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How Early America Sounded

Narrated by: Paul Redford
Length: 7 hrs and 22 mins
Categories: History, World
5 out of 5 stars (1 rating)

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Publisher's Summary

In early America, every sound had a living, willful force at its source. Sometimes these forces were not human or even visible.

In this fascinating and highly original work of cultural history, Richard Cullen Rath recreates in rich detail a world remote from our own, one in which sounds were charged with meaning and power.

From thunder and roaring waterfalls to bells and drums, natural and human-made sounds other than language were central to the lives of the inhabitants of colonial America. Rath considers the multiple soundscapes shaped by European Americans, Native Americans, and African Americans from 1600 to 1770, and particularly the methods that people used to interpret and express their beliefs about sound. In the process he shows how sound shaped identities, bonded communities, and underscored - or undermined - the power of authorities.

This audiobook's stunning evidence of the importance of sound in early America - even among the highly literate New England Puritans - reminds us of a time before a world dominated by the visual, a young country where hearing was a more crucial part of living.

The book is published by Cornell University Press. The audiobook will be published by University Press Audiobooks.

©2005 Cornell University (P)2019 Redwood Audiobooks

Critic Reviews

"Opens a revealing window on the past." (Publishers Weekly)

"Its arguments merit repeated reading." (Library Journal

"Rath's range of evidence is broad and his analysis deep… offers discerning readers and listeners...a new way to perceive and study the colonial past." (Virginia Magazine of History and Biography)

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Insightful Methodologies/Perspectives/Research

Highly recommended! Dr. Richard Cullen Rath is not only an incredibly gifted historian and author, he's a talented avant-garde musician who's played in many bands, from rock to punk to reggae and more. Rath's soundscape consciousness and extensive research on the sonic influences that affect various perceptions / biases are powerfully and wondrously articulated. Most significantly, his analyses and methodologies can be applied to many eras / regions / locales, particularly in Hawaiʻi; one example that comes to mind is the aural presence of birds (see Haleole; Nakuina; Trask; Paul Lyons; et al) re: the manifestation of the endemic in contrast to non-native birds in Hawaiʻi; their presence in 19th and early 20th century Hawaiian literatures; the impact regarding the extinction of these native birds; and pertinent themes related to colonization, resistance, and solidarity). Wonderful news: The University of Hawaiʻiʻs Ethnic Studies Department is welcoming Dr Rath as their newest faculty member — very excited for the ESD faculty, their students and our communities!

While I would have preferred listening to Rich Rath's own reading of the 7+ hour Audible recording, the book is effectively and very crisply narrated by Paul Redford; in fact, if I were still teaching I’d have assigned hefty excerpts of various chapters to my honors and regular Hawaiian, Pacific and world literature classes contrasting Iʻi, Malo, Kamakau, Poepoe, Holt, et al, with Cook, Bingham, and many others, sharing/discussing Rath's incisive frames of reference as he effectively articulates First Peoples, African-American, and settler narratives, experiences, and "sound ways." Rathʻs work is praiseworthy for its readability, fascinating, in-depth research and unique perspectives that fire up the imagination and inspire new ways to significantly examine historical contexts with aural points of view; he very perceptively gleans from soundscapes new strategies for interpreting events, alliances, misunderstanding and conflicts.