Seminar in Ethnomusicology and Sound Studies
University of Oxford
Ertegun House, 37A St Giles
Thursday, 7 May 2015, 5:00pm

Karin Bijsterveld, Professor of Science, Technology & Modern Culture
Department of Technology & Society Studies, Maastricht University

Title: Sound and Safe: A History of Listening Behind the Wheel

Abstract: Many people enjoy listening and singing along to music while driving—it is their auditory break in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. But how did the car, noisy and open as it was at the beginning of the twentieth century, develop into a space for celebrating auditory privacy? This lecture unravels the history of the sonic ideals and acoustic practices of automotive engineers, marketing departments, and consumers. It shows how drivers learned to shift their auditory attention from the engine to the car radio, and how car sound design helped to sustain the visual ideal of the cinematic drive and the illusion of freedom on the road. It also reflects on how to study sensory experiences of people in the past.