Date

5-1-2020

Description

Although much research has been done on 9/11 and while the field of sensory history is burgeoning, we lack a sensory history of the events on and surrounding 9/11. Research on the auditory experience of New Yorkers in the year 2001 offers us access to the experience of the event, providing insight that a more traditional, eye-centered history of 9/11 cannot capture. Based on extensive research in the New York Times and the New York Daily News, this paper argues that the sounds of 9/11 were propelled into the defenseless ears of New Yorkers, altering their worlds often for months after the event. In the months leading up to 9/11, cell phone, neighbor, and traffic noises filled the conscious and subconscious soundscape of New Yorkers. At 8:45 on September 11, 2001, those noises became utterly irrelevant and, in many cases, were silenced. New, foreign soundscapes forced New Yorkers to listen for missing sounds, relive 9/11 through phantom sounds, adjust to new sounds, and reevaluate old sounds. An auditory history of this event--and listening to New Yorkers in lower Manhattan listen--reveals deeply unsettling, invasive trauma, one that seeing alone cannot fully demonstrate. This paper intersects with work on historical acoustemology and the sensory history of war and natural disasters to reveal a soundscape turned upside down. It chronicles the lived experience of people at a unique moment in U.S. history and charts the short and long term impact of the sounds of 9/11.

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May 1st, 12:00 AM

Listening to 9/11: Towards an Auditory History of a Catastrophe

Although much research has been done on 9/11 and while the field of sensory history is burgeoning, we lack a sensory history of the events on and surrounding 9/11. Research on the auditory experience of New Yorkers in the year 2001 offers us access to the experience of the event, providing insight that a more traditional, eye-centered history of 9/11 cannot capture. Based on extensive research in the New York Times and the New York Daily News, this paper argues that the sounds of 9/11 were propelled into the defenseless ears of New Yorkers, altering their worlds often for months after the event. In the months leading up to 9/11, cell phone, neighbor, and traffic noises filled the conscious and subconscious soundscape of New Yorkers. At 8:45 on September 11, 2001, those noises became utterly irrelevant and, in many cases, were silenced. New, foreign soundscapes forced New Yorkers to listen for missing sounds, relive 9/11 through phantom sounds, adjust to new sounds, and reevaluate old sounds. An auditory history of this event--and listening to New Yorkers in lower Manhattan listen--reveals deeply unsettling, invasive trauma, one that seeing alone cannot fully demonstrate. This paper intersects with work on historical acoustemology and the sensory history of war and natural disasters to reveal a soundscape turned upside down. It chronicles the lived experience of people at a unique moment in U.S. history and charts the short and long term impact of the sounds of 9/11.