The Soundscape of Modernity

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Is it live or is it Memorex? The famous ad campaign raised the question, do you trust your ears? Well, in today’s world of digital editing and special effects the fact is, you can’t.

The relationship between sound and space is tenuous at best. Not so 100 years ago. You sat in a music hall and listened to live musicians playing within the room, a room that was a kind of instrument itself, reverberating, echoing, weaving together the sounds of the instruments and the presence of the audience into a glorious pastiche, a soundscape.

But as technology progressed, the marriage of sound and space crumbled. Engineers learned to love inert space, cold, characterless, and used electro-acoustic toys to emulate sonic environments. The sound of space, sound IN space.

Emily Thompson will be reading from her book “The Soundscape of Modernity” at 6:00 pm tonight at MIT Press Bookstore, 45 Carleton Street, in Cambridge See related links for a map.


Emily Thompson, senior fellow at the Dibner Institute for the History of Science and Technology at MIT and author of “The Soundscape of Modernity”

Leo Beranek, world renowned acoustical design consultant