The Acoustic World of Early Modern England

Attending to the O-Factor

Bruce R. Smith

The Acoustic World of Early Modern England

Bruce R. Smith

400 pages | 32 halftones, 2 tables, 25 musical notations | 6 x 9 | © 1999
Paper $44.00 ISBN: 9780226763774 Published April 1999
Cloth $106.00 ISBN: 9780226763767 Published May 1999
We know how a Shakespeare play sounds when performed today, but what would listeners have heard within the wooden "O" of the Globe Theater in 1599? What sounds would have filled the air in early modern England, and what would these sounds have meant to people in that largely oral culture?

In this ear-opening journey into the sound-worlds of Shakespeare’s contemporaries, Bruce R. Smith explores both the physical aspects of human speech (ears, lungs, tongue) and the surrounding environment (buildings, landscape, climate), as well as social and political structures. Drawing on a staggeringly wide range of evidence, he crafts a historical phenomenology of sound, from reconstructions of the "soundscapes" of city, country, and court to detailed accounts of the acoustic properties of the Globe and Blackfriars theaters and how scripts designed for the two spaces exploited sound very differently.

Critical for anyone who wants to understand the world of early modern England, Smith’s pathbreaking "ecology" of voice and listening also has much to offer musicologists and acoustic ecologists.

List of Illustrations
1. Around
1. Opening
2. Mapping the Field
3. The Soundscapes of Early Modern England: City, Country, Court
4. Re: Membering
5. Some Propositions Concerning O
2. Within
6. Games, Gambols, Gests, Jests, Jibes, Jigs
7. Ballads Within, Around, Among, Of, Upon, Against, Within
8. Within the Wooden O
9. Circling the Subject
3. Beyond
10. Listen, Otherwise
Works Cited

Sixteenth Century Studies Conference: Roland H. Bainton Book Prize

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