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The Sound Book: The Science of the Sonic Wonders of the World 1st Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0393239799
ISBN-10: 0393239799
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

As a seasoned architectural acoustics specialist, Cox has made a living out of retrofitting theaters and classrooms to minimize unwanted echoes and other sonic distortions. While visiting an unusually reverberant London sewer, Cox had a sudden epiphany that spawned a new hobby somewhat at odds with his chosen profession: seeking out and cataloging unusual noises. One result of his research is this enchanting guidebook to the “sonic wonders of the world,” in which he analyzes such aural anomalies as humming sand dunes and chirping Mayan pyramids. Without getting lost in arcane scientific minutiae, Cox provides several easily digested lessons in acoustics on his way to describing the many sonic marvels he visited and studied around the world, from the famous whispering gallery of London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral to the melancholy underwater songs produced by bearded seals near the Svalbard archipelago in Norway. Interspersed with witty anecdotes and surprising observations on the nature of hearing, Cox’s work will give readers a new appreciation for both the odd and the ordinary noises that form the soundtrack of our daily lives. --Carl Hays

Review

“A riveting ear-opener, Trevor Cox describes in lyrical detail a range of sonic events and new ways of listening that can only brighten our experience of the acoustic world around us. A must-read for sound-lovers of all stripes.” (Bernie Krause, author of The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origins of Music in the World's Wild Places)

“Cox reminds us not only of the sonic marvels we often miss, but also how those sounds affect us.” (Publishers Weekly)

“This small encyclopedia of strange sounds reveals how much art there is in the act of listening. Reading it made my ears more mindful.” (Adam Gopnik)

“A technological travelogue conducted by an expert tour guide, bursting with aural arcana that adds just the right amount of tech-savvy detail, The Sound Book brings into relief a world often obscured in our image-heavy existence. Even as we follow Cox to the ends of the Earth, what makes his book a real rush is that it's ultimately an ear-buzzing journey to the center of our minds.” (Greg Milner, Perfecting Sound Forever)

“An intriguing tour d’horizon of the world of sound.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Turns up the volume on…sonic oddities.” (NPR)

“[A] mission to make sound tourism the next big thing.” (Gemma Tarlach - Discover)

“From its first page to its last, The Sound Book invites readers to close their eyes and open their ears to the sounds, both normal and peculiar, that surround us all.” (Science News)

“Charming… From its first page to its last, The Sound Book invites readers to close their eyes and open their ears to the sounds, both normal and peculiar, that surround us all.” (Sid Perkins - Science News Magazine)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (February 10, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393239799
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393239799
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #293,678 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Trevor Cox is an acoustics professor in the UK who loves his work and has spent many years traveling and listening to any number of things that make sounds, some of them human-made, others natural.
I first heard of Prof. Cox and his new book on an NPR interview in early 2014. It sounded intriguing and is! This is not a scientific or engineering text; in fact, it's not very technical at all. What it is is a book of adventures by Prof. Cox as he travels and listens to things that are interesting; this includes auditoriums, underground storage facilities (which have some very interesting reverberations), singing sands, ancient Greek amphitheaters (yes they have very good acoustics, but no the ancients didn't know more than modern engineers).
He covers bird songs in some detail. There are a lot of birdwatchers out there, unfortunately there seem to be many less who listen to them.
He is an acoustics professor, but he covers so very many things that it's difficult to recall them all. It does whet the appetite for more and that's all to the good. Any number of the things discussed can be pursued by the avid reader -- perhaps a little more research online or even trying to make your own recordings. With the number of small portable computers on the market, a microphone or two, and a video camera you can capture sight and sound alike. A modest priced system should get the interested person started.
I could go on, but I won't; the list of things covered is large and it'll do you more good to read the book than to hear me go on and on about it.
If you want a technical book on any of the many areas of sound, from recording techniques to acoustics, to FFTs and DSPs,do look elsewhere; Amazon has many. But for a nice popular book with a sense of adventure, well written by a man who's not only an expert but obviously loves his calling, this is a very nice book indeed.
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Format: Hardcover
(This review refers to the audio CD edition which I purchased directly from Tantor Audio). This is an entertaining, informative, and thought-provoking book that examines a wide variety of acoustical effects. It may be a bit light on the science and a bit basic for the acoustical engineer, but for a lay person, it should be quite enlightening. Unfortunately, the audio edition did not fully capitalize on that medium to convey examples of sound described in the text, but it was still a quality production, Jonathan Cowley, the narrator, having a great voice and style for delivering the content.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an absolute gem for anyone who is curious about the world. Yes it's about sound, but it's a journey with a person who has so much to teach us about the world. You'll never wince from a subway train in quite the same way, nor will an autumn chorus of crickets ever escape you. I urge anyone to buy this book and cherish it. It will reward you over and over again.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Interesting to learn how musical instruments reverberate, as explanations for some of the great sonic spaces in nature and man made. I will now listen to everything differently, and as a result, hear my surroundings differently.
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Format: Paperback
Book Review: “The Sound Book” by Trevor Cox, W. W, Norton & Co., 331p.

Review by Mark J. Palmer
Associate Director
International Marine Mammal Project
Earth Island Institute
Berkeley, CA
www.DolphinProject.org

Trevor Cox is an acoustician, one who studies sound. How sounds are made and how they propagate. Modern office designers often include an acoustician to make sure the office doesn’t conduct or amplify sounds in ways that would disturb other workers.

In his new book, “The Sound Book”, Cox goes travelling the world to visit places, both natural spaces and human-built structures, which have qualities of sound that are found nowhere else. In essence, he is looking for special sound monuments or parks, and he encourages us to similarly explore the sound-scape around us.

Along the way, Cos explains much about how sound works in various spaces. How many reverberations can we expect to hear or record in a large space, such as underground caverns or underground oil tanks (which, sans oil, provide an interesting sound chamber of immense size)? Where on Earth is the best site to receive echoes, and how long do those echoes last?

And he is serious about the need to protect such soundscapes, for the same reason we protect scenery that is pleasing to the eye. We understand our world through our senses, and our hearing is one sense that we rely on. Think of music or polite conversations. I always love, when I am in Europe, to hear the sound of church bells chiming the hours. Cox notes that in Japan and China, crickets have been kept as pets because of the pleasant chirping. Many Americans keep birds for the same reason.

Cox takes us around the world to hear what he lists as the Sonic Wonders of the World.
Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After hearing an interview with the author on NPR, I was intrigued enough to order this book. It was very much well worth it. If you're an audio engineer or lay-person interested in the way sound works in our world, you'll enjoy this book. From natural phenomena to man-made artifacts, both old and new, the way sound works in our world is intriguingly explored in a very easy to read manner. This is not a technical book, nor a difficult read - and neither is it unnecessarily dumbed-down either. Get it. You'll enjoy it!
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