Model for the memory of a bell sound, after Jean-Martin Charcot, in: Gilbert Ballet, Le langue intérieur et les diverses formes de l’aphasie. Paris: Félix Alcan, 1888, 25.
Project (2015-)

Thinking with Sound: A New Program in the Sciences and Humanities around 1900

This book project starts from debates about auditory perception that were initiated by 1860s neuroanatomists’ identification of the auditory cortex in the human brain and by subsequent experiments on auditory cognition in the field of experimental psychophysiology. It traces how these new insights were taken up by disciplines ranging from psychoanalysis, linguistics, and philosophy to pedagogy, experimental aesthetics, and physics (with relational concepts such as the “auditory unconscious,” “auditory memory,” “auditory image,” “absolute pitch,” “inner voice,” “supersonic speed”), and how they left the academic realm to be applied in the arts, industry, and warfare. In turn, knowledge in auditory cognition around 1900 was facilitated by new audio technologies that provided alternate modes of simulating, reproducing, collecting, preserving, disseminating, and—most importantly for this project’s argument—studying and comparing sound data. Focusing on these historical conjunctions, the work is primarily microhistorical (with case studies from Germany and France), but it also offers a historically grounded encounter with current trends in auditory neuroscience, or more generally the “sonic turn” in research.