Sonic Armatures: Constructing an Acoustic Regime in Renaissance Florence

Author: Atkinson, Niall

Source: The Senses and Society, 1 March 2012, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 39-52(14)

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Abstract:

This article traces the construction of an acoustic regime in Renaissance Florence that was based on the casting, placement, and ringing of civic bells. In confronting the formidable but mute power of the defensive towers that dominated the city's skyline in the late middle ages, successive republican governments regulated these private towers with legislative restrictions while transforming them into a speaking architecture. The new civic bell towers played a crucial, if hitherto neglected role in the struggle to create the Florentine republic, which was the political ground upon which the cultural phenomenon of the Renaissance was founded. In contrast to the more antagonistic urbanistic policies that Florentine governments used to combat their enemies, however, the ringing of civic bells exploited the unifying power of religious bells – a power embedded in their role in uniting people into spiritual communities – to integrate its ideals, laws, and institutions into the soundscape of the city. As a result, the sonic armature created by these bells can be read as an evolving attempt to bind the social body to its architectural environment and to create a universal civic society that transcended more localized loyalties and whose existence guaranteed the legitimacy of its ruling bodies.

Keywords: ARCHITECTURE; BELL RINGING; BELLS; CIVIC JUSTICE; FLORENCE; ITALY; MEDIEVAL; RENAISSANCE; SOUNDSCAPE; TOWERS; URBANISM

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2752/174589312X13173255802030

Publication date: March 1, 2012

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