Kirstie Hewlett
Kirstie Hewlett

In collaboration with her colleagues at the Schenker Documents Online (SDO) project, Kirstie Hewlett, a former student representative of the SMA (2011-2013) has written and co-produced (with Eleanor Kiff) a documentary entitled ‘Learning to Listen’. It is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Thursday 14/08/2014 at 11:30am, available internationally on iPlayer for 7 days after the broadcast (expires 21/08/2014). For the catch-up recording click here.

Hosted by Dominic Sandbrook, the programme will chart how the first generation of radio users pioneered new ways of listening by delving into Heinrich Schenker’s fascinating record of what he listened to on the radio, which formed a staple part of his diaries across the last decade of his life. The programme features contributions from Ian Bent (University of Cambridge), William Drabkin (University of Southampton), Hedi Siegel (Mannes College of Music, New York) and Kirstie herself (University of Southampton), as well as from Wolf Harranth from the Dokufunk archive in Vienna. It has received generous archive assistance from the ORF, Dokufunk, the Deutsches Rundfunkarchiv and the Österreichische Mediathek.

The broadcast of this programme perfectly coincides with two significant events in the output of SDO: first, the publication of ‘Heinrich Schenker: Selected Correspondence’, which will be available later this year; and second, the transition from the AHRC-funded phase of the project, which has enjoyed three fruitful years under the leadership of William Drabkin at the University of Southampton, to a new phase led by Martin Eybl in Vienna funded by the Fonds zur Wissenschaftlichen Förderung. The coming years will see the transcription and translation of Schenker’s diaries from the last four years of his life (1931–35) and the two years immediately prior to World War I (1912–14). Further information about Schenker Documents Online can be found at:

A more detailed programme description is copied in below.

Learning to Listen

BBC Radio 4, Thursday 14th August, 11:30am | iPlayer:

As broadcasting took the world by storm in the 1920s, the radio quickly became the hub of many households. Entire families would huddle around their receiver, each person individually connected with their own headset. But for this first generation of radio users, the flexible styles of listening that we subconsciously employ today were far from innate – many sat silent and fully attentive, listening just as they would in a concert hall.

Historian Dominic Sandbrook will chart how a new, more informal style of listening gradually evolved in the 1920s and 30s by delving into the diaries of the Austrian music theorist Heinrich Schenker, who began to record what he heard on the radio within days of the inaugural broadcast of Radio Wien – Austria’s first radio station. This fascinating record, which spans just over a decade, offers rare evidence of how new approaches to listening emerged over these formative years. We’ll follow Schenker’s journey as the radio shifts from being something that demanded his rapt attention, to eventually becoming a more integrated part of his domestic setting.

Written by Kirstie Hewlett
Produced by Eleanor Kiff
A TBI production for BBC Radio 4