the acoustic world of Elizabethan England.

The Isle is full of noyses,sounds, and sweet aires,
That give delight and hurt not:
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments

Will hum about mine eares;  and sometime voices,
That if I had then wak’d after long sleepe

Will make me sleepe again…
(Caliban.  The Tempest)

We’re part of a sound world. What’s changed is our awareness of those sounds... I was reading somewhere that every sound that had ever been made in the earth’s atmosphere still exists somewhere no matter how faint the frequencies are, and if we just had the right equipment we could still hear... Shakespeare himself playing the ghost in Hamlet. And I asked myself: are the sounds of the past gone forever? (Bruce Smith)

Middle Watchbury farm, Barford, Warwickshire

Why were the ears so important [to Elizabethans]? Why was sound so important? Because it was a way of addressing the soul, a way of the external world entering the internal world of the individual. (Anthony Rooley)

Kenilworth Castle, Kenilworth, Warwickshire.

There is an aural culture, and how has that aural culture changed? Obviously we don’t have recordings... but some of the [historical] descriptions are very evocative, and you do get a sense of it. You can go to some villages today and discover elements that probably haven’t changed much... and you can try to recreate it if some of the artifacts, like bells or mills, are still there. (Barry Truax)

For more information on Elizabethan acoustics try these resources:

Four centuries ago... did people listen
in a different way than we do now?
How different were the sounds they heard?
And can we tune into their auditory world?

The Great Bell of Bow, St.Mary-le-Bow church, London

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A documentary feature coproduced in St. John's, Vancouver and London by Chris Brookes, Paolo Pietropaolo, and Alan Hall of

and inspired by Bruce Smith's book The Acoustic World of Early Modern England
With the voices of:

Michael Ashton - steeplekeeper
Gordon Dickens -Thames harbour pilot
John Drew - author & historian
Elizabeth Goldring - author & historian
Diane Hadley - farmer
Sophie Matthews -site interpreter
Susan May - farmer
Simon Meyer - steeplekeeper
Robin O'Donoghue - film sound mixer
Stewart Pearce - voice consultant
Anthony Rooley - lutenist
Juliet Rylance - actor
Bruce Smith - author & historian
Barry Truax - author & acoustician

HARK! was produced in two primary versions:

Canadian Hark! broadcast: Sept 29/08 on CBC Radio IDEAS:

U.K. Hark! broadcast Oct 5/08 on BBC Radio 3 Sunday Feature
Additional versions on YLE Finland,

ABC Australia

Bell ringing practice at Southwark Cathedral, London

Sounds recorded in England during June and July 2008.

The Witchmen Morris Side performing at the Hollybush pub, Alcester, Warwickshire

The White Hart Morris Side performing at the Hollybush pub, Alcester, Warwickshire

Underground station, London

The Great Bell of Bow heard in the steeple, St Mary le Bow church, London

The Bow bells heard at street level (Bow Lane) London

Pigs at Middle Watchbury Farm, Barford,Warwickshire

Dawn chorus, Knighton, Warwickshire