In this pioneering book, Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer traces an evocative picture of the evolution of the acoustic environment on planet Earth, from the earliest nature sounds through the beginnings of the Industrial Age and up to the cacophony of the present day. Using quotes from a wide variety of sources from throughout recorded history, he demonstrates the changing character of the world as it has been perceived by the human ear. Virgil describes the relatively new sound of the “shrill saw blade” and waxes nostalgic for an earlier time when “men split wood with wedges.” Charles Dickens writes of the novel rumbling of a passing train in 1848, and how it made “the walls quake, as if they were dilating with the knowledge of great powers yet unsuspected in them.” Luigi Russolo bids us to “have fun imagining our orchestration of department stores' sliding doors, the hubbub of the crowds, the different roars of the railway stations, iron foundries, textile mills, printing houses, power plants and subways.“
In addition to this historical information, Schafer also analyzes the current soundscape across the planet and tells of the very real threat of sound pollution. He explains how to classify sounds, describes the evolving definition of noise, relates music to the soundscapes of different eras, and includes a chapter on that most important and increasingly hard to find element: silence. Not unlike the birds in Aldous Huxley's novel Island, who over and over repeat the same word—“Attention!”—Schafer's ultimate goal is to bring us more fully into awareness in respect to the sonic vibrations which constantly surround and affect us.
Paperback: 301 pages