A Cinema for the Ears: Imagineering the Audio-Cinematic through Podcasting

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


As part of the submission criteria for the BBCs 2019 commissioning call for audio programming, podcasts were described as "a visually powerful form of audio, they can be a cinema for the ears". In both popular and academic contexts, this application of a visual rhetoric to describe an audio only experience is an attempt to define what is still a relatively ‘new’ medium. However, even if we accept that sound is intrinsic to any conceptual claim about the nature of "the cinematic", how can images not be deemed essential to any understanding of a cinematic ontology? Assertions as to the cinematic nature of podcasts arguably align with the notion of a visual imaginary in the listener, evoked by heightened audio characteristics that a particular show may possess. Yet, focusing on film-centred podcasts specifically, which in terms of content and form are implicitly and often explicitly concerned with the properties of the cinematic, opens a conceptual avenue to analysing the idea of a visual form of audio. There are, of course, myriad film-oriented podcasts, offering a bewildering array of themes and forms, however, in the main they provide a secondary, support platform for the affirmation of cinema culture, rather than manifesting a unique cinematic experience of their own. There are, however, examples of podcasts that attempt to actualise what I will call an 'audio-cinematic' experience, deploying the creative potential of the podcast to create an experiential aura that invokes the cinematic imagination. In this article, I draw upon Francesco Casetti’s reconceptualization of the cinematic and a process of assemblage to theorise podcasting’s phenomenological listening practices. Furthermore, reflecting on the conceptual lineage of Sound Studies & Radio Studies and sound focused Film Studies, I posit the ‘audio-cinematic’ potential of podcasts that utilise the imaginative space created by the ‘lack’ of an image, by producing audio experiences that specifically call to a listener's memories, interpretations and emotions associated with cinematic engagement. The sonic dimensions of audio-cinematic podcasts are analysed through indicative examples including You Must Remember This, Phantom Power, Radio Atlas, along with a self-reflexive examination of my creative work on The Cinematologists Podcast.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 7 May 2020


  • Podcasting
  • Cinema
  • Sound Studies
  • Digital Culture
  • Sound Design

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