Niall Atkinson: "Listening to the City"
Listening to the City
Talk by Niall Atkinson
Associate Professor of Art History, University of Chicago
All of the complex interlacing of aural order and disorder, harmony and dissonance, noise and silence that characterized the late medieval and Renaissance city pervade the era’s most popular narratives, from the most erudite literature to the most popular stories. In this talk, Niall Atkinson will argue that sonic themes drive narratives in which a profound anxiety about justice, insurrection, salvation, gossip, lies, and rumors was deployed as an investigative device to understand the social and spatial relationships of a highly fractious and hierarchical city. These narratives highlighted the contentious negotiations between sonic, spatial, and social order as a way to dismantle, probe, lampoon, reinforce, or even reconfigure institutions and norms. Highly sensitive to the correlation of space and social status established by sound, such narratives allow the historian to bind the social foundations and the symbolic dimensions of the built environment in ways that are not always apparent in the conventional architectural documentary record.