Profile Books

  • Imprint: Profile Books
  • Published: 14/03/2013
  • Price: £16.99
  • Format: Hardback
  • Extent: 402p
  • Edition Illustration Details:
  • ISBN: 9781781250891
  • Subject:
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A Human History of Sound and Listening

David Hendy

Based on a major BBC Radio 4 series, David Hendy explores the role of sound - and of listening - in 100,000 years of human history.

In prehistoric caves, drummers used natural acoustics to recreate natural sound. In classical Europe, orators turned the human voice into a lyrical instrument. In Buddhist temples, the icons' ears were exaggerated to represent their spiritual power. And in modern metropolises we are battered by the roar of sound that surrounds us.

In the first narrative history of the subject which puts humans at its centre, and coinciding with the author's major Radio 4 series on the same subject, acclaimed historian David Hendy describes the history of noise - which is also the history of listening. As he puts it himself: 'By thinking about sound and listening, I want to get closer to what it felt like to live in the past or be caught up in the major events of history. The book is a chance for readers to discover more of the personal and social background to those stories featured in the radio series.'

This unusual book reveals fascinating changes in how we have understood our fellow human humans and the world around us. For although we might see ourselves inhabiting a visual world, our lives are shaped by our need to hear and be heard.

About the Author

David Hendy is 'Professor of Media and Communication at the University of Sussex. His books include Life on Air: a History of Radio Four, which won the 2008 History Today-Longman Book of the Year Award and was nominated for the Orwell Prize.


'A social history of sound from the Paleolithic to the present - David Hendy reconstructs the acoustic environments of our ancestors and contemporaries in words, conjuring them to life for the mind's ear. Brilliant and thought-provoking - curl up somewhere noisy and enjoy!', Nigel Warburton

'Praise for David Hendy's previous books -

'An unalloyed treat', The Times

'Endlessly engrossing', Guardian

'A magnificent chronicle', THES

'Praise for David Hendy's Life on Air: a History of Radio Four:'Academically rigorous, but eminently readable', Jenni Murray, Daily Mail

'Eminently readable, utterly reliable, on occasions painfully frank, it is a joy to read and a masterly lesson in how to translate bare fact into compelling narrative', Gillian Reynolds, Daily Telegraph

'Authoritative... independent-minded and, above all, highly readable', History Today

'Masterly ... amusing ... exhilarating', Times Literary Supplement

'A historian who makes brilliant use of interviews, memoirs, old recordings and so on... The result is a long and scholarly book, but one filled with riveting detail and anecdote, constantly illuminating about the peculiar character of Britain's best-loved and most criticised radio network. It also provides a wonderful case study of the dynamics of anxiety produced by social change... endlessly engrossing', Guardian

'An easy enthusiasm that is hard to resist... provides both juicy gossip and grand anthropology', Daily Telegraph

'A nugget of surprising and entertaining fact on every page', Time Out

'Fascinating. Noise is something to shout about.', Emily Cockayne, author of Hubbub

'Hendy's absorbing argument is persuasive', Charlotte McCann, Financial Times

'Hendy's radiant and lyrical account of an otherwise elusive subject attests to his grasp of the history of sound and an amazing ability to weave vast and complex themes to a cohesive, accessible page-turner. Noise: A History of Sound and Listening is a thoroughly exhilarating encounter.', Bernie Krause, author of 'The Great Animal Orchestra'

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