In her article “The Affective Power of Sound: Oral History on Radio,” Siobhán McHugh discusses the power of orality (speaking) and the power of aurality (listening) within communication. As a radio documentary maker and oral historian, she uses different works of her own to explain and provide examples of the how listeners draw emotional connections just by what they hear. The three key ways that listeners make emotional connections are through feeling, emotion, and affect: feeling is personal, and tied to the individual; emotion is social, and what is outwardly expressed; and affect is prepersonal, and a sort of non-conscious, automatic reaction. All of these connections are made by the listener, and each listener can have a completely different reaction to the same audio.
Minefields and Miniskirts: McHugh made this radio documentary in 1993, and it recounted a woman’s experience in Vietnam when she held a dying man who had stepped on a land mine. When McHugh asked people who had both listened to the woman’s interview and read the script of the woman’s interview, it was unanimously decided that the audio was more powerful. This solidifies the idea that sound can be a powerful tool that evokes emotion and affect from listeners. Although I couldn’t access the audio for this interview, the fact that the listeners thought the audio was more powerful than the script reminded me of an interview of Katy Perry that I heard. In the interview, she talks about her recent divorce from Russell Brand. Even without seeing the interview, you can hear the strain in her voice, the raw emotion that she feels when talking about him. This is something that can’t be conveyed by just reading the interview, and in that way the audio is so much more powerful. This interview can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R59l0-X4Ohs.
Marrying Out: In this radio documentary, McHugh interviews different Australians about their experience with mixed marriages between Irish Catholics and Anglo-Protestants. While it is no longer a prevalent issue in Australia, mixed marriages were previously frowned upon and many were even shunned or disowned for doing so. In her interviews, she utilizes the different attitudes and emotions of her interviewees to change and set the mood of the broadcast. She also explains how she used exposition (narration) to help establish facts. She attempted to use dramatization in one instance by having an actress read a letter, but ended up using the original interviewee’s reading because her emotions and affect were much more real.
This reading brought to light an idea that I had never really thought of, but that I am now much more aware of. The way that people speak and the way that individuals interpret that speech plays a huge role in how hearing it makes us feel. It may seem like common sense, but there is so much depth to this idea that it really is incredible. To end my response, I’m posting two different versions of the same song: one is acoustic, and one is electronic. The words are exactly the same, but the feelings and affect that are evoked by each of them are completely different for me. Are they for you, too?