Sound and Space in Science, Technology, and the Arts
Episodes in the transformation of our understanding of sound and space, from binaural listening in the nineteenth century to contemporary sound art.
The relationship between sound and space has become central to both creative practices in music and sound art and contemporary scholarship on sound. Entire subfields have emerged in connection to the spatial aspects of sound, from spatial audio and sound installation to acoustic ecology and soundscape studies. But how did our understanding of sound become spatial? In Stereophonica, Gascia Ouzounian examines a series of historical episodes that transformed ideas of sound and space, from the advent of stereo technologies in the nineteenth century to visual representations of sonic environments today.
Developing a uniquely interdisciplinary perspective, Ouzounian draws on both the history of science and technology and the history of music and sound art. She investigates the binaural apparatus that allowed nineteenth-century listeners to observe sound in three dimensions; examines the development of military technologies for sound location during World War I; revisits experiments in stereo sound at Bell Telephone Laboratories in the 1930s; and considers the creation of “optimized acoustical environments” for theaters and factories. She explores the development of multichannel “spatial music” in the 1950s and sound installation art in the 1960s; analyzes the mapping of soundscapes; and investigates contemporary approaches to sonic urbanism, sonic practices that reimagine urban environments through sound.
Rich in detail but accessible and engaging, and generously illustrated with photographs, drawings, maps, and diagrams of devices and artworks, Stereophonica brings an acute, imaginative, and much-needed historical sensibility to the growing literature around sound and space.
“Ouzounian takes us on an extraordinary journey through the archaeology of acoustic and auditory spatialization. Ambitious and engaging in its account of stereophony, sonic warfare, contemporary sonic urbanism, and more, this book is an inspiring treat for academics, sound practitioners, and the general reader.”
Aura Satz, artist/lecturer, Royal College of Art
“A feat of rigor and poise amid the sound-filled spaces that define the past century: churches and battlefields, symphony halls and city streets. Stereophonica is a genealogy of sound installation art and spatial music that documents how sound and hearing came to be understood in spatial as well as temporal terms. Ouzounian traces the propagation of ideas and tools from science to war to art (and back again) with true virtuosity. An ambitious and brilliant work.”
Mara Mills, Associate Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication, NYU, and coeditor of Testing Hearing
“Two fascinating bedfellows lie between the covers of Stereophonica: the early chapters delve into the rich history of spatial hearing from a technological perspective; subsequent chapters provide close studies of sound-in-space practices by modern and contemporary artists and cultural investigators. An invaluable read for sound thinkers and practitioners.”
Paul DeMarinis, Professor of Art, Stanford University