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Episode 6 of 6
Omnibus edition of the episodes from the final week of a six-week series made in collaboration with the British Library Sound Archive.
The rumble of artillery bombardment in Northern France could be heard as far away as Kent during the First World War. Up close in the trenches, soldiers experienced a sonic onslaught that continued night and day: howling shells, the machine gun's rattle, and the screams of injured men. Professor David Hendy of the University of Sussex visits Flanders to relay echoes from the Front.
He also explores the early days of radio and the seductive power of the disembodied voice, coming out of thin air from hundreds of miles away. In time, the radio became a trusted part of family life - and by the 1930s and 40s, the perfect medium for propaganda, as Joseph Goebbels recognized.
The programme also considers how music has been used to soothe us, cheer us, and make us productive over the past hundred years - and includes extremely rare recordings of wartime episodes of the much-loved BBC series, Music While You Work.
Next, David travels to Ghana's capital, Accra, a city so loud that visitors describe its streets as a visceral shock, and introduces an elegiac recording of the wild soundscape we've lost, captured by the celebrated naturalist, Bernie Krause.
And finally, he considers the modern quest for quiet. In the noisy modern world, silence has become an ever more desirable - and fashionable - state. We read books about it, go on retreats to find it, and soundproof our living and working spaces in its name. But when we have it is it what we want?
Is is actually a little noise that really makes us humans happy.
Signature tune composed by Joe Acheson.
Producer: Matt Thompson
A Rockethouse production for BBC Radio 4.