Sounding the Archival Silence: Searching for Music in the Nineteenth-Century English Asylum

Golding, Rosemary (2022). Sounding the Archival Silence: Searching for Music in the Nineteenth-Century English Asylum. Social History of Medicine, 35(4) pp. 1223–1246.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/shm/hkac035

Abstract

The music of the nineteenth-century English asylum provides a rare insight into the place of music within the structure of a medical institution during this period. Yet with archives literally ‘silent’, how far can the sound and experience of music be retrieved and reconstructed? Drawing on critical archive theory and the idea of the soundscape as well as musicological and historical practice, this article questions how we can investigate asylum soundscapes through the silences of the archive, and how we can use the resulting processes to deepen our relationship with the archive and enrichen other aspects of historical and archive studies. I argue that in drawing attention to new forms of evidence in order to address the literal ‘silence’ of the nineteenth-century asylum, new approaches to metaphorical ‘silences’ can be found.

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