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Himan Brown, radio drama and your brain

Emma Brown

It's hard not to sit in front of the computer all day without wondering what it's doing to your brain. Clicking from email to Facebook to some fascinating story in an obscure journal somewhere, falling into the fabulous YouTube abyss, clicking back to email and why not check the latest news on that favorite blog?

Decades ago, radio producer Himan Brown wondered how television was changing our brains by offering up pictures to replace the ones our minds once created on their own. He told half-hour and hour-long radio dramas, using carefully selected sounds to coax listeners' brains into creating complex and vivid fantasy worlds.

"That doesn't exist in television," he said in an interview with CNN in 2000. "Fantasy is a very private development in our culture for each single person. I quote you from a letter that a little boy wrote me, 9 years old: 'I love radio because I can see the pictures better.' We're working here with the imagination -- the theater of the imagination."

You can test your own ability to create make-believe worlds -- and your attention span -- by listening to one of Mr. Brown's episodes of "CBS Radio Mystery Theater," which resurrected radio drama for listeners during the 1970s and early 80s.

Himan Brown died June 4 at age 99, and his full obituary appeared in the Post today.

By Emma Brown  |  June 8, 2010; 8:58 AM ET
Categories:  Emma Brown  | Tags: himan brown cbs radio mystery theater  
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Himan Brown was a brilliant producer of radio plays throughout his career. I'm listening to an episode of the CBS Radio Mystery Theater as I type this.

Posted by: digital_fightnews1 | June 8, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

I listened to a few of the episodes as I was writing about Mr. Brown ... made me nostalgic for a time I didn't even live through!

Posted by: Emma Brown | June 8, 2010 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Many years ago (1980, to be exact) as a young journalist working in Washington I was assigned to go to New York and meet with Hi Brown and to write a story about the CBS Radio Mystery Theater. Not only did I learn that Mr. Brown was a gifted producer, director, and storyteller, but I also experienced the full meaning of the term "theater of the mind." What he was able to accomplish with a good script, some dedicated and latented actors, and a good sound man, has not been duplicated in today's world of cookie-cutter radio formats. Radio drama is a lost art, and I fear that the golden age of radio has just lost its last true pioneer.

Posted by: rbunzel | June 9, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

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