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  • The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction

    Author(s): Jonathan Sterne
    Published: 2003
    Pages: 472
    Illustrations: 48 illus.
    Sales/Territorial Rights: World
  • Cloth: $99.95 - In Stock
    978-0-8223-3004-2
  • Paperback: $27.95 - In Stock
    978-0-8223-3013-4
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  • List of Figures ix

    List of Abbreviations for Archival and Other Historical Materials Cited xi

    Acknowledgments xiii

    Hello! 1

    1. Machines to Hear for Them 31

    2. Techniques of Listening 87

    3. Audible Technique and Media 137

    4. Plastic Aurality: Technologies into Media 179

    5. The Social Genesis of Sound Fidelity 215

    6. A Resonant Tomb 287

    Conclusion: Audible Futures 335

    Notes 353

    Bibliography 415

    Index 437
  • Co-winner of the Book of the Year Award, NCA Critical and Cultural Studies Division

    Awards

  • Co-winner of the Book of the Year Award, NCA Critical and Cultural Studies Division

  • “Jonathan Sterne confronts what is certainly the most challenging topic in the study of auditory culture—what happened when modern technologies came crashing into ways of sound making, communicating and listening—with outstanding results. Through disciplined arguments bolstered by plenty of original research and with refreshing critiques of many cherished notions, The Audible Past forms a basis from which to address central questions of communication studies, musicology and music history, film sound and media studies, perception and culture, all those areas where listening and sound impinge upon cultural history and theory.”—Douglas Kahn, author of Noise, Water, Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts — N/A

    “Jonathan Sterne’s The Audible Past boldly stakes out a largely neglected but important topic, the history of sound in modern life.”—John Durham Peters, author of Speaking into the Air: A History of the Idea of Communication — N/A

    ”Jonathan Sterne’s The Audible Past has come along to set the record straight on the cultural origins of sounds and systems, on machines and the mechanisms of culture. He’s come here to give us the lowdown on how the technology evolved. Think of the book as a kind of sonic map of the origins of the way we listen to things around us, as a primer for the sonically perplexed.”—Paul D. Miller a.k.a. Dj Spooky that Subliminal Kid — N/A

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  • Description

    The Audible Past explores the cultural origins of sound reproduction. It describes a distinctive sound culture that gave birth to the sound recording and the transmission devices so ubiquitous in modern life. With an ear for the unexpected, scholar and musician Jonathan Sterne uses the technological and cultural precursors of telephony, phonography, and radio as an entry point into a history of sound in its own right. Sterne studies the constantly shifting boundary between phenomena organized as "sound" and "not sound." In The Audible Past, this history crisscrosses the liminal regions between bodies and machines, originals and copies, nature and culture, and life and death.

    Blending cultural studies and the history of communication technology, Sterne follows modern sound technologies back through a historical labyrinth. Along the way, he encounters capitalists and inventors, musicians and philosophers, embalmers and grave robbers, doctors and patients, deaf children and their teachers, professionals and hobbyists, folklorists and tribal singers. The Audible Past tracks the connections between the history of sound and the defining features of modernity: from developments in medicine, physics, and philosophy to the tumultuous shifts of industrial capitalism, colonialism, urbanization, modern technology, and the rise of a new middle class.

    A provocative history of sound, The Audible Past challenges theoretical commonplaces such as the philosophical privilege of the speaking subject, the visual bias in theories of modernity, and static descriptions of nature. It will interest those in cultural studies, media and communication studies, the new musicology, and the history of technology.

    About The Author(s)

    Jonathan Sterne teaches in the Department of Communication and the Program for Cultural Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. He writes about media, technology, and the politics of culture, and is codirector of the online magazine Bad Subjects: Political Education for Everyday Life.

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