Imagining Radio Sound: Interference and Collaboration in the BBC Radio Production of Beckett’s All That Fall

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In Samuel Beckett’s works for radio of the 1950s and 1960s there emerges a particular focus on the significance of sound, music and the act of listening. Music plays a dramatic role in Esquisse Radiophonique (Rough for Radio 1), Words and Music and Cascando, while extracts from Schubert’s ‘Death and the Maiden’ underline both the thematics and the affective qualities of All That Fall (1956). Beckett successfully exploits the particular, ethereal nature of radio sound, simultaneously immersive and distanced, and as a result he is rightly considered a sophisticated composer of radio soundscapes. Nevertheless, materials in the BBC’s Written Archive at Caversham reveal the collaborative process at work in realising these plays. The BBC production team for All That Fall, led by Donald McWhinnie, was already deeply involved in radiophonic experimentation, influenced by everything from contemporary musique concrète to techniques developed for The Goon Show. Indeed, certain aspects of the play now considered remarkable should, I argue in this chapter, be attributed as much to McWhinnie and his team as Beckett. This invokes wider questions of collaboration, authority and control in the creative process.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSamuel Beckett and BBC Radio
Subtitle of host publicationA Reassessment
EditorsDavid Addyman, Matthew Feldman, Erik Tonning
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages35
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-137-54265-6
ISBN (Print)978-1-349-95130-7
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2017

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