Dolby Institute: Radiolab Investigates Big Topics Through Sound

January 19, 2015 1:46am
Source: Dolby Institute

At the Dolby® Institute, we try to point your attention to people who use sound and music in distinctive and interesting ways to tell stories. Excellent sound design isn't exclusive to big-budget Hollywood blockbuster movies. One great example is Radiolab.

Radiolab, produced by WNYC for US public radio, sounds unlike any other show on the radio. Using a unique combination of music, sound design, and voice, the show explores big topics of a scientific and philosophical nature. Unafraid to attack weighty subjects like the nature of time and the way animals perceive color, Radiolab founder and host Jad Abumrad draws on his background in experimental music composition to use music and sound effects that paint images and build a compelling listening experience for the show’s audience.

Over more than a decade, Radiolab has won numerous awards, including the National Academies Communication Award and the coveted Peabody Award. It has become one of the most successful podcasts available, and it is designed and mixed to be experienced through a great-quality sound system.

Abumrad, who received a MacArthur "genius" grant in 2011, says about the unique sound of the show: "If I do my job right, I can use words and sounds that are like words, or somewhere between words and music, to create images in your head. They're so immediate and undeniable that literally those images will just pop into your head. But those images don't exist. You have to paint them, so I'm starting the process and you're finishing it. It's like I hand you the paintbrush and you finish the painting."