This is a disappointing and turgid article which takes too long to make a point about the listeners' imagination and what I term 'perceptual filling-in' (compensating individually for the 'blindness' of radio). 'Wireless Drama' reads all the worse when set in comparison with other publications of 1924. There was the bright and anecdotal journalism of Cecil Lewis's 'Radio Times' contributions and his Broadcasting From Within of January 1924. Reith's chapter on radio drama in his September book, analysed in 4.1.17, whatever the heavy management style, is full of observation about technique and sensitive to some creative issues. Reith wishes to inspire listeners to seek out radio drama. I have just praised Victor Smythe's short 'The Play in the Studio' ('The Radio Times' 29 February 1924 p 391) for its rapid over-view of actors in the studio and the way he lets the listeners in on some of the mysteries of the new 'art form'.
Jeffrey spends most of his article meandering on the topic of the unconscious:
Almost all of us have, consciously or sub-consciously, a strong sense of the dramatic. The hidden books of our lives are, for the best part, made up of pages full of dramatic incident. We have all been thrilled by joy, fear, agony, love, hate, inspiration, anger, passion, and other emotions.
This leads him on to the 'restraint' and 'training' that enables us to keep these emotions 'rigorously repressed'. But:
the sub-conscious mind stores up every experience, and these experiences may provide the mental understanding to appreciate incidents outside ourselves.
This store includes:
All the accumulated knowledge of sea, ships, storms, etc., which we have read, heard, or seen, will supply a picture with a wealth of infinite detail and truth.
The source of this theory of the unconscious could well have been Freud, who was popularised from the 1890s. But more likely it was the French psychologist TheoduleArmand Ribot (1839-1916) whose Les Maladies de la Mémoire was widely translated and referred to. Here Ribot's theory of the unconscious is summarised:
All memories of past experiences are recorded by the nervous system and, though not available to the conscious mind, may be evoked by an appropriate stimulus.
(Benedetti, 1999, 185)
There is a theatrical connection through Stanislavski, who used Ribot's work and his term 'affective memory'. But Stanislavski's My Life In Art was not published till May 1924 and then only in America, and his main explanation of the actor and the unconscious not till more than a decade later in An Actor Prepares.
So Jeffrey finally brings this pop psychology round to wireless drama:
With broadcasting there is not the need to perpetrate the crudity of a papier-mâché ship on rolling billows of canvas unwarranted absurdities presumed to induce an illusion on an intelligent mind! Thus, although we have never actually been in a disaster at sea, our sub-consciousness will supply a personal analogy, if we have ever passed through a moment's experience which prompted the feeling of fear of death, or steadfast courage, or resignation.
This is a clumsy link and combined with his other argument repeated in his other scant writings that radio drama supplants the stage's shortcomings. We have got to his main point:
The amazing advantage of listening, without sight, to words which are arranged to build emotion-compelling situations, is that every person places the emotion in a setting fitted to, or known by, him.
This is painful reading. The message is dragged down by the grammar. Through the whole piece, Jeffrey's subordinate clauses are enough to discourage the attention of a popular audience. There is no selling of the latest plans nor of lifting the veil on his future project sound effects (4.1.1). Jeffrey was still Director of the Aberdeen Station and about to direct, and act in, 'Cramond Brig and the Gudeman' (William B. Murray), 27 June 1924 Aberdeen and S.B. to Glasgow and Edinburgh 8.45-9.45.
Main Index | Chapter 4 Index | Section 4.5