From Birdsong to Rotor Slap: The Sonic Experience of American National Parks

Barker, Stuart J (2018) From Birdsong to Rotor Slap: The Sonic Experience of American National Parks. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,.

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Abstract

This thesis explores how Euro-American settlers, explorers, tourists and to a more limited extent Native Americans, have listened to and interpreted natural sounds within the United States. It examines how Americans gained knowledge of their environment through the sounds that they listened to, and argues that the aural sense was pivotal to their understanding of these places. Primarily, this thesis investigates these experiences through case studies of two national parks, the Grand Canyon and Yosemite. I explore how the soundscapes of these two parks evolved from sounding predominantly natural at the mid to end of the nineteenth century to having the sonic imprint of tourism and mechanisation in the twentieth century. The effect that noise pollution had on visitors' perceptions of these places is examined and I argue that human-made noise altered their sense of place. John Muir's engagement with natural sounds and his promotion of national parks as a sonic experience are detailed. I argue that Muir rated the aural sense alongside the visual in his enjoyment of nature. This thesis offers a new approach to environmental and national park scholarship, which have both previously failed to explain or even explore the human experience of natural spaces through the aural sense in any depth. I argue that listening was core to the national park experience and challenge the visuocentric approach to both environmental and national park history. The following work also expands on previous aural history scholarship that has largely centred on urban soundscapes.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Wills, John
Thesis advisor: Collins, Michael
Uncontrolled keywords: Environmental History, Sensory History, Aural History, Outdoor recreation, National Parks, American West, Soundscapes, Nature
Divisions: Faculties > University wide - Teaching/Research Groups > Centre for American Studies
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 24 Sep 2018 09:14 UTC
Last Modified: 29 May 2019 21:11 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/69227 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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