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Madrid’s great sonic transformation: Sound, noise, and the auditory commons of the city in the nineteenth century

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Ian BiddleORCiD



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Routledge, 2019.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


This article addresses a key question attending contemporary sound studies, how do cities shape, intervene in and manage auditory cultures? Focussing in particular on Madrid of the first republic and restoration (to 1931), this chapter seeks to make sense of some of the ways in which power, politics and shifting imaginations of the seat of government are also reflected in new imaginations of the city as a soundscape. How did shifting segmentational logics of the city, shifting fashions, and changes in the public imagination of cities as sites of both sociability and isolation impact on the sonic liveability of the city of Madrid? The article draws on a range of primary sources, including literature, music, architectural theory, theses on sound reproduction technology, treatises on government and political pamphlets, to sketch a series of discursive shifts that occurred in the habitus of the city, changing the cultural function of listening, eavesdropping, and auditory surveillance. In addition, the chapter seeks to understand some of the ways in which some of these shifts impacted on musical cultures of the city, in particular changing attitudes to the suitor management of what Antonio Negri as referred to as ‘the commons’. The notion of a shared, universally accessible and owned public space. What, I ask, were the terms on which a new auditory commons emerged in Madrid? What mechanisms were used to understand, manage and shape this commons?

Publication metadata

Author(s): Biddle I

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies

Year: 2019

Volume: 20

Issue: 3

Pages: 227-240

Online publication date: 09/08/2019

Acceptance date: 09/11/2018

Date deposited: 09/11/2018

ISSN (print): 1463-6204

ISSN (electronic): 1469-9818

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/14636204.2019.1651611


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