The Sound Studies Reader  book cover
1st Edition

The Sound Studies Reader

Edited By

Jonathan Sterne

ISBN 9780415771313
Published August 11, 2012 by Routledge
576 Pages

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Book Description

The Sound Studies Reader blends recent work that self-consciously describes itself as ‘sound studies’ along with earlier and lesser-known scholarship on sound from across the humanities and social sciences. The Sound Studies Reader touches on key themes like noise and silence; architecture, acoustics and space; media and reproducibility; listening, voices and disability; culture, community, power and difference; and shifts in the form and meaning of sound across cultures, contexts and centuries. Writers reflect on crucial historical moments, difficult definitions, and competing accounts of the role of sound in culture and everyday life. Across the essays, readers will gain a sense of the range and history of key debates and discussions in sound studies.

The collection begins with an introduction to welcome novice readers to the field and acquaint them the main issues in sound studies. Individual section introductions give readers further background on the essays and an extensive up to date bibliography for further reading in sound studies make this an original and accessible guide to the field.

Contributors: Rick Altman, Jacques Attali, Roland Barthes, Jody Berland, Karin Bijsterveld, Barry Blesser, Georgina Born, Michael Bull, Adriana Cavarero, Michel Chion, Kate Crawford, Richard Cullen Rath, Jacques Derrida, Mladen Dolar, John Durham Peters, Kodwo Eshun, Frantz Fanon, Lisa Gitelman, Gerard Goggin, Steve Goodman, Stefan Helmreich, Michelle Hilmes, Charles Hirschkind, Shuhei Hosokawa, Don Ihde, Douglas Kahn, Friedrich Kittler, Brandon LaBelle, James Lastra, Richard Leppert, Michèle Martin, Louise Meintjes, Mara Mills, John Mowitt, R. Murray Schafer, Ana María Ochoa Gautier, John Picker, Benjamin Piekut, Trevor Pinch, Tara Rodgers, Linda-Ruth Salter, Jacob Smith, Jason Stanyek, Jonathan Sterne, Emily Thompson, Frank Trocco, Michael Veal, Alexander Weheliye

Table of Contents

1. Sonic Imaginations Part 1: Hearing, Listening, Deafness  2. The Auditory Dimension  3. Noise: The Political Economy of Music  4. Contradicting Media: Toward a Political Phenomenology of Listening  5. The Three Listening Modes  6. Cassette Sermons, Aural Modernities and the Islamic Revival in Cairo  7. The Ontology of Vibrational Force  8. Hearing Aids and the History of Electronics Miniaturization  9. Following You: Disciplines of Listening in Social Media  Part 2: Spaces, Sites, -Scapes  10. The Soundscape  11. The Walkman Effect  12. Sound, Modernity and History  13. No Corner for the Devil to Hide  14. The Soundproof Study  15. Listening to Machines: Industrial Noise, Hearing Loss and the Cultural Meaning of Sound  16. Anthropologist Underwater: Immersive Soundscapes, Submarine Cyborgs and Transductive Ethnography  17. Auditory Awareness as an Extension of Religion  18. The Audio-Visual iPod  Part 3: Transduce and Record  19. The Sound of Music in the Era of Its Electronic Reproducibility  20. Four and a Half Film Fallacies  21. Gramophone  22. Fidelity Versus Intelligibility  23. Shaping the Synthesizer  24. The Recording Studio as Fetish  25. New Media Publics  26. Deadness: Technologies of the Intermundane  Part 4: Collectivities and Couplings  27. This is the Voice of Algeria  28. The Culture of the Telephone  29. Radiating Culture  30. Reach Out Someone: the Telephonic Uncanny  31. Cellular Disability: Consumption, Design and Access  32. Social Transculturation, Epistemologies of Purification and the Aural Public Sphere in Latin America  Part 5: The Sonic Arts: Aesthetics, Experience, Interpretation  33. Desire, Power and the Sonorous Landscape  34. Science, Technology and the Avant-Garde  35. Noises of the Avant-Garde  36. Operating System for the Redesign of Sonic Reality  37. Starship Africa  38. Auditory Relations  39. Toward a Feminist Historiography of Electronic Music  Part 6: Voices  40. The Voice the Keeps Silence  41. The Grain of the Voice  42. "Feenin": Posthuman Voices in Contemporary Black Popular Music  43. Multiple Voices  44. The Frenzy of the Audible: Pleasure, Authenticity and Recorded Laughter  45. The Linguistics of the Voice

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Jonathan Sterne teaches in the Department of Art History and Communication Studies and the History and Philosophy of Science Program at McGill University. He is author of The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction (2003), MP3: The Meaning of a Format (2012); and numerous articles on media, technologies and the politics of culture. He also makes sound. Visit his website at


"Throughout the development of sound studies from both technological and aesthetic corners, the voice has accompanied the bolstering of the sonic and the new emphasis on listening and noise as an exemplifying force. Nowehere has that been clearer than in Jonathan Sterne's The Sound Studies Reader... In many instances, the articles contained within this volume offer a taste of a scholar's great theoretical expanse and can act as gateways for interested readers to dive into further research." - Gelsey Bell, Journal of Interdisciplinary Voice Studies


"The Reader is an excellent collection and source of inspiration for all – newcomers as well as old hands – in sound studies research that crosses disciplines, methodologies and theories. It is also a “must” for academics in the humanities and sociology who have not yet encountered or dared to incorporate sound studies in their interdisciplinary study and research." - Ansa Lønstrup, Associate professor, Aarhus University, Denmark

"The Sound Studies Reader manages to contain, in one (albeit fairly large) book, an amazing breadth of scholarly approaches to the study of sound. From phenomenological to anthropological to cultural studies to science and technology studies, the approaches range across disciplines, fields, and methodologies to offer a broad spectrum of thought on this very current topic. Alongside all of that, the choices also reflect care for writing and communication; they are accessible, readable, well-written. I have no doubt that I will be recommending this book to students frequently and for a long time to come. For those with any interest in this field, it needs to be on your shelf, if it isn't open and being actively consulted." Anahid Kassabian, University of Liverpool, UK

'The Sound Studies Reader provides so much food for thought that, in this brief space, I could only give some hints of its reach, the issues it addresses and the problems it raises. Needless to say, it will likely become a benchmark for anyone interested in this topic.' - Carlo Nardi, Dancecult

'...we begin by recommending what we think is the most useful collection on sound studies to date...The result of Sterne's stance is a refreshingly balanced anthology that unflinchingly includes a variety of critical, historical, and theoretical perspectives.' Joshua Gunn, Greg Goodale, Mike M. Hall and Rosa A. Eberly, Rhetoric Society Quarterly