Sounds That Changed The Course Of History

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Very nice post by David Hendy at Huffington Post: 10 sounds that changed the course of history.

History always conjures up striking images for us – gory battlefield deaths, royal courts shadowed with intrigue, revolutionary violence and heroism, turbulent cityscapes, domestic dramas, appealing human icons, monstrous villains.

But history has an extraordinary soundtrack, too. Indeed, the past – even the pre-industrial past – was rarely quiet. It was full of chanting, bell ringing, roaring crowds, raucous debauchery, gunfire, music, and, of course, the human voice – mumbling, crying, singing with pleasure, shouting in anger, screaming in pain. Sometimes, these noises were more than a backdrop to the action. They were charged with meaning, a matter of life or death. They were a vital part of the story. They actually shaped events.

It’s been said that sound is a way of “touching at a distance.” It reaches out from the distant past, too – like a sudden mental switch across time, connecting us at a visceral level with a long gone age. When we turn up the volume of history, we’re no longer detached witnesses: we find ourselves fully immersed in the extraordinary sensory worlds of our ancestors. Instead of looking back at them through a telescope, as they fumble and fight their way through some of the great dramatic episodes of the human story, we are – for a moment at least – right there with them.

Here, then, are ten sounds that changed the course of history in subtle but significant ways. They take us from the Palaeolithic to the present. And they remind us of the sheer power of sound: the way it’s always wrapped itself around us – offering vital clues about the world, changing our moods, inspiring us, frightening us, disciplining us, bonding us, dividing us.