Summer vacations spent in waters and mountains are remembered as visual memories by most people. They would oftentimes recall those memories: the blue sea, a dense forest, and crystal-clear waters. Yet, few would remember the sounds of the precious time they spent with the ocean’s waves, birds chirping, and waters flowing in a stream. This is because our experience and memories are mostly stored in visual forms.
This book explains everything about sounds in plain words for the general public. A variety of sonic wonders, such as ancient theaters and remains, crying sounds of animals, sand dunes and waterfalls, the most silent place in the world, and modern artifacts are introduced in nine chapters. The author takes readers to all over the world through different sounds.
In ancient Greek and Roman times, concerts used to be held in theaters that accommodated tens of thousands of spectators even without equipment to amplify. Still, ancient people sometimes made mistakes. Vitruvius, who served in the army under Caesar, argued that placing vases within a theater would make actors’ voices more audible, and many theaters actually did so. However, a present-day experiment has proved that it is not the case.
Which animal would make the most beautiful sounds? In the West, nightingales are known to sing the loveliest melodies as they, living in bushes, have evolved to develop their singing ability more than their appearance. In 1924, a radio program on BBC broadcast nightingales imitating the performance of a cellist. In the meantime, one of the noisiest animals is an African cicada. Their singing is as loud as a rock drill.
South Korea’s Bell of King Seongdeok, also known as the Emile Bell, is also introduced along with the world’s acoustic landmarks. What is the secret behind the bell’s marvelous sounds? According to the book, it is the effect of a beat that happens between similar frequencies due to an intended asymmetry. A craftsman in the Western countries would have tried to achieve a complete symmetry, not being able to induce such unique sounds.
The author recommends readers to take a “soundwalk” that can lift their sensitivity levels. Taking a stroll, focusing on nearby sounds such as the flap of birds, murmurings of people, and passing winds through buildings, would definitely open up new spaces for readers, which they cannot experience through eyes.
Original title: “The Sound Book: The Science of the Sonic Wonders of the World” (2014)