6 episodes

Sounding History is a podcast about the global history of music with an unexpected twist. Your hosts, music historians Tom Irvine and Chris Smith, explore sonic impacts of the extraction of resources from the Earth’s environment. Instead of narrating music history as a story about performers, composers, and works, we explore how extraction economy (and the historical processes that came with it, such as settler colonialism, enslavement, and environmental destruction) made the world of sound we live in today.

In each episode we introduce two "postcards": sonic micro-histories that illustrate how music can be understood through stories about labor (how we work), energy (how we power their lives), and data (how we consume and transfer information). We use this categories to explore new layers of narrative about music on a global scale. Our goal is a music history for a new era: the Anthropocene, the age of human-generated climate change.

We work as researchers and university teachers in the US and Britain. But between us we have long experience outside of the ivory tower, as musicians in styles from folk to early music, as radio hosts, and public speakers. In Sounding History we turn to the new medium of podcasting, looking to share with listeners stories about people and their soundworlds that have not been heard before.

Tom teaches at the University of Southampton in the UK and is also a Fellow of the Alan Turing Institute, the UK's national research institute for data science and AI. Chris directs the Vernacular Music Center at Texas Tech University. Between us we have written and edited books about the history of music and dance in the United States, the soundscapes of the Western Encounter with China, and the global history of German music. Sounding History, and the book project that goes with it (a global music history of music for general readers). Sounding History is not our first collaboration. Decades ago, we worked together in public radio and performed together in early music ensembles, laying a groundwork of curiosity and spontaneity for our partnership today. Join us as we take up this new collaboration, a music history for our times.

Sounding History Chris Smith, Tom Irvine

    • Music
    • 5.0 • 2 Ratings

Sounding History is a podcast about the global history of music with an unexpected twist. Your hosts, music historians Tom Irvine and Chris Smith, explore sonic impacts of the extraction of resources from the Earth’s environment. Instead of narrating music history as a story about performers, composers, and works, we explore how extraction economy (and the historical processes that came with it, such as settler colonialism, enslavement, and environmental destruction) made the world of sound we live in today.

In each episode we introduce two "postcards": sonic micro-histories that illustrate how music can be understood through stories about labor (how we work), energy (how we power their lives), and data (how we consume and transfer information). We use this categories to explore new layers of narrative about music on a global scale. Our goal is a music history for a new era: the Anthropocene, the age of human-generated climate change.

We work as researchers and university teachers in the US and Britain. But between us we have long experience outside of the ivory tower, as musicians in styles from folk to early music, as radio hosts, and public speakers. In Sounding History we turn to the new medium of podcasting, looking to share with listeners stories about people and their soundworlds that have not been heard before.

Tom teaches at the University of Southampton in the UK and is also a Fellow of the Alan Turing Institute, the UK's national research institute for data science and AI. Chris directs the Vernacular Music Center at Texas Tech University. Between us we have written and edited books about the history of music and dance in the United States, the soundscapes of the Western Encounter with China, and the global history of German music. Sounding History, and the book project that goes with it (a global music history of music for general readers). Sounding History is not our first collaboration. Decades ago, we worked together in public radio and performed together in early music ensembles, laying a groundwork of curiosity and spontaneity for our partnership today. Join us as we take up this new collaboration, a music history for our times.

    Sound Sculpting in East Asia & the American South

    Sound Sculpting in East Asia & the American South

    Sound travels. That’s a truism, but as you will hear in our conversation today, the practice of following sound, sound technologies, and musical styles around the world can really change the way we perceive words that we think mean the same thing everywhere: seemingly-simple words like “jazz” and “blues.”

    • 37 min
    Soundtracks of Imperial Power in Europe and Africa

    Soundtracks of Imperial Power in Europe and Africa

    This week’s topic is the performance of political power. Our two postcards take on creators of musical narrative: composers at the glittering court of the “Sun King” Louis XIV in late seventeenth-century France, and the jeliat, praise-singers of the aural/traditions of the great West African empires: the Songhai, Ghana, and, in particular the Empire of Mali, where Sundiata Keita founded a half-millenium dynasty.

    • 39 min
    Sounding Stone and Cetacean Energy

    Sounding Stone and Cetacean Energy

    This week we visit places “on the edge,” where different musics meet. The first is on the Silk Road, the land route from China to Europe through Central Asia. In the early seventeenth century CE, in Xi’an in Western China, Chinese officials found a stone inscribed in the Chinese and Syriac languages (the Nestorian Stele) that dated back to the Tang Dynasty a thousand years before. This discovery, which soon made its way to Jesuit missionaries in Beijing, triggered a bizarre misunderstanding (“whacked out” is the word we use!) in Europe about the “musical” nature of the Chinese language. Our second “postcard” takes us to the Pacific Ocean and the cosmopolitan world of the whaling ship, a floating factory where people, cetaceans, death, extraction, and music came together in a special soundscape.

    • 35 min
    New Soundworlds on Canals & Computers

    New Soundworlds on Canals & Computers

    In this episode we’re talking about canals: the ones dug into the ground to channel water, goods, and people, and the ones that carry energy through the machines (computers) that are everywhere today.

    • 38 min
    Caribbean Dance, London Symphonies & The Triangular Trade

    Caribbean Dance, London Symphonies & The Triangular Trade

    What does human-caused global heating have to do with music history? That’s one of the main questions we’re asking on Sounding History. Climate change didn’t come out of nowhere. Many historians now agree that measurable human impacts on climate can be seen from around 1600, and have a direct connection to European colonial expansion.
    Colonialism reconfigured the world economy around the extraction of natural resources and the exploitation of humans to provide the labor for that extraction. A by-product of that exploitation was profound change to how people made, heard, and paid for music.

    In this episode we talk about what sound has to do with the Anthropocene, explore how profits from the slave trade had a direct impact on European musical life in the eighteenth century, and immerse ourselves in the soundscape, full of colliding cultural experiences, of a Jamaican dance hall at the turn of the 19th century.

    • 39 min
    Welcome to Sounding History!

    Welcome to Sounding History!

    Tom and Chris in the Rose Garden, or: how two music historians, with a shared 1990s history in radio but very different academic journeys since, found their way to the cafe of a British heritage site, brainstorming a global history of empires, culture, labor, energy, and data – and then a podcast to go with it.

    • 24 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
2 Ratings

2 Ratings

heypegasus ,

Eclectic & full of surprises

Who knew? Music, climate, colonialism & the Anthropocene are not things I’d put together before listening to this cool podcast. It’s fascinating to lean about all these connections. Listening to these 2 guys is like eavesdropping on an interesting conversation at the next table in a coffee shop— you want to lean in for more. Two thumbs up!

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