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Sound Studies: New Technologies and Music
Trevor Pinch and Karin Bijsterveld
Developments in sound technologies over the last 50 years have dramatically changed the way that music is produced and consumed. In the 19th century most music was experienced as live performance. Today most music is listened to individually through technologically mediated devices, such as a personal stereo or a personal computer that enables the downloading of MP3 files over the Internet, and in the past few decades music has been produced with new electronic instruments such as the Theremin, the Hammond Organ, the electric guitar, the synthesizer, and the digital sampler. Technologies such as the phonograph, tape-recorder, and compact disk have enabled 'sound' to be produced, controlled, and manipulated independently from musicians. In today's recording studios the sound engineers can be as important in the production of 'the sound' as are the musicians themselves. But how can such changes be understood and what do they mean for listeners and for science and technology studies (S&TS)? The papers in this special issue address such issues. The papers were first presented at an international workshop, 'Sound Matters: New Technology in Music', held at the University of Maastricht, the Netherlands, in November 2002. The scholars at the workshop were drawn from such diverse fields as ethnomusicology, history, anthropology, cultural studies, sociology, and S&TS. All were working on some aspect of what we might call 'auditory culture'. For such scholars, sound matters. The topic of the workshop was new technologies and music. The papers covered a range of technological innovations in the way in which music was produced and consumed. These included new instruments, such as new varieties of electric guitars and violas; new means of manipulating and controlling sound in the studio, such as microphones, reverberation units, mixing consoles, and new forms of networking software; new forms of technologically mediated listening, such as audiophilia, Social Studies of Science 34/5(October 2004) 635-648 ? SSS and SAGE Publications (London, Thousand Oaks CA, New Delhi) ISSN 0306-3127 DOI: 10.1177/0306312704047615 www.sagepublications.com
Social Studies of Science 34/5
mobile listening in cars and via personal stereos; and the emergence of new genres such as sampling-based world music. There was agreement that none of the standard disciplinary approaches were alone adequate. In the spirit of interdisciplinary learning, scholars set aside their own perspectives to see what other approaches could bring to bear. This was sometimes...