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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 December 2012


This article presents thirty ‘auditory snapshots’ from a wide variety of geographical locations and contexts in order to elaborate several points. First, we believe that the study of history cannot be separated from the study of sound, whether in the form of ‘soundscapes’ or pieces of music. Second, we find that considerations of edges, into which we fold such things as provinces, peripheries and frontiers, can be greatly enriched by looking at a broad range of musical phenomena, from the liturgy of Ugandan Jews to reggae-infused Polish mountain songs and from the sounds of Mozart's Black contemporary Saint-Georges to Silent Night on the Southern Seas. Finally, drawing on certain ideas from James C. Scott's The Art of Not Being Governed, we argue that paradoxically, in music, the middle often has unusual properties. In other words, musical structure mimics the ongoing battle between those in positions of authority and those who wish to evade that authority. Beginnings and endings, then, tend to be sites of power and convention, while middles attempt to subvert it. While culturally and geographically we may contrast centres and peripheries, in music the centre is often the edge.

Research Article
Copyright © Royal Historical Society 2012

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