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Music and the Broadcast ExperiencePerformance, Production, and Audiences$
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Christina Baade and James A. Deaville

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199314706

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199314706.001.0001

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The Machine Hums

The Machine Hums

Music, Special Sound, and the Spaces in Between

(p.109) Chapter 4 The Machine Hums
Music and the Broadcast Experience

Louis Niebur

Oxford University Press

In 1966, BBC2’s anthology series Out of the Unknown broadcast an adaptation of E. M. Forster’s 1909 novella “The Machine Stops,” a story in which humans have abandoned both personal interactions and free will, leaving decision making to “The Machine.” In tone, the production clung faithfully to the Edwardian attitudes of the author, but in terms of sound design, it reflects the changing attitudes toward the role of television music, sound effects, and electronics in media in the 1960s. Realized using musique concrète techniques by Brian Hodgson at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, the ambient sonic background functions simultaneously as sound effect and incidental music. Following Michel Chion’s notion of the acousmêtre, it is possible to understand the ubiquitous electronic music that suffuses the program as the ever-present threat of the Machine. But Hodgson nuances the radiophonic sounds so that they represent various levels of control, following traditional semiotic musical codes.

Keywords:   acousmêtre, BBC, Brian Hodgson, electronic music, Michel Chion, musique concréte, radiophonic, sound design, sound effects, television music

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