The Body of Sound: Sounding out the History of Science

Holger Schulze


Sound affects and pervades our body in a physical as well as a phenomenological sense: a notion that may sound fairly trivial today. But for a long time in Western history ‘sound’ was no scientific entity. It was looked upon merely as the lower, material appearance of truly higher forces: of more ephemeral, angel-, spirit- or godlike structures – and later of compositional knowledge. To be interested in sound was to be defamed as being unscientific, noncompositional, unmanly. Which steps were taken historically that gradually gave sound the character of a scientific entity? This article moves along recent science history: since the nineteenth century when the physicality of sound and later the corporeality of sonic experiences were first discovered and tentatively described. Exemplary studies from the science history of acoustics, musicology and anthropology of the senses are analysed and restudied – from Hermann von Helmholtz to Michel Serres. Even today, we may ask ourselves: What would an auditorily-founded research be like? Could there be a field of sensory research – via sensing sound?


Sound; Body; Science; Senses; Laboratory; Helmholtz; Nancy; Serres

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ISSN: 1904-500X

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