Music is vibrating air, evanescent, destined to recede at the very moment we grasp it. It is therefore difficult to exploit its material traces, as we typically do, for example, with parchments or frescoes. Yet history is full of pervasive and decisive sounds, linked to every type of human behaviour: wars, celebrations, meditations, religious rites, and so on. So, we can reconstruct the past by exploring musical notations and the instruments used to produce sounds: ancient shamans’ percussions, pan flutes, oud strings in Arabs’ enchanted gardens, keyboards that fashioned the civilization of good manners, accordions that accompanied emigrants on their journeys, guitars expressing the voice of the people, and the drums that created youth and their singing. The book outlines a European and Mediterranean voyage in search of lost sounds, which often shaped the meaning of the world in which men and women lived; indeed, at times such sounds actually made history.
Alessandro Vanoli is an expert in Mediterranean history.