DepositHistorical Sound Studies Seminar Syllabus

How does history sound? What kind of historical document is music? What does it mean to study past music as music, and what do we learn when we think of past music as sound? In this seminar, we will take up these questions together, applying them to the sounds of Europe—musical and otherwise—in the two centuries between 1550 and 1750. While music historians commonly understand this period to encompass the decline of the Renaissance and the flowering of the Baroque, we will draw on the (inter-) discipline of sound studies to understand this as an intellectual and perceptual shift: from sounding number to sounding sound. Together, we will work to develop a methodology for using music and sound to write history. If, as has recently been argued (Missfelder 2015), sound history is also the history of hearing, what is our archive? Whose ears, and whose voices, does “sound history”-as-“hearing history” help us uncover?

MemberJulie Beth Napolin

I teach modernism, sound studies, and film & media at the New School. I am a postdoctoral fellow in the Price Lab for Digital Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania, working on a project titled, “The Sound of Yoknapatawpha: An Acoustic Ecology.” I am particularly interested in the history of sound technology, its entanglements with race, and what these can tell us about the novel as form.

MemberJonathan Sterne

…SCMS.  Founding member of Association of Internet Researchers but I’m lapsed.  Founding member of the European Sound Studies Association. I also sometimes go to American Studies, International Communication Association, and Canadian Association for Cultural Studies.  But I’m more likely to be at a smaller, thematic conference….
…The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction (Duke, 2003).

MP3: The Meaning of a Format (Duke, 2012).


The Sound Studies Reader (Routledge, 2012)


Darin Barney, Gabriella Coleman, Christine Ross, Jonathan Sterne, Tamar Tembeck, eds., The Participatory Condition in the Digital Age (Minnesota, 2016).



Jonathan Sterne is Professor and James McGill Chair in Culture and Technology in the Department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University.  He is author of MP3: The Meaning of a Format (Duke 2012), The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction (Duke, 2003); and numerous articles on media, technologies and the politics of culture.  He is also editor of The Sound Studies Reader (Routledge, 2012) and co-editor of The Participatory Condition in the Digital Age (Minnesota, 2016).  His new projects consider instruments and instrumentalities; mail by cruise missile; and the intersections of disability, technology and perception. Visit his website at .