Noise - A Human History

Noise: A Human History, a thirty-part series made in collaboration with the British Library Sound Archive.

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Episodes

SeriesEpisodeTitleFirst
Broadcast
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01Echoes In The Dark2013031820151019 (BBC7)
20151020 (BBC7)

David Hendy begins his 30-part series in the prehistoric cave.

Episode one of

What do caves tell us about the mind and beliefs of Neolithic people? With no scientific explanation to hand for the phenomenon of the echo, it was natural to assume it was a spirit voice.

Certain echoes sounded like the galloping hooves of beasts; others like the fluttering wings of birds. These echoes appeared to come from the rocks themselves. They moved, they were uncanny - all this hinting at a 'spirit world' within.

Professor David Hendy from the University of Sussex visits the caves of Arcy-sur-Cure in Burgundy with musicologist Iegor Reznikoff to listen to evidence deep underground next to paintings of bison and birds.

Series Producer: Matt Thompson

A Rockethouse production for BBC Radio 4.

02The Beat Of Drums2013031920151020 (BBC7)
20151021 (BBC7)

Episode two of a thirty-part series made in collaboration with the British Library Sound Archive.

Words are only one way to communicate - humans have found many more.

Professor David Hendy travels to Ghana to hear the talking drum, a language made of drumbeats that once carried messages through the rainforest like a telegraph signal.

There's also a treasure from the Pitt Rivers Sound Archive - the sound of BayAka pygmies of the Central African Republic preparing for a net hunt. How do non-verbal sounds carry information and how do they bind us together as a group?

Series Producer: Matt Thompson.

A Rockethouse production for BBC Radio 4.

Humans have found many ways to communicate. David goes to Ghana to hear the talking drum.

03The Singing Wilderness2013032020151021 (BBC7)
20151022 (BBC7)

Episode three of a thirty-part series made in collaboration with the British Library Sound Archive.

Professor David Hendy of the University of Sussex explores our relationship with noisy nature.

How do we interact with what the American nature writer Sigurd Olsen called 'The Singing Wilderness'?

Hear the Bosavi people of Papua New Guinea sing a 'gisalo' in the darkness of a forest longhouse, and extraordinary recordings from around the world, including musical trees, the bluesy singing of the pootoo bird, and a real frog chorus.

Series Producer: Matt Thompson.

A Rockethouse production for BBC Radio 4.

David Hendy listens to 'The Singing Wilderness'.

04A Ritual Soundscape2013032120151022 (BBC7)

Orkney's Neolithic sites feel like theatre stages, encouraging us to move through them in unfamiliar ways. If the people noticed striking sound effects, they must have been tempted to exploit them. But exploit them how, exactly?

Were these the kind of places where our ancestors came to make a spectacular din - or places where they came in search of silence and sensory deprivation?

Professor David Hendy of the University of Sussex explores the ritualistic use of sound in episode four of Noise: A Human History - a thirty-part series made in collaboration with the British Library Sound Archive.

Series Producer: Matt Thompson.

A Rockethouse production for BBC Radio 4.

05The Rise Of The Shamans2013032220151024 (BBC7)

David Hendy explains why sound is central to the shaman's power.

Around the world charismatic individuals claim the ability to change the weather, heal illness and help crops grow. Professor David Hendy explains how sound - and its manipulation - is central to the shaman's power.

David introduces the eerie rituals of Siberian reindeer herders as they summon spirits, before coming closer to home to hear a mysterious singing angel high in the facade of Wells Cathedral.

Series Producer: Matt Thompson.

06Epic Tales20130325

In 1933, a young classics scholar called Milman Parry made a journey through the hill villages of the Balkans to record poets and singers. He captured an oral tradition that has all but died out - peasant performers who recited epic tales over days without any form of prompt.

Professor David Hendy of the University of Sussex explains how ancient tales were remembered and passed down, and travels to the ancient Theatre of Epidaurus in Greece to find out what the audience would have made of it all up in the 'gods'.

Featuring archive extracts of traditional stories from the Balkans, Kyrgyzstan, West Africa, and India.

Series producer: Matt Thompson.

07Persuasion20130326

From Cicero to Martin Luther King, over the centuries, great orators have changed our minds, given us hope, and sent us to the barricades.

Professor David Hendy of the University of Sussex reveals their rhetorical tricks, and explains why President Obama's sharp ear for dialogue is one of his greatest assets as a speaker.

Series producer: Matt Thompson.

08Babble20130327

As the Roman empire grew, the city at its heart sucked in exotic goods, tastes, smells, colours, and - of course - sounds from all around the world. Professor David Hendy of the University of Sussex asks what we would have heard if we'd visited the city in its heyday and walked its streets - passageways so narrow it was possible for upstairs dwellers to reach out and touch their neighbour opposite.

Bellowing animals, street-hawkers, the babble of a dozen languages, many now dead. Some inhabitants loved this sensory overload, but others ran from it. Where could a rich Roman go to get some peace?

Series producer: Matt Thompson.

09The Roaring Crowd20130328

'And the crowd roars...'

The London Olympics were a reminder of the barrage of sound that we noisy humans can make when we get together. Professor David Hendy of the University of Sussex travels to one of history's great amphitheatres - the ruins of the Roman Colosseum - to explain the power of the crowd: how it showed approval and what happened when it was displeased.

Series producer: Matt Thompson.

10The Ecstatic Underground20130329

Christianity was just one of several cults that sprang up in ancient Rome. So the sound-world of the first Christians probably wasn't filled with the subdued voices, measured singing and solemn prayers that would later echo through the medieval churches and cathedrals of Western Europe. It was more Eastern in flavour - or more pagan.

Professor David Hendy explores the ecstatic soundscapes of underground house churches in ancient Rome.

Series producer: Matt Thompson.

11The Bells2013040120151102 (BBC7)
20151103 (BBC7)

Prof David Hendy explores how the sound of the bell carries religion out into the world.

: Episode eleven of a thirty-part series made in collaboration with the British Library Sound Archive.

The peal of the church bell was one of the most dominant features in the Medieval soundscape. Every time it rang out, religion's hold over the secular world was signalled loud and clear. Professor David Hendy of the University of Sussex visits one of the oldest church bells in the UK and argues the sound's power lay in ancient, pagan associations.

Series producer: Matt Thompson

A Rockethouse production for BBC Radio 4.

12Tuning The Body2013040220151103 (BBC7)
20151104 (BBC7)

David Hendy explains how sound played a part in the medieval battle between good and evil.

: Episode twelve of a thirty-part series made in collaboration with the British Library Sound Archive.

In the Middle Ages, sound played a key role in the battle between Good and Evil. There were horrible sins of the tongue - idle words, boasting, flattery, lying and blaspheming - as well as sins of the ear, such as eavesdropping and the seduction of devilish words. The ears were the gateway not just to the body, but also to the soul.

Professor David Hendy of the University of Sussex considers the importance of sound to Medieval morality.

Series producer: Matt Thompson

A Rockethouse production for BBC Radio 4.

13Heavenly Sounds2013040320151104 (BBC7)
20151105 (BBC7)

David explores how medieval singers and preachers adapted to the acoustics of holy places.

: Episode thirteen of a thirty-part series made in collaboration with the British Library Sound Archive.

Worshipers in the Middle Ages would have been struck not just by the visual spectacle of great churches and cathedrals, but also by their sound. Medieval churches in the west had very different acoustics to the low-roofed, wattle and daub homes where most of their congregation lived.

Professor David Hendy of the University of Sussex explores how preachers and singers created sounds that fitted these holy spaces beautifully, from Romanesque churches to the musical pillars of Hampi, and an extraordinary 16th century experiment in stereo in St Mark's in Venice.

Series producer: Matt Thompson

A Rockethouse production for BBC Radio 4.

14Carnival2013040420151105 (BBC7)
20151106 (BBC7)

Prof David Hendy tells the story of a medieval street party that lasted for eight weeks.

Carnival: Episode fourteen of a thirty-part series made in collaboration with the British Library Sound Archive.

Feast days in Medieval Europe were noisy affairs - the streets filled with processions, animal baiting, games and mystery plays. Professor David Hendy of the University of Sussex tells the story of a Somerset town where a church ale got out of hand and the party went on for eight weeks. Then, as now, being raucous in the streets was a way for the dispossessed to make themselves heard - and revelry could easily tip into revolt.

Series producer: Matt Thompson

A Rockethouse production for BBC Radio 4.

15Restraint2013040520151106 (BBC7)
20151107 (BBC7)

New codes of conduct in the 16th and 17th centuries outlawed noise of every kind.

Restraint: Episode fifteen of a thirty-part series made in collaboration with the British Library Sound Archive.

The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries brought a new emphasis on self-discipline in every day life - and with it a revulsion against noise of every kind. City authorities banned singing and feasting from public squares and tore down maypoles, while town-dwellers raised petitions against noisy neighbours. Spitting, snorting and breaking wind - once part of everyday life - were now a cause for wrinkled noses and dismay. Professor David Hendy of the University of Sussex cocks a genteel ear to the polite sound-world of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Series producer: Matt Thompson

A Rockethouse production for BBC Radio 4.

16Colonists2013040820151109 (BBC7)
20151110 (BBC7)

: Episode Sixteen of a thirty-part series made in collaboration with the British Library Sound Archive.

Settlers arriving in America in the 17th century decreed the songs and sounds of native American Indians to be barbaric and wild - bloodcurdling hollering that might presage the most brutal of deaths.

Professor David Hendy of the University of Sussex explores the colonial politics of sound.

Signature tune composed by Joe Acheson.

Produced by Matt Thompson

A Rockethouse production for BBC Radio 4.

How settlers interpreted the sounds and songs of native American Indians.

Colonists: Episode Sixteen of a thirty-part series made in collaboration with the British Library Sound Archive.

17Shutting In2013040920151110 (BBC7)
20151111 (BBC7)

Professor David Hendy explains how cramped conditions led to a brutal massacre of cats.

: Episode seventeen of a thirty-part series made in collaboration with the British Library Sound Archive.

In the eighteenth century, Edinburgh was one of most overcrowded cities in Europe. Narrow alleys or 'wynds' separated looming tenement buildings, each housing multiple families. Individuals of very different classes and ways of life had to rub along in cramped conditions. Professor David Hendy of the University of Sussex squeezes in among them, and explains how a similar situation in Paris led to a surreal and brutal massacre of cats.

Produced by Matt Thompson

A Rockethouse production for BBC Radio 4.

18Master And Servant2013041020151111 (BBC7)
20151112 (BBC7)

Professor David Hendy eavesdrops with the servants in an 18th-century home.

: Episode eighteen of a thirty-part series made in collaboration with the British Library Sound Archive.

Grand town houses in the eighteenth century seemed to promise privacy. But in fact they offered anything but - the family home often included not just parents and children, but also elderly relatives, unmarried sisters, paying lodgers, and the nosiest neighbours of the lot, the servants.

Professor David Hendy of the University of Sussex eavesdrops on the whispers, gossip and scandal of the eighteenth century house, and tells the salacious tale of John Burt, a navy captain from Canterbury, who took his young wife Harriet to court for impropriety - on the evidence of his cook.

Produced by Matt Thompson

A Rockethouse production for BBC Radio 4.

19Slavery And Rebellion2013041120151112 (BBC7)
20151113 (BBC7)

David Hendy explores the history of slavery through sound.

: Episode nineteen of a thirty-part series made in collaboration with the British Library Sound Archive.

Many slaves would have heard the sounds of home for the last time as they waited at Ghana's Gate of No Return to be herded onto a ship to the new world. Far away on the Carolina plantations, they were expected to be quiet or to sing to demonstrate contentment with their lot. But in 1739, one of the largest and most violent revolts in American history took place - and for a brief time the slaves were anything but silent.

Professor David Hendy of the University of Sussex tells the story of the Stono River revolt.

Produced by: Matt Thompson

A Rockethouse production for BBC Radio 4.

20Revolution And War2013041220151113 (BBC7)
20151114 (BBC7)

The soundscape of civil conflict in 18th-century Paris and 19th-century America.

Revolution and War: Episode twenty of a thirty-part series made in collaboration with the British Library Sound Archive.

Paris 1789: Politics moves out of the palaces and into the streets - as the hushed voice of court diplomacy gives way to the angry howls of the crowd.

Professor David Hendy of the University of Sussex introduces the noises of revolutionary Paris, before travelling to the USA to explain how an 'acoustic shadow' helped the Confederate forces launch a surprise attack during the American Civil War. Also, there's the eerie sound of the 'rebel yell'.

Produced by Matt Thompson

A Rockethouse production for BBC Radio 4.

: Episode twenty of a thirty-part series made in collaboration with the British Library Sound Archive.

21The Conquering Engines2013041920130415 (BBC7)
20151116 (BBC7)
20151117 (BBC7)

Prof David Hendy explores how the sounds of nature gave way to the industrial revolution.

The Conquering Engines - Industrial Revolution: Episode twenty-one of a thirty-part series made in collaboration with the British Library Sound Archive.

Henry David Thoreau is one of history's great listeners. His classic work Walden is dense with descriptions of the natural sounds he discovered when he swapped his Concord home for a simple cabin in the woods. But his peace was disturbed by a noise that presaged the age to come: the snort of the iron horse.

Professor David Hendy of the University of Sussex explains how the sounds of nature gave way before the industrial din.

Signature tune composed by Joe Acheson.

Producer: Matt Thompson

A Rockethouse production for BBC Radio 4.

21The Conquering Engines: Industrial Revolution20130415

The Conquering Engines - Industrial Revolution: Episode twenty-one of a thirty-part series made in collaboration with the British Library Sound Archive.

Henry David Thoreau is one of history's great listeners. His classic work Walden is dense with descriptions of the natural sounds he discovered when he swapped his Concord home for a simple cabin in the woods. But his peace was disturbed by a noise that presaged the age to come: the snort of the iron horse.

Professor David Hendy of the University of Sussex explains how the sounds of nature gave way before the industrial din.

Signature tune composed by Joe Acheson.

Producer: Matt Thompson

A Rockethouse production for BBC Radio 4.

22The Beat Of A Heart, The Tramp Of A Fly2013041620151117 (BBC7)
20151118 (BBC7)

Medicine's listening revolution in the 19th century with the discovery of the stethoscope.

The Beat of a Heart, the Tramp of a Fly: Episode twenty-two of a thirty-part series made in collaboration with the British Library Sound Archive.

In the early years of the nineteenth century, new technology allowed people to hear sounds that had always existed - but below the threshold of normal human perception. Professor David Hendy of the University of Sussex tells the story of medicine's listening revolution: the discovery of the stethoscope.

Signature tune composed by Joe Acheson.

Producer: Matt Thompson

A Rockethouse production for BBC Radio 4.

: Episode twenty-two of a thirty-part series made in collaboration with the British Library Sound Archive.

23The New Art Of Listening20130417

: Episode twenty-three of a thirty-part series made in collaboration with the British Library Sound Archive.

In the eighteenth century, musical performances were a relaxed affair. Most audience members were so busy chatting, flirting and eating they didn't do much listening at all. But then came the era of grand concert halls. Professor David Hendy of the University of Sussex explores how the Victorians stopped shuffling and learned to hush.

Signature tune composed by Joe Acheson.

Producer: Matt Thompson

A Rockethouse production for BBC Radio 4.

24Life In The City20130418

: Episode twenty-four of a thirty-part series made in collaboration with the British Library Sound Archive.

As cities grew, next-door's noise became increasingly hard to escape. Professor David Hendy of the University of Sussex follows the writer Thomas Carlyle's grumpy attempts at soundproofing, before travelling to New York to imagine the teaming, noisy world of the Lower East Side tenements in the early twentieth century.

Signature tune composed by Joe Acheson.

Producer: Matt Thompson

A Rockethouse production for BBC Radio 4.

25Capturing Sound20130419

: Episode twenty-five of a thirty-part series made in collaboration with the British Library Sound Archive.

Sounds were ephemeral until recording technology made it possible to capture them. Professor David Hendy of the University of Sussex introduces bottled moments from the past, including the voices of Robert Browning and Florence Nightingale and 9/11 answerphone messages.

Signature tune composed by Joe Acheson.

Producer: Matt Thompson

A Rockethouse production for BBC Radio 4.

26Shell Shock20130422

The rumble of artillery bombardment in Northern France could be heard as far away as Kent during the First World War. Up close in the trenches, soldiers experienced a sonic onslaught that continued night and day: howling shells, the machine gun's rattle, and the screams of injured men.

Professor David Hendy of the University of Sussex visits Flanders to relay echoes from the Front.

Signature tune composed by Joe Acheson.

Producer: Matt Thompson

27Radio Everywhere20130423

In the early days, listening to radio was a magical, uncanny experience. Voices arrived out of thin air from hundreds of miles away. In time, the radio became a trusted part of family life - and by the 1930s and 40s, the perfect medium for propaganda, as Joseph Goebbels recognized.

Professor David Hendy of the University of Sussex considers the seductive power of the disembodied voice.

Signature tune composed by Joe Acheson

Producer Matt Thompson

28Music While You Shop, Music While You Work20130424

Professor David Hendy of the University of Sussex considers how music has been used to soothe us, cheer us, and make us productive over the past hundred years. Featuring extremely rare recordings of wartime episodes of the much-loved BBC series, Music While You Work.

Signature tune composed by Joe Acheson.

Producer: Matt Thompson

29An Ever Noisier World2013042520151127 (BBC7)

Prof Hendy travels to Accra, a city so loud that visitors describe it as a visceral shock.

The twentieth century brought attempts to distinguish between 'necessary' and 'unnecessary' noise. In New York, the authorities tried to clean up Coney Island fairground, banning barkers from using megaphones and targeting street sellers, newspaper boys, and buskers. But the volume of modern life has risen inexorably.

Professor David Hendy of the University of Sussex travels to Ghana's capital, Accra, a city so loud that visitors describe its streets as a visceral shock, and introduces an elegiac recording of the wild soundscape we've lost, captured by the celebrated naturalist, Bernie Krause.

Signature tune composed by Joe Acheson.

Producer: Matt Thompson.

30The Search For Silence2013050220130426 (BBC7)
20151127 (BBC7)

: The final episode of a thirty-part series made in collaboration with the British Library Sound Archive.

In the noisy modern world, silence has become an ever more desirable - and fashionable - state. We read books about it, go on retreats to find it, and soundproof our living and working spaces in its name. But when we have it is it what we want?

Professor David Hendy of the University of Sussex considers the modern quest for quiet and asks whether what really makes us humans happy is a little noise.

Signature tune composed by Joe Acheson.

Assistant producer: Cathy FitzGerald.

Producer: Matt Thompson.

A Rockethouse production for BBC Radio 4.

30 LASTThe Search For Silence20130426

In the noisy modern world, silence has become an ever more desirable - and fashionable - state. We read books about it, go on retreats to find it, and soundproof our living and working spaces in its name. But when we have it is it what we want?

Professor David Hendy of the University of Sussex considers the modern quest for quiet and asks whether what really makes us humans happy is a little noise.

Signature tune composed by Joe Acheson.

Assistant producer: Cathy FitzGerald.

Producer: Matt Thompson.

OMNI0120130322

A six-week series made in collaboration with the British Library Sound Archive.

Professor David Hendy from the University of Sussex visits the caves of Arcy-sur-Cure in Burgundy with musicologist Iegor Reznikoff to listen to evidence of the mind and beliefs of Neolithic people.

He travels to Ghana to hear the talking drum and explores our relationship with noisy nature.

Orkney's Neolithic sites feel like theatre stages, encouraging us to move through them in unfamiliar ways. Were these the kind of places where our ancestors came to make a spectacular din - or places where they came in search of silence and sensory deprivation?

Finally, David explains how sound - and its manipulation - is central to the shaman's power.

Series Producer: Matt Thompson

A Rockethouse production for BBC Radio 4.

OMNI0220130329

Omnibus edition of the second week of David Hendy's series, with the sounds of ancient Rome.

As the Roman empire grew, the city at its heart sucked in exotic goods, tastes, smells, colours, and - of course - sounds from all around the world. Professor David Hendy of the University of Sussex asks what we would have heard if we'd visited the city in its heyday and walked its streets.

He travels to one of history's great amphitheatres - the ruins of the Roman Colosseum - to explain the power of the noisy crowd: how it showed approval and what happened when it was displeased. And he explores the ecstatic soundscapes of underground house churches in ancient Rome.

Also, from Cicero to Martin Luther King, over the centuries, great orators have changed our minds, given us hope, and sent us to the barricades. David reveals their rhetorical tricks, and explains why President Obama's sharp ear for dialogue is one of his greatest assets as a speaker.

Noise: a Human History is a six week series made in collaboration with the British Library Sound Archive.

Series producer: Matt Thompson.

A Rockethouse production for BBC Radio 4.

OMNI0320130405

David Hendy continues his six-week series on the history of sound.

OMNI0420130412

An omnibus edition of episodes from the fourth week of a six-week series made in collaboration with the British Library Sound Archive.

Settlers arriving in America in the 17th century decreed the songs and sounds of native American Indians to be barbaric and wild - bloodcurdling hollering that might presage the most brutal of deaths. Professor David Hendy of the University of Sussex explores the colonial politics of sound.

He also squeezes among the crowded narrow alleys or 'wynds' of 18th Century tenement buildings in Edinburgh and explains how a similar cramped conditions in Paris led to a surreal and brutal massacre of cats.

David eavesdrops on the whispers, gossip and scandal of the eighteenth century house, and tells the salacious tale of John Burt, a navy captain from Canterbury, who took his young wife Harriet to court for impropriety - on the evidence of his cook.

This week also includes the soundscapes of slavery, and of civil conflict in 18th century Paris and 19th century America.

Signature tune composed by Joe Acheson.

Produced by Matt Thompson

A Rockethouse production for BBC Radio 4.

OMNI0520130419

Omnibus edition of the episodes from week five of a six week series made in collaboration with the British Library Sound Archive.

Henry David Thoreau is one of history's great listeners. His classic work Walden is dense with descriptions of the natural sounds he discovered when he swapped his Concord home for a simple cabin in the woods. But his peace was disturbed by a noise that presaged the age to come: the snort of the iron horse.

Professor David Hendy of the University of Sussex explains how the sounds of nature gave way before the industrial din.

As cities grew, next-door's noise became increasingly hard to escape. David follows the writer Thomas Carlyle's grumpy attempts at soundproofing, before travelling to New York to imagine the teaming, noisy world of the Lower East Side tenements in the early twentieth century.

We also discover the story of medicine's listening revolution - the stethoscope - and find out about the first attempts to use technology to turn ephemeral sounds into something captured permanently. David Hendy introduces bottled moments from the past, including the voices of Robert Browning and Florence Nightingale and 9/11 answerphone messages.

Signature tune composed by Joe Acheson.

Producer: Matt Thompson

A Rockethouse production for BBC Radio 4.

OMNI06 LAST20130426

Omnibus edition of the episodes from the final week of a six-week series made in collaboration with the British Library Sound Archive.

The rumble of artillery bombardment in Northern France could be heard as far away as Kent during the First World War. Up close in the trenches, soldiers experienced a sonic onslaught that continued night and day: howling shells, the machine gun's rattle, and the screams of injured men. Professor David Hendy of the University of Sussex visits Flanders to relay echoes from the Front.

He also explores the early days of radio and the seductive power of the disembodied voice, coming out of thin air from hundreds of miles away. In time, the radio became a trusted part of family life - and by the 1930s and 40s, the perfect medium for propaganda, as Joseph Goebbels recognized.

The programme also considers how music has been used to soothe us, cheer us, and make us productive over the past hundred years - and includes extremely rare recordings of wartime episodes of the much-loved BBC series, Music While You Work.

Next, David travels to Ghana's capital, Accra, a city so loud that visitors describe its streets as a visceral shock, and introduces an elegiac recording of the wild soundscape we've lost, captured by the celebrated naturalist, Bernie Krause.

And finally, he considers the modern quest for quiet. In the noisy modern world, silence has become an ever more desirable - and fashionable - state. We read books about it, go on retreats to find it, and soundproof our living and working spaces in its name. But when we have it is it what we want?

Is is actually a little noise that really makes us humans happy.

Signature tune composed by Joe Acheson.

Producer: Matt Thompson

A Rockethouse production for BBC Radio 4.