WRoCAH White Rose Network Studentship - Electronic Soundscapes

University of Sheffield - School of English

The application form can be found at: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdyH6jpnlKjMsBlTG91W-PaZYJ0pgWDAeqh5rn5OzPihTfagg/viewform

Network Title: Electronic Soundscapes

We believe that scholarship in the Humanities relies excessively on visual and textual data. The field of Sound Studies has, we note, begun to correct this bias by investigating auditory experiences, notably the acoustics of buildings and the role of audio creative individuals and artefacts (Pinch and Bijsterveld, 2012). We argue however that this niche field has not fully investigated the broader socio-economic and cultural environment within which sound technologies developed and has failed to comprehensively address the implications of new soundscapes. For example, loudspeakers, which were located in many public sites, had a transformative effect on representative and community politics; and the magnetic tape reshaped music and drama, enabling the manipulation of recorded sound.

The network’s primary focus will be on Britain and on its transnational relations because historians have not yet engaged systematically with the international roots of electronic cosmopolitanism. Unlike North Western Europe, which were centres of state-sponsored sound innovations, and unlike American firms, which became global leaders in commodifying amplified sound, the standard view of Britain is that the culture and science of sound evolved without the same level of direct government or commercial sponsorship. Most agree that the BBC monopolised broadcasting and was highly selective in how it promoted new sound technologies. The network will re-evaluate this contestable truism, examining the role of national and international networks and how they interacted with processes of state building, the emergence of social movements representing marginalised groups such as the disabled, and the creation of markets for electronic sound. As such the network engages with wider methodological shifts across the humanities, which seek to ‘decentre’ academic study, opening up enquiry via “multiple layers”, from the local to the global.

Sheffield Project Title: Sound on the Home Front, 1914-1945
University of Sheffield, School of English

The vast literature on the home front has neglected the role of sound in the narrativization and memorialisation of war experiences, and the ties between the public soundscapes of the two world wars. Building on recent research on the war sensorium (Jean 2011; Mansell 2017; Scales 2016), this project will explore the rise of a new fictional literature concerned with memory, the emotions, and the tools through which war entered the British psyche – particularly loudspeakers, sirens, radios, and public advertising. Resources to be consulted include the Liddle Collection (Leeds), War Illustrated (Sheffield), the Rowntree Company archive (York), the BBC archives and sound recordings (Reading and Boston Spa), the Imperial War Museum (London) and the National Emergency Medical Services Museum (Sheffield).

For more information on this studentship, please contact: Dr Beryl Pong (b.k.pong@sheffield.ac.uk) and Dr Emilie Morin (emilie.morin@york.ac.uk)

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Northern England