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[Past Events 2017] 'Powers of Hearing': Guest Lecture at Columbia University

Recomposing the City co-director Gascia Ouzounian will give a guest lecture hosted by the Society of Fellows at Columbia University. Details below.

Powers of Hearing: Acoustic Defense and Technologies of Listening during the First World War

Thursday, April 6, 2017  12:15pm - 2:00pmThe Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room

During the First World War large-scale aerial warfare necessitated new methods of acoustic defense: tracking the enemy through listening and acoustic sensing. Referencing now-declassified military reports, military manuals and scientific literature from this period, this presentation investigates the the development of WWI-era acoustic defense technologies including geophones, double trumpet sound-locators, acoustic visors, listening wells, sound mirrors, acoustic goniometers, the Baillaud paraboloïde and the Perrin télésitemetre. It examines new modes of listening that emerged in relation to these devices, including “alt-azimuth" listening and other modes of collaborative and cooperative listening. It further uncovers historical phenomena like the establishment of écoles d’écoute, “schools of hearing” where Allied soldiers received training in operating acoustic defense technologies, and it examines the design of “ear training exercises” for a new class of expert military auditor. It argues that, during this period, the listening act was reconfigured as a complex, fragmented act of data collection in ways that prefigured modern notions of “machine listening.” Similarly, directional listening, which had previously been studied in terms of perceptual psychology, was newly understood in strategic terms: a tactical activity that could determine human and even national survival.


  • Open exclusively to Columbia faculty and students and invited guests.
    All others wishing to attend, please email describing your interest and requesting registration.