Radio artefacts were indispensable for entertainment, information and control in the early Cold War. They were part and parcel of the urban soundscape; they cultivated a new listening subject and inspired many cross-media adaptations. Those evanescent voices and sounds, although not preserved, left indelible imprints on literature and film, and hence on the collective memory of generations of Hong Kong people. In order to open up the history of radio and its engagement in Hong Kong, this dissertation proposes interconnected frameworks for performing formal readings of radio aesthetics, digging into the transmedial trajectories of adaptations and mutual influence.
Chapter One takes a close look at the political and technical concern behind the adoption of wired technology and how the transnational British enterprise Radio Rediffusion navigated around the contesting ideologies on the frontlines of the Cold War. Chapter Two presents the unique historical case of Lei Ngor, whose work and career at Rediffusion emerged out of the confluence between the craft of traditional storytelling and modern media technology. Chapter Three draws the historical contours of a peculiar genre “sky novel film”, offering new perspectives on the sonic dimension of early Cantonese cinema. Chapter Four explores how modern acoustical technology affected the structure and textuality of literature with a special focus on the USIS-commissioned works by Xu Xu and Eileen Chang.
With close readings of individual program, cross-media adaptation and radio-inspired artwork, this dissertation not only provides a new account of the most flourishing form of cultural consumption in the mid-twentieth century but also presents a powerful argument for the central place of the aesthetics of sound in the history of modern experience.