If a time machine could take us back a couple of centuries, the first thing that would strike us would be the deafening silence. The industrial and technological revolution has accustomed us to noise, which has invaded our lives to such a great extent that we almost need it and saturate our private and public places with "background" music in order to escape the discomfort of silence. This extremely original essay by Stefano Pivato sheds light on the transformation of a silent society into a society of noise that occurred between the 19th and the 20th centuries. The author employs a wide array of significant sources, ranging from literature to art to journalism. Pivato shows the reader how deeply the 20th century has accommodated noise, including not just the clatter of industrial modernity but also the clamour of war (glorified by Futurists) and modern mass politics.
Stefano Pivato teaches Contemporary History and currently heads the University of Urbino.