but never allows you the opportunity to go and try to reach it. It’s a comfortable way of saying you understood everything about a thing, without acknowledging the fact that you’ve been led and told which perspective to use all the while.

      The western world found a remedy for this situation and it’s called Unabridged Audiobooks. (Or course, before that it was the era of audio radio-shows; some names which might say something to someone: ‘Inner Sanctum’, ‘The Whistler’, ‘The Shadow’, ‘Box 13’, ‘Black Museum’—to name only a few of those dealing with dark-fantasy and horror.) As I have understood, the audio books system was first used to facilitate the access to important works of literature for the blind who didn’t know the Braille alphabet—and it is still used for this purposes. Later it was meant also for those on the road most of the time and who could thus listen to all the books they wanted. Now it is still a profitable business and, usually, after every important book’s release follows the release of its audio version.

      I believe that such an experiment would do much good for the Romanian literature consumer, as well. Radio Cultural Romania broadcasts now and then such shows and it could be a beginning. But, I don’t know why, to me it sounds almost like and ending. Because after so many years of radio performance we still use adaptations, abridged versions of famous works of literature, and we haven’t made the step to the complete and unabridged ones. It’s like we are living in a state of childhood from more than half a century.

      Am I optimistic for the Romanian audio-book industry? No, I have to admit that I am not. We need first great works to be adapted into audio, great novels, great visions of the world, and not all sorts of in-depths self-analysis, of futile personal philosophies about tooth picks. Even though I cherish very much the works of such authors as Mircea Cărtărescu or Adrian Oţoiu, I still can’t imagine how their stories (can I call them that? is it not such a big profanity?) would sound on tape! Maybe Alexandru Ecovoiu’s novels would make a difference, but I’m not sure in this respect either.

      If you feel you need a proof of my truthfulness, I bid you enter any music shop which also holds a stand for audio adaptations and you’ll notice only the same old fairy-tales I myself used to listen to. The only change now is that they come on tapes and not on records.

      No, excuse me; I am making a mistake here. I have seen yesterday the story of “Cinderella” and it was on CD.


© Copyright Mircea Pricăjan
Sursa :   Imagikon
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