The Sound Book: The Science of the Sonic Wonders of the World

The Sound Book: The Science of the Sonic Wonders of the World

by Trevor Cox
     
 

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“A lucid and passionate case for a more mindful way of listening. . . . Anyone who has ever clapped, hollered or yodeled at an echo will delight in [Cox’s] zestful curiosity.”—New York Times

Trevor Cox is on a hunt for the sonic wonders of the world. A renowned expert who engineers classrooms and concert halls, Cox has made a

Overview

“A lucid and passionate case for a more mindful way of listening. . . . Anyone who has ever clapped, hollered or yodeled at an echo will delight in [Cox’s] zestful curiosity.”—New York Times

Trevor Cox is on a hunt for the sonic wonders of the world. A renowned expert who engineers classrooms and concert halls, Cox has made a career of eradicating bizarre and unwanted sounds. But after an epiphany in the London sewers, Cox now revels in exotic noises—creaking glaciers, whispering galleries, stalactite organs, musical roads, humming dunes, seals that sound like alien angels, and a Mayan pyramid that chirps like a bird. With forays into archaeology, neuroscience, biology, and design, Cox explains how sound is made and altered by the environment, how our body reacts to peculiar noises, and how these mysterious wonders illuminate sound’s surprising dynamics in everyday settings—from your bedroom to the opera house. The Sound Book encourages us to become better listeners in a world dominated by the visual and to open our ears to the glorious cacophony all around us.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
11/04/2013
In a world dominated by sight, it’s worth asking: “What fascinating sounds are out there if we just ‘open’ our ears?” British acoustic engineer Cox, an interior acoustics expert and enthusiastic collector of exotic noises, takes readers on a quest for “the most surprising, unexpected, and sublime sounds—the sonic wonders of the world.” Concert halls, classrooms, and open-plan office space illustrate the acoustics of “dead” rooms, whose soft furnishings absorb noise, as opposed to “live” rooms, where reverberating sounds linger in a “bloom” to enhance tone. Cox explores reverberations in caves, churches, oil storage tanks, and the vast emptiness of an old concrete reservoir, while Neolithic burial chambers, Stonehenge, “chirping” Mayan pyramids, and classical Greek theaters give insight into how ancient cultures exploited and enhanced sound. He also looks into how the varied sounds of nature offer insight into human moods as well as animal lifestyles, from the killer shockwaves created by snapping shrimp, to the frequently disastrous impact of human-made noises on whales and dolphins. From the invigorating hiss of a waterfall to the bizarrely metallic twang of rocks striking a frozen lake, Cox reminds us not only of the sonic marvels we often miss, but also how those sounds affect us. 35 illus. (Feb.)
Adam Gopnik
“Reveals how much art there is in the act of listening. Reading it made my ears more mindful.”
Greg Milner
“Bursting with aural arcana that adds just the right amount of tech-savvy detail, The Sound Book brings into relief a world often obscured in our image-heavy existence. Even as we follow Cox to the ends of the Earth, what makes his book a real rush is that it'''''''s ultimately an ear-buzzing journey to the center of our minds.”
Bernie Krause
“A riveting ear-opener. . . . A must-read for sound-lovers of all stripes.”
From the Publisher
"An intriguing tour d'horizon of the world of sound." —Kirkus
Science News
“From its first page to its last, The Sound Book invites readers to close their eyes and open their ears to the sounds, both normal and peculiar, that surround us all.”
Washington Post
“Cox’s enthusiasm for his specialty is contagious. I’ll now be keeping my ears wide open.”
Sid Perkins - Science News Magazine
“Charming… From its first page to its last, The Sound Book invites readers to close their eyes and open their ears to the sounds, both normal and peculiar, that surround us all.”
NPR
“Turns up the volume on…sonic oddities.”
Gemma Tarlach - Discover
“[A] mission to make sound tourism the next big thing.”
Kirkus Reviews
2013-12-14
Cox (Acoustic Engineering/Salford Univ.; Acoustic Absorbers and Diffusers, 2009) explores how the psychological and physical worlds of sound come together. Using the design of concert halls to illustrate "the fusion of the objectivity of physics with the subjectivity of perception," the author explains how, in the final analysis, it is the audience that judges the quality of the acoustics. The reverberation of sound as it bounces around a room determines how we hear a sound--e.g., a live room such as a bathroom, where the sound is enhanced by the reflection of the sound, compared to the way that a plush hotel room dampens sound. However, a crucial element that necessarily eludes the acoustical engineer is the role of expectation in our response to sound. Neuroscientists are just beginning to unravel the mystery of how we perceive sound. Cox has devoted much of his career to the design of concert halls and theaters that enhance sound quality or quiet spaces that reduce unwanted noise. Fifteen years ago, he also became fascinated with common, everyday sounds in our environment. It all began when a BBC interviewer tapped his expertise as a sound engineer to explain the unusual acoustics found in a London sewer 20 feet below street level. The experience was a life-changer. "In the right place a 'defect' [such as]…the metallic, spiraling echo in the sewer, could be fascinating to listen to," writes Cox. This was the start of a new phase of his career, during which he has presented 17 popular-science documentaries on different aspects of sound for BBC radio. He visited ancient Greek theaters and 16th-century cathedrals, participated in a Buddhist retreat and explored the acoustics of whispering galleries. His travels also took him to Neolithic sites and the sand dunes of the Mojave Desert. An intriguing tour d'horizon of the world of sound.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393242829
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
02/03/2014
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
726,828
File size:
4 MB

Meet the Author

A professor of acoustic engineering, Trevor Cox has appeared on the Discovery and National Geographic channels, produced seventeen BBC radio documentaries, and holds the Guinness Record for discovering the world's "Longest Echo." He lives in Manchester, England.

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