From Publishers Weekly
In a pioneering study of America's culture of listening, University of Pennsylvania professor of the history and sociology of science Emily Thompson depicts a culture busily rationalizing, quantifying and taming sound in The Soundscape of Modernity: Architectural Acoustics and the Culture of Listening in America 1900 1933. Beginning with the extraordinary (and little known) career of architectural engineer Wallace Sabine, from his felt-covered acoustical correction of the Rhode Island House of Representatives to his role in the influential design of Boston's Symphony Hall, Thompson analyzes the checkered (and ultimately futile) history of noise abatement and the implications of the introduction of electronics. Her account culminates in the design and construction of Rockefeller Center, and is powered throughout by the utopianism of the scientists, architects and engineers she depicts.
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This book takes on entirely new territory in the still-emerging scholarship on our aural history and does so with panache and clarity. It is an exemplar of how the history of technology and culture should be done.
(Susan Douglas, Catherine Neafie Kellogg Professor, University of Michigan)
A good book opens your eyes; this one opens your ears as well.
(Stuart W. Leslie, Department of the History of Science, Medicine and Technology, The Johns Hopkins University)
...an absorbing book, as accessible in its technical content as it is provocative in its cultural interpretations.
(Daniel J. Kevles The New York Review of Books
...enlivened by copious photographs and architectural illustrations -- a valuable source.
(Tom Perchard The Wire (UK)
This is a marvelous book and a seminal primer on how and why technology modified our taste.
(Derek Sugden The Architectural Review
Thompson's narrative is elegantly written and wonderfully engaging.
(Leon Botstein, Los Angeles Times Book Review)
The Soundscape of Modernity describes the modern development of acoustics in wonderful and easily understood detail.
(John Bishop The American Organist
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