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Cultural Histories of Noise, Sound and Listening

This project involves lead researchers Ian Biddle and Kirsten Gibson in the compilation of an edited volume comprising 12 historiographically and historically grounded essays, an introduction by the editors. The essays explore ways of thinking about sound historically, and seek to understand how people have understood and negotiated their relationships with the sounding world in Europe from the Middle Ages through to the early twentieth century.

The volume brings together the work of an international group of scholars, among them talented newcomers and leading scholars at the forefront of sound studies. Their work collectively engages sound studies from a broad spectrum of methodological and disciplinary approaches including what Patricia Clough has termed the ‘affective turn’, anthropology, architectural history, ethnomusicology, cultural theory, gender studies, historiography, the history of medicine, science and technology, literary studies, musicology, postcolonial theory and sociology. It thus represents a unique contribution to sound studies precisely for its attempt to negotiate a new conceptual space between recent affective scholarships, ‘presentist’ sound studies scholarship, cultural history and historicism.

The researchers also consider aurality in the broadest sense, dealing with the relationships and intersections between listeningsoundscapesmusic and noise. Through a series of historically-specific case studies, they raise new historiographical questions about the nature of (now silent) auditory cultures of the past and ask in particular how we, as historians, might approach and learn from those cultures.

The volume is divided into three sections (each ordered chronologically):

  • Historicizing Aurality
  • Sound Politics
  • Urban Soundscapes of Europe 


Cultural Histories of Noise, Sound and Listening in Europe, 1300-1918 is available to buy from