Situating Radio in the Soundscape of Mandate Jerusalem

By Andrea L. Stanton
Submitted to Session P5123 (Middle East Urban Soundscapes in the Long 20th Century, 2018 Annual Meeting
LCD Projector without Audio;
This paper sets radio broadcasting and listening within the broader "picture" of sound in 1930s-1940s Jerusalem. It examines several layers of the radio soundscape: the sounds of the broadcasting studio, the sounds and noise that radio listeners might have experienced from their set, and the sounds of radio broadcasting as mingled with other kinds of sound in Jerusalem's public and private urban spaces. It argues that contextualizing radio sounds and noise within the broader urban soundscape offers a better understanding of radio's position within the social world of mandate Jerusalem, and hence on its impact.

This paper draws upon several kinds of primary sources to develop an understanding of the sound ecologies relating to mandate radio broadcasting and listening in mandate Jerusalem. It looks at government archival documents, including period photographs, to discern the kinds of noises and sounds that characterized the Palestine Broadcasting Service's studio. Here, it focuses on the ways in which sounds were politicized: broadcasting languages, recorded music, and even the sounds of the guards hired to protect the station from attempts at hostile takeovers. The paper also looks at period newspapers, to discern what radio sounds were available to listeners in Jerusalem: what hours were radio broadcasts available, in what languages, on what stations, and with what degree of interference. Finally, it turns to memoirs and other private documents to consider the broader urban soundscape, focusing on other "modern" sounds - gramophone and cinema, automobile and train, telephone and loudspeaker. How did radio fit into the aural picture of welcome and unwelcomed sounds? How were radio sounds incorporated into hearers' and listeners' understandings of sounds and noises as expressing different forms of identity: socio-economic status, gender, ethnicity, or religious community?

In this process, this paper also reflects upon the kinds of written sources that highlight sound and noise - including newspaper articles, letters, memoirs, station archives, and consular or other government officials' reports. How might scholars read these various kinds of written documents in ways that assess their limitations without discarding their utility? How might they provide a helpful entrée for thinking through intersections of sound and social contexts, sound and politics, sound and religion, and sound and economics, that would help provide a better understanding of mandate-era radio's impact within the world of urban Jerusalem?