New Nonfiction: Noise: A Human History of Sound and Listening – David Hendy

This is my favorite bedtime book so far the season—a history of humanity in thirty sounds (and thirty concise chapters perfect for dipping into one at a time before bed). Forgive me for cribbing from our marketing copy to explain this one. It’s just so well written that I can’t improve on it. 🙂

“Hendy uses sounds—not just music and speech but also echoes, chanting, drumbeats, bells, thunder, gunfire, the noise of crowds, the rumbles of the human body, laughter, silence, eavesdropping, mechanical sounds, noisy neighbours, musical recordings, radio—in order bring new meaning to some of the drama and struggle of human history in a new, enlightening way.

“To trace the story of sound is to tell the story of how we learned to overcome our fears about the natural world, perhaps even to control it; how we learned to communicate with, understand, and live alongside our fellow beings; how we’ve fought with each other for dominance; how we’ve sought to find privacy in an increasingly noisy world; how we’ve struggled with our emotions and our sanity. It encompasses the roar of the baying crowd in ancient Rome, medieval power-struggles between rich and poor, the stresses of industrialization, the shock of war, the rise of cities, the unceasing chatter of 24–hour media. For although we might see ourselves inhabiting a visual world, our lives are shaped by our need to hear and be heard.”

Hendy also has a fascinating blog: Noise | A human history on BBC Radio 4. The text is supplemented by gorgeous visuals—but is curiously silent. I guess we go to the BBC for that element.

A social history of sound from the Pal eolithic to the present—David Hendy reconstructs the acoustic environments of our ancestors and contemporaries in words, conjuring them to life for the mind’s ear. Brilliant and thought-provoking—curl up somewhere noisy and enjoy!”
— Nigel Warburton, author of A Little History of Philosophy

Noise: A Human History of Sound and Listening (9780062283078) by David Hendy. $27.99 hardcover. 10/15/13 on sale.

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