Article ID: CBB001320380

Music, Sound, and the Laboratory from 1750 to 1980 (2013)


Music and science have a long common history dating back to the ancient Greeks. This shared history became uncoupled some time in the late nineteenth century, as music ceased to be the most important source of sound that could be subjected to investigation. Knowledge of sound always relies on some form of medium---that is, a way to store, transmit, transform, manipulate, and encode or decode sound. Until the second half of the nineteenth century, the techniques and practices of producing, describing, and reproducing sounds had been the most developed in music, and scientists, engineers, and musicians were engaged in similar, reciprocal projects. Music remained privileged as an object of acoustic investigation, driven in part by the bourgeois culture of music that flourished during the nineteenth century, especially in central Europe, and created a public of listeners and producers of musical sounds. Yet, at the same time, scientists and engineers broadened the scope of investigation beyond music, to sound, with new mathematical tools, new fields of experimental inquiry, and eventually new media technologies, most often located in laboratories. Music continued to frame the interaction among scientists, engineers, and musicians, and, though perhaps less immediately apparent, this reciprocal engagement has continued, over time becoming more intricate, intriguing, and historically informative.

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Authors & Contributors
Simon Frith
Horning, Susan Schmidt
Zagorski-Thomas, Simon
Hui, Alexandra
Naeem, Asma
Krebs, Stefan
Icon: Journal of the International Committee for the History of Technology
Johns Hopkins University Press
MIT Press
Sound reproduction
Technology and music
Science and music
Dewing, Thomas Wilmer
20th century
21st century
19th century
20th century, early

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