Patricia Jäggi

Swiss Sounds On Air – Shortwave Broadcasting as Transnational Culture of Auditory Knowledge

In my dissertation project, I investigate radio production as a (trans)culturally shaped process. Selected broadcasts of the Swiss Shortwave Radio of the Cold War era will be analysed by looking at the interactions between content and design.

From a perspective of the listener, radio programmes address a cognitive and an emotional side (Föllmer 2013). The latter is connected with the appeal of a broadcast, the aesthetical or atmospheric qualities of the produced and used music, voices, and noises. In my investigation I suppose that similar cultural patterns or ideas are negotiated in all three acoustical modalities. Put together in a programme, they form the parts of a narrative structure. The resulting structure is generated through the sequencing of different elements in the montage or cutting process. In my analysis, I intend to focus on the interrelation between the used sounds as voices, music and noises. I will focus in my analysis mainly on music and the aesthetic qualities or cultural meanings which are attributed to it.

In pre-studies that I conducted, two interlaced contexts proved to be essential for the analysis of radiophonic sounds: The attribution of meaning to sounds and the role of the radio as transmitter of knowledge. The Swiss Shortwave Service aspired to be the „Voice of Switzerland“ heard by different groups of listeners. Besides the Swiss expatriates, the Non-Swiss became an important target group which had to be taught about Switzerland. To make the country an acoustical experience, the radio makers for example also experimented with field or live recordings to give insights into the Swiss culture. The acoustical encounters with Switzerland could be heard in eight languages and were designed according to the cultural habits of the listener. Therefore special attention will be given to the transnational way of broadcasting knowledge about Switzerland to foreigners. The two aspects mentioned – the cultural attribution of aesthetical qualities to sound and radio as culture of auditory knowledge –  are interwoven in a conception of knowledge which exceeds a primarily cognitive concept and for example also takes into account the sensuality of sounds and listening. The radio studio of the Swiss Shortwave Service is regarded as a place where a transnational culture of auditory knowledge was negotiated and lived. Besides the analysis of radio transmissions of different languages, oral history interviews with radio makers will also provide important source material for my investigation.

Further information here.

Supervisor: Walter Leimgruber


Patricia Jäggi is a PhD-student at the Program of Cultural Studies and European Ethnology in Basel and a research assistant at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts – Music. She is part of the SNF-project Broadcasting Swissness – Musical practices, institutional contexts, and the reception of traditional popular music: the acoustic construction of Swissness on the radio. In 2013, she completed a MA in Cultural Analysis at the University of Zurich with a thesis about the French philosopher Maurice Blanchot and the cultural conception of hesitation. Furthermore, she holds a BA in German Language and Literature from the University of Berne and worked there as a project assistant in edition philology. Her research interests lie above all in the intersections between music, media and cultural theory.