Electronic Soundscapes

Network Lead: Dr David Clayton, University of York

We believe that scholarship in the Humanities relies excessively on visual and textual data. The field of Sound Studies has, we note, begun to correct this bias by investigating auditory experiences, notably the acoustics of buildings and the role of audio creative individuals and artefacts (Pinch and Bijsterveld, 2012). We argue however that this niche field has not fully investigated the broader socio-economic and cultural environment within which sound technologies developed and has failed to comprehensively address the implications of new soundscapes.

For example, loudspeakers, which were located in many public sites, had a transformative effect on representative and community politics; and the magnetic tape reshaped music and drama, enabling the manipulation of recorded sound.

The network’s primary focus is on Britain and on its transnational relations because historians have not yet engaged systematically with the international roots of electronic cosmopolitanism. Unlike North Western Europe, which were centres of state-sponsored sound innovations, and unlike American firms, which became global leaders in commodifying amplified sound, the standard view of Britain is that the culture and science of sound evolved without the same level of direct government or commercial sponsorship. Most agree that the BBC monopolised broadcasting and was highly selective in how it promoted new sound technologies. The network will re-evaluate this contestable truism, examining the role of national and international networks and how they interacted with processes of state building, the emergence of social movements representing marginalised groups such as the disabled, and the creation of markets for electronic sound. As such the network engages with wider methodological shifts across the humanities, which seek to ‘decentre’ academic study, opening up enquiry via “multiple layers”, from the local to the global.

University Studentship project title Main Supervisor Co-supervisor
Leeds: Rachel Garratt Enabling or Disabling? Deaf responses to new audio technologies in the early 20th century Graeme Gooday

Philosophy, Religion and the History of Science, University of Leeds

Esme Cleall

Department of History, University of Sheffield

Sheffield: Marta Donati Sound on the home front, 1914-1945 Beryl Pong

School of English, University of Sheffield

Emilie Morin

Department of English and Related Literature, University of York

York: Jean-Baptiste Masson National and global networks in electronic music, 1945-1967 David Clayton

Department of History, University of York

James Mooney

School of Music, University of Leeds