Residually Cyclical Styles

Writing was initially affected by orality. That is, it was formulaic and worked to convey the story or message through such formulas as rhythm, repetition, structured organization, etc. This is a sort of residual orality that manifested in the literary style. Eventually, writing became more flowing prose and literature as we realized the freedom of writing since it enhanced (killed?) memory. By this I mean it was no longer necessary to organize content in such an structured, formulaic manner for the sake of recalling it. Then, we became oral again with the advent of TV, radio, electronic orality, etc.

This transition into these new electronic audio genres was affected by our writing style. The idea of the residual orality that helped usher the literary period now began to shift, That is to say, our oral presentation through such media had organizational structure, but it was structure closer to that of writing style: chapters, sections, and topics; ideas were (theoretically) well-organized, but the content itself was more free flowing and natural, the way we might speak in a normal conversation. Looking to the early days of radio, we can see very different speech patterns characterized by a stronger enunciation and enhanced vocal emotion. This is logical, as the speaker was trying to project that emotion in a solely audio form, that being without the benefit of physical/visual gesture (the second half of the canon of Delivery).

This point is still identifiable today when listening to professional voice talent; the concept of the “shock jock” morning radio personality vs. the calm, late-night jazz station DJ vs. the clear, identifiable radio news reporter, who projects ethos, gravitas, authority, and respect. Early Television allowed us to bring gesture (and other visual elements). However, many of these individuals still projected that radio personality and vocal style. Again, there is logic in this point, as they were really performing on stage in front of a live studio audience. As television, audio, and visual technology progressed (and there was less need for vocal projection due to better microphones and amplification), the vocal patterns toned down and become more natural. In movies today, actors can speak normally.

So, how has this affected the style digital orality? I’ll leave this as a tease for a separate post in the near future, since it is a large (lengthy) topic.

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