Sonic History - Theory and Practice
Denying the belief that – unlike the document – sound is ephemeral (going out of existence even as it happens), Richard Cullen Rath gives us three factors which mitigate this objection. He claims that such comparison is misleading, if not mistaken. Historians do not usually write the history of documents (discounting for the moment the important work on the history of the book as material culture); They interprate the past, all of which has gone out of existence as soon as it came into being, just like sounds; and like any other experiences, sound and hearing can be partially recovered and interpreted from documents and material culture. Second, sound is not as ephemeral as we might first think (thunder presumably sounds much the same today as it did three or four centuries ago, bells toll for the most part the same notes, etc.).
The third solution to the problem of sound ephemerality is what he call: soundways - the ways that people employ to interpret and express their attitudes and beliefs about sound. They can be found in many types of documents and they are no more nor less ephemeral than any other human patterns in the past. (fragment)
Jarosław Jaworek Wydział Historii UAM