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Sounds of Modern History

Sounds of Modern History: Auditory Cultures in 19th- and 20th-Century Europe

Edited by Daniel Morat
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Sounds of Modern History
    Book Description:

    Long ignored by scholars in the humanities, sound has just begun to take its place as an important object of study in the last few years. Since the late 19th century, there has been a paradigmatic shift in auditory cultures and practices in European societies. This change was brought about by modern phenomena such as urbanization, industrialization and mechanization, the rise of modern sciences, and of course the emergence of new sound recording and transmission media. This book contributes to our understanding of modern European history through the lens of sound by examining diverse subjects such as performed and recorded music, auditory technologies like the telephone and stethoscope, and the ambient noise of the city.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-422-9
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)
    Daniel Morat

    In 2005 Michele Hilmes asked whether there was a field called “sound culture studies” and whether it mattered.¹ In 2012 the publication of theOxford Handbook of Sound Studiesand theSound Studies Readerby Routledge was a very strong indication that there indeed is such a field and that it has already consolidated itself (that is, if handbooks and readers may generally be taken to be a sign of research consolidation in a defined field).² In fact, there can be no doubt that since the early 1990s, sound and auditory perception have come to play an increasingly important part...

  5. Part I: Sound History in Perspective

    • 1 Futures of Hearing Pasts
      (pp. 13-22)
      Mark M. Smith

      Consider this chapter as a meditation of sorts, one that ponders the future of sound studies. I could take the additive, enumerative approach and simply list specific topics that I suspect will emerge in the field in the next decade. And, to be sure, I will do a little of that. But I have opted to think about something a little broader, with reach, traction, and interpretive purchase—and, frankly, with much greater fidelity to the actual history and historiography of sound studies that goes beyond mere prognostication and enumeration. I would like, in short, to consider how sound studies,...

  6. Part II: Literature, Science, and Sound Technologies in the Nineteenth Century

    • 2 English Beat: The Stethoscopic Era’s Sonic Traces
      (pp. 25-45)
      John M. Picker

      May 2010 saw the publication in the United States of three books on noise: Garret Keizer’sThe Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want: A Book About Noise; George Foy’sZero Decibels: The Quest for Absolute Silence; and George Prochnik’sIn Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise. It is safe to say that the appearance of just one of these titles would have attracted the attention of scholars of aural history and culture. But the simultaneous appearance of all three, written by journalists, published by trade presses (PublicAffairs, Scribner, and Doubleday, respectively), and reviewed in the...

    • 3 The Human Telephone: Physiology, Neurology, and Sound Technologies
      (pp. 46-68)
      Anthony Enns

      Some historians describe the telephone as a prosthetic device designed to simulate, enhance, and extend the sensory functions of the ear, thus overcoming the limitations of the body and enabling the perception of sound across vast distances. Other historians describe the development of the telephone as part of the history of acoustic automata, which were designed to simulate the organs of sound production, such as the lungs, the larynx, and the lips. However, few historians explain how the development of the telephone was connected to a broader crisis in perception that occurred in the nineteenth century. This crisis is more...

  7. Part III: Sound Objects as Artifacts of Attraction

    • 4 Listening to the Horn: On the Cultural History of the Phonograph and the Gramophone
      (pp. 71-100)
      Stefan Gauß

      The act of listening (and seeing), the construction of sense, occurs as a historically determined process. The modality and models of this process vary according to place, time, and community. The multifaceted and changeable implications of an acoustic event depend upon the means by which the listener receives it. The listener is never confronted with an abstract, ideal sound detached from all materiality. Thus the question of the history of auditory perception leads to a further question of material conditionality and its effect on this history.

      Listening is an activity that is always connected with gestures, spaces, and habits. Those...

    • 5 Phones, Horns, and “Audio Hoods” as Media of Attraction: Early Sound Histories in Vienna between 1883 and 1933
      (pp. 101-126)
      Christine Ehardt

      In her “Lectures from the Future,” the peace activist and Nobel Prize winner Bertha von Suttner wrote in 1889:

      The prospects of the immediate future already offer a lot of pleasure: the phonograph, which records and reproduces both our words and our voices; the telephone, which broadcasts those same voices across vast distances; … the opera performances and political speeches brought into our homes in this way …, indeed, all those marvelous valves and channels that carry everything imaginable into our homes.¹

      The idea of listening to voices that are far away, or that are even already in the past,...

  8. Part IV: Music Listening in the Laboratory and in the Concert Hall

    • 6 From the Piano Pestilence to the Phonograph Solo: Four Case Studies of Musical Expertise in the Laboratory and on the City Street
      (pp. 129-152)
      Alexandra E. Hui

      In 1884 the music critic Eduard Hanslick lamented how dangerous the streets of Vienna had become. The refined listener was defenseless against the cacophony of, not the noise of the city, but the bad music of its inhabitants. The assault on the ear was both physical and psychological. It had to be stopped. Hanslick, for his part, proposed reducing the number of piano students.

      Thirty years later and a continent away, a brigade of demonstration experts were dispatched by the Edison Company to instruct the public in the proper operation of the new Edison Diamond Disk Phonographs. Through demonstration recitals,...

    • 7 The Invention of Silence: Audience Behavior in Berlin and London in the Nineteenth Century
      (pp. 153-174)
      Sven Oliver Müller

      In this chapter I will argue that the analysis of audience behavior calls for a historical approach. The reasons why talking, eating, and even fighting in the aisles ceased to be acceptable forms of behavior is a question that is significant not only for musicologists, but for historians as well. I suggest that we need a change of perspective, moving away from the study of musical works or the aesthetic debates on music to an investigation of the actual experiences and practices of participants.

      To draw out the historical importance of music, I suggest substituting a works-based approach with an...

  9. Part V: The Sounds of World War I

    • 8 Cheers, Songs, and Marching Sounds: Acoustic Mobilization and Collective Affects at the Beginning of World War I
      (pp. 177-200)
      Daniel Morat

      The so-calledAugusterlebnis(“August experience”) is no longer a source of contention in historical research. The term refers to the idea that the outbreak of World War I in August 1914 led to a wave of nationalistic enthusiasm for the war throughout the German Empire that leveled internal political divisions and gave rise to national unity in the face of an external threat. This contemporary perception was long characteristic of the general image of the beginning of World War I in Germany and was in many cases still being restated in the historiographical literature in the 1980s.¹ The 1990s then...

    • 9 Listening on the Home Front: Music and the Production of Social Meaning in German Concert Halls during World War I
      (pp. 201-224)
      Hansjakob Ziemer

      In 1915, while in the trenches of Verdun, the music journalist, Paul Bekker, wrote a review of the premiere of theAlpensinfonieby Richard Strauss without having actually attended the performance in Berlin’s Philharmonic Hall. With only the score of the symphony at his disposal, he imagined his listening experience “as if” he had visited the concert hall. He wrote how, in his imagination, he arrived at the concert hall and noticed its faulty architecture, and made observations about other fellow listeners. He went on to describe the sounds, the development of the musical themes and structures, and he recorded...

  10. Part VI: Auditory Cultures in the Interwar Period

    • 10 In Storms of Steel: The Soundscape of World War I and its Impact on Auditory Media Culture during the Weimar Period
      (pp. 227-255)
      Axel Volmar

      Research in the history of science and communication has emphasized a profound turning point in the auditory media culture of the Western world at the beginning of the twentieth century. This has mainly been characterized as the result of a process of mechanization and mediatization, which—as a consequence of industrialization and urbanization—mainly took place in towns and cities. Karin Bijsterveld has traced the joys and concerns of the technical age in a social and technological history of noise and noise control, while Emily Thompson has focused on the applied disciplines of architectural acoustics then emerging to explain the...

    • 11 Sound Aesthetics and the Global Imagination in German Media Culture around 1930
      (pp. 256-277)
      Carolyn Birdsall

      This chapter takes up Kate Lacey’s call for radio scholars to conduct medium-specific analyses that draw on cultural historical insights and reflect on sound culture at large. In the contemporary field of radio studies, she argues, the efforts to establish a scholarly community and institutional settings for radio studies may, ten years later, run the risk of fixing definitions too narrowly, separating radio from other medial forms, and disconnecting it from broader debates in studies of media and communication. According to Lacey, there is a certain danger in “continuing to isolate radio, to separate it off from its rightful connections...

    • 12 Neurasthenia, Civilization, and the Sounds of Modern Life: Narratives of Nervous Illness in the Interwar Campaign against Noise
      (pp. 278-302)
      James G. Mansell

      In 1907, Marcel Proust sealed himself in a cork-lined room to free himself from the noises of the Boulevard Haussmann which passed outside. He later wroteIn Search of Lost Time(1913–1927), a series of novels resonating with the city sounds which echoed in his mind.¹ He was not the only writer of the period to require refuge from the metropolitan din. Joris-Karl Huysmans, author of the infamous decadent novel,Against Nature(1884), was also hyper-sensitive to Paris’s street sounds.² Fifty years earlier in London, writer Thomas Carlyle had soundproofed his attic and retreated there to think.³ Along with...

  11. Part VII: The Sounds of World War II

    • 13 The Silence of Amsterdam before and during World War II: Ecology, Semiotics, and Politics of Urban Sound
      (pp. 305-324)
      Annelies Jacobs

      These quotes, telling us about Amsterdam before and during World War II, depict within a few short sentences two very different types of silence. Peaceful silence is evoked by the fading sounds of daily life, whereas the unexpected absence of the sounds of war and traffic conjure up an eerie hush. In the first place, these examples show that in this chapter on the silence of Amsterdam, the focus will be on its sounds since it is impossible to write about the first without mentioning the latter. Second, both quotes illustrate how intricately the meaning and impact of sound and...

  12. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 325-328)
  13. Index
    (pp. 329-344)