Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Seminar series,lecture 7: “Noise: A Human History - Telling the Story of Sound before the Age of Recording”

How do you a record a sound that no longer exists? This is one of the many obstacles faced by Prof. Hendy during the recording his BBC Radio4 series “Noise: A Human History’.

This 30 part podcast series explores how sound through interactions and developments have shaped the evolution of human culture over thousands of years. 

Prof. Hendy takes a journey around the world and through time investigating the Megalithic Tombs of Orkney, the Drums of the African Slave Trade to the emerging new sounds of Industrial Revolution. It was recorded in conjunction with the British Library’s Sound Archive as well as many on location snippets.

The series takes place over 100,000 years incorporating many locales and moments in history. During Prof. Hendy’s lecture, he showed us many examples on how he recorded extinct sounds as well as taking us on an auditory journey through time.
When asked why the series was called ‘Noise’ and not ‘Sound’, he explained ‘“Noise” is a word that hints at the contentious nature of sound’. He wanted the series to be about the way in which sound is important in social life, not just for artistic reasons but because how it allows us to trace experiences of ordinary people. Noise represents a struggle, a dramatic movement through time.

It would be impossible to fully detail what was revealed or discussed during Hendy’s intriguing and informative talk. All I can suggest is that you try and listen to at least one of the podcasts.

When I approached Prof. Hendy about talking to us as part of our seminar series, he was a little unsure about speaking in front of Archaeological academics. He considers himself a historian and felt unqualified to talk about a subject he had never considered to have archaeological implications. I recalled to him a class I studied in 1st year called ‘Into the Recent Past’ by Prof O’Keefe. During this class we studied a section called the Archaeology of the Blues in which we learned that archaeology isn’t always a tangible part of history. What David showed us without realising, was another way to view and understand the past. That archaeology is everywhere and everything is archaeology. 

David Hendy has toured extensively with his series even publishing a book on the subject so it was a privilege to have him present to us before he retires this subject to move on to new projects.

By Cian Corrigan

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