The Soundscape of Modernity: Architectural Acoustics and the Culture of Listening in America, 1900-1933 / Edition 1

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Overview

In this history of aural culture in early-twentieth-century America, Emily Thompson charts dramatic transformations in what people heard and how they listened. What they heard was a new kind of sound that was the product of modern technology. They listened as newly critical consumers of aural commodities. By examining the technologies that produced this sound, as well as the culture that enthusiastically consumed it, Thompson recovers a lost dimension of the Machine Age and deepens our understanding of the experience of change that characterized the era.Reverberation equations, sound meters, microphones, and acoustical tiles were deployed in places as varied asBoston's Symphony Hall, New York's office skyscrapers, and the soundstages of Hollywood. The control provided by these technologies, however, was applied in ways that denied the particularity of place,and the diverse spaces of modern America began to sound alike as a universal new sound predominated.

Although this sound—clear, direct, efficient, and nonreverberant—had little to say about the physical spaces in which it was produced, it speaks volumes about the culture that created it. By listening to it, Thompson constructs a compelling new account of the experience of modernity inAmerica.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"...an absorbing book, as accessible in its technical content as it is provocative in its cultural interpretations." Daniel J. Kevles The New York Review of Books

The MIT Press

"...enlivened by copious photographs and architectural illustrations - a valuable source." Tom Perchard The Wire (UK)

The MIT Press

"The Soundscape of Modernity describes the modern development of acoustics in wonderful, and easily understood, detail." John Bishop The American Organist

The MIT Press

"This is a marvelous book and a seminal primer on how and why technology modified our taste." Derek Sugden The Architectural Review

The MIT Press

"Thompson's narrative is elegantly written and wonderfully engaging." Leon Botstein
Los Angeles Times Book Review

The MIT Press

" The Soundscape of Modernity describes the modern development of acoustics in wonderful and easily understood detail." John Bishop The American Organist

The MIT Press

Publishers Weekly
In a pioneering study of America's culture of listening, University of Pennsylvania professor of the history and sociology of science Emily Thompson depicts a culture busily rationalizing, quantifying and taming sound in The Soundscape of Modernity: Architectural Acoustics and the Culture of Listening in America 1900 1933. Beginning with the extraordinary (and little known) career of architectural engineer Wallace Sabine, from his felt-covered acoustical correction of the Rhode Island House of Representatives to his role in the influential design of Boston's Symphony Hall, Thompson analyzes the checkered (and ultimately futile) history of noise abatement and the implications of the introduction of electronics. Her account culminates in the design and construction of Rockefeller Center, and is powered throughout by the utopianism of the scientists, architects and engineers she depicts. (May) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262701068
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 510
  • Sales rank: 990,755
  • Product dimensions: 8.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Emily Thompson is a Professor of History at Princeton University.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Ch. 1 Introduction: Sound, Modernity, and History 1
Ch. 2 The Origins of Modern Acoustics 13
I Introduction: Opening Night at Symphony Hall 13
II Acoustics and Architecture in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries 18
III Wallace Sabine and the Reverberation Formula 33
IV Music and the Culture of Listening in Turn-of-the-Century America 45
V Conclusion: The Critics Speak 51
Ch. 3 The New Acoustics, 1900-1933 59
I Introduction 59
II Sabine After Symphony Hall 62
III The Reverberations of "Reverberation" 81
IV New Tools: The Origins of Modern Acoustics 90
V The New Acoustician 99
VI Conclusion: Sabine Resounded 107
Ch. 4 Noise and Modern Culture, 1900-1933 115
I Introduction 115
II Noise Abatement as Acoustical Reform 120
III Noise and Modern Music 130
IV Engineering Noise Abatement 144
V Conclusion: The Failure of Noise Abatement 157
Ch. 5 Acoustical Materials and Modern Architecture, 1900-1933 169
I Introduction 169
II Acoustical Materials at the Turn of the Century 173
III Acoustical Materials and Acoustical Modernity: St. Thomas's Church 180
IV Acoustical Materials and Modern Acoustics: The New York Life Insurance Company Building 190
V Modern Architecture and Modern Acoustics: The Philadelphia Saving Fund Society Building 207
VI Conclusion 227
Ch. 6 Electroacoustics and Modern Sound, 1900-1933 229
I Introduction: Opening Night at Radio City 229
II Listening to Loudspeakers: The Electroacoustic Soundscape 235
III The Modern Auditorium 248
IV Architectural Electroacoustics: Theater and Studio Design 256
V Electroacoustic Architecture: Sound Engineers and the Electrical Construction of Space 272
VI Conclusion: Reformulating Reverberation 285
Ch. 7 Conclusion: Rockefeller Center and the End of an Era 295
Coda 317
Notes 325
Bibliography 425
Index 471
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