Historical Acoustemology: Past, Present, and Future
James G. Mansell
Abstract. This article surveys the field and methodology of historical acoustemology, an interdisciplinary area of study dedicated to understanding past sounds, hearers, and listeners in their historical contexts. The article charts the field’s emergence in the late 1990s and early 2000s, accounts for the field’s present trends (which center on the politics of listening subjectivity), and identifies future directions of inquiry. The article argues that historians should take account of a broader spectrum of past listeners, not just listening experts, and develop greater criticality about their own knowing-through-listening. The article makes the case for a future sound historical field grounded in the analysis of nonwritten sources, particularly sound archives and material culture, and argues that the use of new digital methods and the engagement of listening publics through a new public sound history should also become central to the work of the sound historian.
How to cite this article: Mansell, James G. 2021. “Historical Acoustemology: Past, Present, and Future.” Music Research Annual 2: 1–19. https://doi.org/10.48336/qrxj-cp49
About the author: James G. Mansell is Associate Professor of Cultural Studies in the Department of Cultural, Media, and Visual Studies at the University of Nottingham, UK. He is the author of The Age of Noise in Britain: Hearing Modernity. He has contributed chapters on historical methods in sound studies to The Bloomsbury Handbook of Sonic Methodologies and The Routledge Companion to Sound Studies. His research on sound, listening, and museums has been published in the Science Museum Group Journal (the journal of a consortium of national science and technology museums in England). His research on the use of audio-augmented reality in the presentation of media technology objects in museums has been published in the journal Personal and Ubiquitous Computing.