University of Sussex
Felfer, Thomas.pdf (6.17 MB)

Sensing the sound. Auditory experience - memory, place and emotions - through a study of church bells in Austria

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posted on 2023-06-10, 03:44 authored by Thomas Felfer
The aim of the thesis is to describe the relationship between sound, space and emotions through a historically informed study of church bells in Vorarlberg, Austria. In doing so it explores the complex and historically changing nature of auditory experience informed by memories and emotions in relation to place. Through the study of church bells the thesis examines how sounds are figured and reconfigured within the specific soundscape of Vorarlberg. The focus of the dissertation is influenced by the increasing attention given to senses in the field of humanities and social science. The thesis aims to rethink the relation between body and place through the study of sound. Using a combination of theories and approaches from sound studies, history of emotions and memory studies, the thesis will provide tools to understand the contribution to place-making informed by memories and emotions. Based on historical sources, different forms of media and through a series of oral history interviews the thesis will examine the intersection between sound, memories and emotions and explore how this contributes in creating a certain sense of place as well as group identities. To achieve this goal the thesis is divided into three parts. Part one focus on the seizing of bells during the First and Second World Wars to unveil how sound is used in creating and highlighting different emotional communities. The second part uses the recasting of bells to examine sound as part of a particular memory culture; it also investigates how an attachment to sound is created and how this attachment is embedded within a certain experience of place. Part three demonstrates how sound is deployed within different forms of media with the use of bells, it also explores how sound can be seen as a tool that re-mediates different meanings. This will be illustrated through an analysis of bells on the Austrian radio, audio-visual documentaries and an exhibition based upon the use of virtual reality. This thesis contributes to the understanding that sound informs a sense of place. Furthermore, it provides valuable insights on how the auditory experience is made up of embodied sensing alongside mediated and re-mediated meanings.


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  • Media and Film Theses

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  • doctoral

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  • eng


University of Sussex

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