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The Acoustic World of Early Modern England: Attending to the O-Factor [Hardcover]

Bruce R. Smith

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Book Description

May 1 1999
We know how a Shakespeare play sounds when performed today, but what would listeners have heard within the wooden "O" of the Globe Theater in 1599? What sounds would have filled the air in early modern England, and what would these sounds have meant to people in that largely oral culture?

In this ear-opening journey into the sound-worlds of Shakespeare's contemporaries, Bruce R. Smith explores both the physical aspects of human speech (ears, lungs, tongue) and the surrounding environment (buildings, landscape, climate), as well as social and political structures. Drawing on a staggeringly wide range of evidence, he crafts a historical phenomenology of sound, from reconstructions of the "soundscapes" of city, country, and court to detailed accounts of the acoustic properties of the Globe and Blackfriars theaters and how scripts designed for the two spaces exploited sound very differently.

Critical for anyone who wants to understand the world of early modern England, Smith's pathbreaking "ecology" of voice and listening also has much to offer musicologists and acoustic ecologists.


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Product Description

From Library Journal

Smith (English, Georgetown Univ.) offers a provocative evocation of the world of sound in Shakespeare's England. Drawing on a wide range of primary sources as well as insights from aspects of modern scholarship as diverse as cultural studies and anatomy, Smith delineates a picture of the soundscapes and soundmarks of that place and time and their cultural significance. The study is divided into three sections: "Around" (setting the stage and mapping the field), "Within" (focusing on the various sounds of performance, voice, music, and dance), and "Beyond" (stepping beyond England to examine contemporary reactions to other cultures and their soundscapes). This phenomenology of sound will be of interest to specialists in early theater, music history, and early modern English culture.AAbigail Ann Young, Univ. of Toronto
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Bruce R. Smith is professor of English at Georgetown University. He is author of Homosexual Desire in Shakespeare's England: A Cultural Poetics, published by the University of Chicago Press, and The Art and History of Washington, D.C.

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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars how did the plays and ballads sound? Feb. 9 2007
By W Boudville - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Smith has resurrected for the reader many of the ballads of Middle English [ie. around Shakespeare's time]. Many of these are easily comprehended by the modern reader. Even if you haven't read Shakespeare or Milton lately, the meanings of the ballads comes through very clearly.

But, as the title indicates, he also pays close attention to the acoustics. These refer to the physical environments in which the ballads and plays might and probably were read. Including naturally the immortal Globe Theatre in London. So we see the floor plan of the Globe, and speculation as to how this would have affected the listening experience of the audience. The reader should remember that back then, there were no modern special effects. So the pure performance visuals and acoustics were probably more important and stressed, for what else did they have?
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