radio play

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
In the control room during a radio play production (1946)

Radio plays are acoustically dramatized staging of stories with distributed speaking roles , sounds and music. The radio play differs from a pure reading ( audio book ) and also from a film because it has no visual elements. Radio plays were originally developed for radio and broadcast there. This makes them the first original art form that radio produced in the 1920s. Since then, the radio play has developed into an independent literary genre .


Detail of a typical radio play manuscript; Blue: the markings of the sound engineering for cutting

Radio play productions are teamwork, even if - in contrast to film - radio plays often only name the author as the author. In collaboration with a dramaturge or editor, the author writes the text, which usually forms the basis for the radio play production (production manuscript). The actual piece, which is later broadcast on the radio or distributed on CD , cassette , record (see also speech record ) or as an MP3 file, is a production that is largely shaped by the director and the actors involved . In addition, two sound engineers (sound and editing) and an assistant director are usually involved in a radio play production. Often a composer , a sound designer , a noisemaker and musician are also hired.


The first original radio play in Europe is considered to be Danger (original title A Comedy of Danger ) by Richard Hughes (BBC 1924). The word “radio play” only slowly established itself after broadcasting in Germany in 1923. The first radio plays of the Berlin broadcasting station were called "Games", later "Broadcast Games". In 1924, the specialist journal Der Deutschen Rundfunk did not write of any "dramatic work that stimulates the listener's imagination and can therefore be as deeply entangled as the radio game".

The history of German radio plays goes back to 1918. At that time, the Telefunken company began editing theater plays for broadcasting by radio. In 1923 the engineer FA Tiburtius staged the first real radio play by today's standards in the experimental studios of Telefunken, of which he was the artistic director. It was called "Anke" and played in a lighthouse. It was never sent. The first radio plays broadcast on German radio were "Zauberei auf dem Sender" by Hans Flesch (on October 24, 1924 in Frankfurt am Main via Welle 467) and "Spuk" by Rolf Gunold (1925 via a Breslau station). In 1926, the Berlin transmitter set up a tub to generate water and rain noises. The first radio play by this station (1926) was called "The acoustic film".

At the end of the 1920s, the effect of spoken texts and texts associated with noises was both accepted and unexplored, so that in 1928 the Prussian Ministry of Culture set up a radio test center in Berlin to explore the limits and possibilities of radio play , which the National Socialists closed again shortly after they came to power.

In the early 1930s, radio plays were so popular on radio that the BBC drew up guidelines for their production, for example on the use of sound effects :

“Noises should underline the mood [of a radio play] rather than illustrate the scene. Suppose you have a dialogue like this: Another glass of port? - Sure. - Noble drop! , then it is obvious what happens when two people drink port wine, and it is unnecessary and probably quite ridiculous to illustrate the dialogue with the sounds of clinking glasses and the pouring of liquid. […] One should in fact understand a play for the radio as a symphonic form in which the spoken word is only a thread in a material woven from sound. "

However, it hailed above all from the layers of low-income criticism. The headline of the tabloid radio newspaper Schlesische Wellen in June 1931:

"Radio play abundance"

and called for radio plays to be reduced to a minimum. Three radio plays a week are too much for the worker who doesn't want to concentrate at home or in the beer garden ("gazebo") after work, but wants to relax and therefore value music.

On October 30, 1938, the original broadcast of The War of the Worlds by HG Wells in New York caused a sensation. Numerous worried citizens reported to the police about an alleged attack on Mars.

In West Germany, the radio play experienced a real boom between 1945 and 1960 , which was reflected in 500 radio plays broadcast each year and a total of 160 printed radio plays. This fact was mainly due to the external circumstances in post-war Germany, where most of the theaters and cinemas were still destroyed.

In the 1950s and to some extent also in the 1960s, the so-called radio play of inwardness, which was characterized by low noise, typically predominated. The primacy was therefore on the language, which is why it is also referred to as "word audio play" - the illustration through sound effects or background noise was minimized and mostly only accepted as so-called "key sounds", noises with symbolic meaning. This promotes the suggestion of an inner world (e.g. memories) in the recipient, which can potentially support the function of coming to terms with the past - which played a major role in the post-war period. For technical reasons, the cut, which at that time often had to be perceived as an audible mark, was avoided. "Because the cut always refers to the magnetic tape on which the radio play was recorded, he insisted on the materiality of the acoustic signifier instead of displacing it in favor of the production of an imaginary signifier ." Bernhard Siegert thus stated above all that for the radio play after 1945 Characteristic of the absence of the radio medium in the radio plays broadcast via the radio. He calls this phenomenon "negative radio aesthetics".

Günter Eich is an important representative of the "word radio play" . Siegert assumes that Eich made a consciously uttered statement for the word radio play when he lets the protagonist Paul say at the beginning of his radio play Das Jahr Lazertis :

“I jumped up when I heard the word. Someone walking past my window must have said it, in conversation and by the way, although it was the word that solved all secrets. For its duration the world was transformed and understood, but in the same breath it was forgotten again "

- Günter Eich

Ludwig Harig's state funeral on January 24, 1969 caused a scandal, probably the largest in German radio play history . With this parody, Harig also broke new acoustical territory, because he managed to get by without acting scenes, but instead only blended original sound material from the speeches at Chancellor Konrad Adenauer's state funeral. Harig and the Saarländischer Rundfunk (SR) were accused of disrespectful handling of a serious issue two years ago. For these reasons, three years later, in 1972, the SR director Franz Mai refused to grant the Luchterhand publishing house the rights to publish records .

In addition to Ludwig Harig, Herbert Schuldt is also considered to be a pioneer at the beginning of new design and listening options in the genre that Klaus Schöning called "New Radio Play" in a radio essay in 1968 . His radio play “Germany recite, Germany recite” (1970) was perceived as a provocation by the listeners of the original broadcast on the first WDR program. Schuldt had recorded previously heard speech material with the simplest of means and had it repeated by non-professional speakers and reworked it in a way that allowed the spoken material to emerge from its original function of conveying meaning and meaning and to form new contexts that suggest a composition of musical material . The radio listeners, who were used to classical music at that station, reacted with indignation to the unusual hearing impressions and are said to have "blocked the WDR switchboard for around two hours" with their calls.

Ferdinand Kriwet was the author and producer of a series of radio plays from the 1960s and 70s that dealt with media theory. On May 21, 1979 the WDR broadcast “Radioselbst. Hörtext 15 “, a collage from a 24-hour recording of the WDR 2 program . This experimental radio play, which he himself called “super broadcast of the radio around the clock”, consisted of 2200 audio snippets and showed one thing above all: that the WDR 2 program sounded like WDR 2 in this subjective abbreviation.

A historical reference work is Reclam's radio play guide from 1969. Bayerischer Rundfunk provided information on current developments in the field of radio art from 1989 to 1996 in the radio play notes program , from 2003 in the weekly series Hör! Spiel! Art.mix , and from 1996 to 2009 in the monthly series Radio play calendar of Deutschlandfunk . In 2009 the radio play calendar was replaced by the Cinch magazine . Since 2015 there has been a new monthly radio play program on Deutschlandfunk, the radio play magazine, which replaces Cinch .

Today Germany is the country where most of the radio plays are produced and heard. The most successful radio play series in Germany and at the same time in the world is the series Die drei ??? . To date, the series has sold over 45 million records, which is estimated to make up 40% of the commercial radio play market. In addition to other "classics" that, like TKKG and Benjamin Blümchen , were originally produced for children and young people, there are around 500 mini labels that serve the independent radio play market in Germany.


On the one hand, there are radio plays, which are primarily produced for broadcast on the radio, and, on the other hand, there are retail radio plays that music companies or audio publishers produce specifically for sale on sound carriers.

From the 1970s onwards, the publication of radio plays on records, cassettes and CDs has become more and more popular, although the trade often does not differentiate between radio plays and readings and incorrectly combines both forms under the term " audio book ". In recent times, many radio plays have also been pressed onto CDs for secondary use and are offered for sale in stores.

Radio plays can be divided into different categories:

  • Original sound - radio plays that use, for example, acoustic material from the environment (such as animal voices, subway noises, dialogues in the supermarket) and largely do without actors' voices
  • Adventure or detective radio plays based on literature that rely on dialogues and are illustrated with realistic noises, if necessary
  • Regional radio plays that create a regional reference based on the language, dialect and regiolect
  • Short radio plays (up to 30 minutes)
  • Audio pieces (also called "mini radio play" or "Dramolet") that are only a few minutes long. Some are created using the collage technique and then show no concrete action, but convey auditory impressions, moods and atmospheres; others are more of a cabaret nature and use the stylistic device of the punch line .

The transitions between sound art , some experimental or non-classical radio plays and radio features , original sound features, literature readings and documentaries are fluid. The radio play and media art genre ranges from performance to net art.

Some popular radio and commercial radio plays are performed as live radio plays with speakers on a stage in front of an audience. This happens very successfully, for example, with certain episodes of the radio play series Die drei ??? . There is a proximity to the staged reading .

Technical implementation

The production of radio plays places high demands on the technical implementation. Since every person has their own extensive listening experience, a realistic recording is only possible under acoustic conditions that essentially correspond to the original situations. This is why studio complexes in which radio plays are produced (so-called radio play complexes ) have several recording rooms of different sizes and with different acoustics. There is a radio play complex in the Berlin House of Broadcasting , in which there is a large recording room with a longer reverberation time and a staircase with different coverings. A medium-sized recording room, which roughly corresponds to a living room, has foldable wall elements to change the acoustics, and there are other built-in components optimized for sound recordings, such as a kitchen and a toilet. None of these rooms have parallel walls to prevent the formation of standing waves (so-called flutter echoes ). In addition, a low-reflection room enables the acoustics to be simulated as they exist outside of closed buildings. In this room there are different accessible areas such as wooden floorboards and gravel. As a house-in-house construction, the entire radio play complex is decoupled from the ambient noise. All rooms are technically connected (partly also via studio windows) with the control room, in which the sound engineer and the radio play director design and monitor the recording. There are comparable radio play production centers in other broadcasters and private studios.

Economic situation

Since the technical and spatial requirements are very high, radio plays, like recordings of orchestral works, are among the most expensive audio productions. Elaborate radio plays are therefore a domain of the public broadcasters . Retail radio plays with several speakers are mostly produced by larger music groups such as Sony or Universal , which can achieve high sales figures thanks to their marketing opportunities. The audiobook platform Audible , which belongs to the Amazon group, also produces radio plays and radio play series.


The oldest award for German-language radio plays is the war blind radio play award, which has been awarded annually since 1952 . Since 1977 the German Academy of Performing Arts in Bensheim has chosen a radio play of the month , from which since 1987 the radio play of the year has been chosen. There are also numerous other national and international radio play awards , such as the ARD Online Award as audience award for the best radio play. There are also numerous awards with which labels and fan groups advertise commercial radio play productions.

Radio play events

Radio plays are also played at their own festivals such as the ARD Radio Play Days , the Zonser Radio Play Days , the Leipzig Radio Play Summer , the sonOhr Radio & Podcast Festival in Bern and the Dresden Hörgarten , which took place in 2004 and 2005 in the Parktheater of the Great Garden in Dresden, and since 2018 the Hörspielwiese Cologne presents.

See also

Portal: Radio  - Overview of Wikipedia content on radio
Portal: Spoken Word  - Overview of Wikipedia content related to spoken word





  • Sibylle Bolik : The radio play in the GDR. Lang, Frankfurt 1994, ISBN 3-631-46955-1 .
  • Reinhard Döhl : The radio play during the Nazi era. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1992.
  • Reinhard Döhl: The New Radio Play. 2nd edition. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1992, ISBN 3-534-80137-7 .
  • Stephan Göritz : radio plays for children on the radio of the GDR. In: Contributions to the history of broadcasting, 21/1987, 3, pages 27-47, East Berlin 1987
  • Peter Gugisch : The development of contemporary radio play in the German Democratic Republic . Phil. Diss., Greifswald, 1965
  • Helmut Heißenbüttel : Horoscope of the radio play . In: Helmut Heißenbüttel: On the tradition of modernity. Essays and Notes 1964-1971. Luchterhand, Neuwied and Berlin 1972.
  • Herbert Kapfer (ed.): From broadcast game to media art. The history of the radio play on Bayerischer Rundfunk 1949–1999. Belleville, Munich 1999. ISBN 3-923646-97-6 .
  • Herbert Kapfer: Communicative and aesthetic functions of the radio play. In: Media Studies. Edited by Joachim-Felix Leonhard. 3rd subband. Verlag de Gruyter, Berlin, New York 2002.
  • Herbert Kapfer: Audio Dramaturgy and Media Art. A lab report. In: The Art of Dramaturgy. Edited by Anke Roeder, Klaus Zehelein. Henschel, Leipzig 2011. ISBN 978-3-89487-655-5
  • Hermann Keckeis : The German Radio Play 1923–1973. Athenaeum 1973.
  • Christian Hörburger : The radio play of the Weimar Republic. Heinz, Stuttgart 1975, ISBN 3-88099-002-6 .
  • Günter Rinke: The pop radio play. Definition - Function - Typology, Bielefeld: transcript 2017, ISBN 978-3-8376-4169-1 .
  • Klaus Schöning (Ed.): New radio play. Text scores. Suhrkamp 1969.
  • Klaus Schöning (Ed.): New radio play. Essays, analyzes, conversations. Suhrkamp 1970.
  • Klaus Schöning (Ed.): New radio play original sound. The consumer as producer. Tries. Work reports. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt 1974, ISBN 3-518-00705-X .
  • Klaus Schöning (Ed.): Traces of the new radio play. Suhrkamp 1982, ISBN 3-518-10900-6 .
  • Rainer Strzolka : Outline of the history of the radio play in the Weimar Republic. Koechert, Hannover 2004, ISBN 3-922556-78-7 .
  • Matthias Thalheim: Dramaturgical staging consequences of artificial head stereophony in funk-dramatic productions , diploma thesis, Humboldt University Berlin 1985, Section Cultural Studies and Aesthetics, Theater Studies, epubli Berlin 2016, ISBN 978-3-7375-9781-4 .
  • Lutz Volke : Relationships with Reality in Radio Drama in the FRG (1950-1980) , dissertation at the University of Rostock, 1983
  • Wolfram Wessels : Radio plays in the Third Reich. Bouvier, Bonn 1985, ISBN 3-416-01926-1 .
  • Stefan Bodo Würffel : Early socialist radio plays. Fischer 1982, ISBN 3-596-27032-4 .
  • Stefan Bodo Würffel: Radio plays from the GDR. Fischer 1982, ISBN 3-596-27031-6 .

Web links

Wiktionary: radio play  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Radio plays  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Audio play databases

Sources on the history of the radio play


Individual evidence

  1. Issue 30, Volume 2, p. 1661. July 27, 1924
  2. Die Funkstunde , Edition 1, 1926, p. 9. Signature of the Berlin State Library: 4 Ona65
  3. Translated from English. Producing Plays for Broadcasting , BBC Year Book 1931, p. 201
  4. Schlesische Wellen, Breslau, June 19, 1931, p. 1. Signature 4 Ona65 / 66-6, 25 / 52.1931 in the Berlin State Library
  5. Bernhard Siegert: The radio play as coming to terms with the past (PDF; 2.3 MB) ( Memento from January 1, 2016 in the Internet Archive ). In: Irmela Schneider / Peter M. Spangenberg (ed.): Media culture of the 50s. Discourse history of the media after 1945 , Vol. I, Wiesbaden 2002, pp. 287–298, here p. 290.
  6. ^ Bernhard Siegert: The radio play as coming to terms with the past. In: Irmela Schneider / Peter M. Spangenberg (ed.): Media culture of the 50s. Discourse history of the media after 1945. Vol. I, Wiesbaden 2002, pp. 287–298, here p. 289.
  7. ^ Bernhard Siegert: The radio play as coming to terms with the past . In: Irmela Schneider / Peter M. Spangenberg (ed.): Media culture of the 50s. Discourse history of the media after 1945. Vol. I, Wiesbaden 2002, pp. 287–298, here p. 291.
  8. ^ Günter Eich: The year Lazertis . In: ders .: Fifteen radio plays , Frankfurt am Main 1973, pp. 314–353, here: p. 314.
  9. Antje Vowinckel: Collages in radio plays: the development of a radiophonic art , Königshausen a. Neumann 1995, pp. 233 f., ISBN 978-3-8260-1015-6
  10. Klaus Schöning "Tendenzen im Neuen Hörspiel", broadcast in the 3rd WDR program on October 3rd, 1968
  11. Schuldt's radio play “Germany recite, Germany recite” was premiered in a shortened version on April 20, 1970 in the first program of the WDR. The complete version was performed as a tape concert on June 25, 1970 in the Düsseldorf scene bar Creamcheese. This version was first heard on the radio on July 15, 2011 in the second program of Bavarian Radio
  12. Klaus Ramm: Speaking is alien to what is spoken; in: Schuldt "Separations", Munich (Belleville) 2015, p. 19.
  13. ^ Vowinckel, p. 229
  14. ^ "New on Deutschlandfunk: 'Das Hörspielmagazin'" , July 4th 2015.
  15. "The three ???" overshadow world stars like Lady Gaga . Wirtschaftswoche . Retrieved November 30, 2013.
  16. "The puberty problems of the 'three ???'" , Spiegel online , June 13, 2009.
  17. The radio play Peter Weiss : The Aesthetics of Resistance (BR / WDR 2007) is a literature reading with only sporadic noises.
  18. Anne Wawro: Wash your ears and then go to the Park Theater . In: Dresdner Latest News Online, August 25, 2004. (Interview with the two organizers of the festival)