ABOUT THIS BOOK
Sound Authorities shows how experiences of music and sound played a crucial role in nineteenth-century scientific inquiry in Britain.
In Sound Authorities, Edward J. Gillin focuses on hearing and aurality in Victorian Britain, claiming that the development of the natural sciences in this era cannot be understood without attending to the study of sound and music.
During this time, scientific practitioners attempted to fashion themselves as authorities on sonorous phenomena, coming into conflict with traditional musical elites as well as religious bodies. Gillin pays attention to sound in both musical and nonmusical contexts, specifically the cacophony of British industrialization. Sound Authorities begins with the place of acoustics in early nineteenth-century London, examining scientific exhibitions, lectures, spectacles, workshops, laboratories, and showrooms. He goes on to explore how mathematicians mobilized sound in their understanding of natural laws and their vision of a harmonious ordered universe. In closing, Gillin delves into the era’s religious and metaphysical debates over the place of music (and humanity) in nature, the relationship between music and the divine, and the tensions between spiritualist understandings of sound and scientific ones.