Who was Reinhard Dohl

The radio play historian

Frank Olbert: Mr. Schöning, how did you get to know Reinhard Döhl?

Klaus Schöning: I could have met him as early as 1957, because at that time we were both studying in Göttingen. But in fact I didn't get to know him until about ten years later, when his first radio play was being produced by Saarländischer Rundfunk, by my later colleague Johann Kamps and by Heinz Hostnig. He has written a total of almost ten radio plays. They were plays with language, also very interesting in terms of content and time.

Frank Olbert: As an editor, you tended to use his theoretical skills. He became the historian of the new radio play. How did this large-scale series come about?

Klaus Schöning: When I met him at the end of the sixties, the new radio play determined a large part of my work at Westdeutscher Rundfunk. For example, we produced pieces by Handke, von Mon, and later Kagel. The conception of the program has been shaped by two essential aspects since 1963: One was the processing of radio play history, the phenomenon of "radio play" as an independent genre in this volatile medium. The other aspect was that we noticed certain deficits in the production of radio plays, because what presented itself as experimental literature, concrete poetry, sound poetry, was largely ignored. At that time it seemed necessary to me to present the history of the radio play in a historical systematization that actually did not exist at the time. There was a whole series of interesting radio play books that dealt primarily with the dramaturgy, above all of course that of Heinz Schwitzke, who had a lasting impact on the entire superstructure of the traditional radio play and was very normative. We wanted a more objective, simply documentary approach. In this situation I ran into Reinhard Döhl. I told him about it. And he was not only an author, poet and visual artist, but also a university professor. He held a chair for modern German literature in the context of the media in Stuttgart. In other words, my request could also be combined with his interest. The series should be strictly historical and had a title that may sound strange in today's media landscape, where lessons and didactics are no longer so popular: "An attempt at a story and Typology of the radio play in lessons ". However, they should not be programs that had the character of a lecture, but should take into account the acoustic medium in which they took place. And Reinhard Döhl was an excellent author, both from his practice as a poet of concrete poetry, from the background of collage technology, and from his great knowledge in the field of experimental literature and art at the beginning of the century. He was a wonderful interpreter of Hans Arps. Hans Arp described and examined his dissertation not as a visual artist, but as a poet, Dadaist.

Frank Olbert: What effect did the series have?

Klaus Schöning: Above all, it had the effect that the radio play was also taken seriously scientifically. The parts of the new radio play and the Nazi radio play were then published in book form by the Scientific Book Society. The Nazi radio play was also a completely unprocessed chapter at the time. Compiling the scientific apparatus required for these two publications was an immense work. I tried to encourage Reinhard Döhl to continue, because basically what was broadcast could have simply been printed. But he didn't want that. I still find it admirable how he was able to combine his university work - including the work on our series, which ran for 16 years and dealt with the entire history of radio plays up to the eighties - and his artistic work. He was a member of the Stuttgart group, which also included Helmut Heißenbüttel, Max Bense, Franz Mon and Ernst Jandl. In addition to concrete poetry, which is also visual, he has produced graphics and watercolors. He was often in Japan and worked with Japanese calligraphers, got to know Zen Buddhism, a relationship that - in retrospect, I find - fits with his reserved, humorous and self-retiring nature. That characterized him. Perhaps there is also the fact that he was a Westphalian. He was like a Japanese Zen monk from Westphalia with a Greek-stoic attitude, a very humorous but very reserved person, a very lovable friend.