A whole semiotics of heard events

As a follow-up on my earlier post about how human beings experience space by listening, Paul Dourish sent me a very interesting paper that goes even further. It suggests that the aural component goes beyond just the localized issues of timbre and echos from surface materials, but into a whole semiotics of heard events. What is intriguing is how the paper described the change over time that lead to reduce the significance of the urban soundscape as a semiotic system. D. Garrioch, “Sounds of the City: The Soundscape of Early. Modern European Towns,” Urban History, vol. 30, 2003, pp. 5-25. 12.

Some excerpts I considered pertinent (though the whole paper is a must-read): In European towns of the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the sounds people heard were very different from those of today. Yet the difference goes much deeper: whereas today we try to escape city noise, for the inhabitants of early modern towns sound served as a crucial source of information. It formed a semiotic system, conveying news, helping people to locate themselves in time and in space, and making them part of an ‘auditory community’. Sound helped to construct identity and to structure relationships. The evolution of this information system reflects changes in social and political organization and in attitudes towards time and urban space. (...) The carrying quality of the human voice in towns was exploited by the street sellers, who like preachers developed appropriate vocal techniques, using pitch, projection and repetition to achieve a high level of audibility. (...) Town criers were also an integral part of the city scene, calling laws, criminal convictions, or in some places funerals and objects lost or for sale. (...) Along with the diffuse sense of belonging created by familiarity with local noises, sound created bonds between those for whom they had meaning. Participation in religious services and processions marked by bells and singing helped shape a spiritual community that was also a local one. (...) Personal sounds also helped to determine how people saw themselves and how others treated them. Clogs marked the peasant; pattens (in early eighteenth-century London) a working woman; rustling silk the noblewoman

Why do I blog this? because it's interesting to see how things evolved and how spatiality is perceived with various senses.