#51 The Noisy Renaissance: Sound, Architecture, and Florentine Urban Life
Updated: Dec 5, 2022
Saturday, November 19th on Zoom 10am Los Angeles, 11am Phoenix, 1pm NY & Toronto, 6pm London, 7pm Italy
There is nothing as Florentine as the beloved bells of the city. The deep bell of the Campanile of the Duomo, solemn call for vespers of Santa Croce, the timely clock on the tower of Palazzo Vecchio, and the bell we hopefully will never hear - that of the Bargello. We will explore this 'soundtrack' of Florence with Niall Atkison, Associate Professor of Art History and Romance Languages and Literature at the University of Chicago. His research focuses on the experience of architecture and urban space in early modern Italy in order to understand the built environment as a collective social construction of the body’s sensorial apparatus.
This lecture traces the construction of a sonic 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 confronted 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, however, to the more antagonistic urbanistic policies that governments used to combat their enemies, 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. By addressing four separate stories, this talk will show how noisy and silence in Renaissance Florence was an integral part of the experience of urban space.
Niall Atkinson is Associate Professor of Art History and Romance Languages and Literature at the University of Chicago. His research focuses on the experience of architecture and urban space in early modern Italy in order to understand the build environment as a collective social construction of the body’s sensorial apparatus. His recent work has explored the relationship between sound, space, and architecture and their role in the construction of civic society, culminating in the publication of The Noisy Renaissance: sound, architecture, and Florentine urban life (Penn State, 2016). He is currently co-writing a book on the urban visual and spatial effects of the narratives and itineraries of French travelers to early modern Rome (with Susanna Caviglia, Duke University). He is also experimenting with digital technologies to spatialize the demographic data contained in the 1427 tax census of Florence (catasto) into an interactive geographic platform. In collaboration with a consortium of related digital reconstruction projects focused on Renaissance Florence (Florentia Illustrata), this method of geo-referenced spatial history will lay the groundwork for future experiments in mapping the soundscapes and other sensory experiences of early modern cities. Future projects include the role of city descriptions in mediating cultural exchange in early modern Mediterranean travel accounts, as well as an ongoing interdisciplinary collaborative project exploring the cultural interactions of the Indian Ocean (“Interwoven: Sonic, visual and textual histories of the Indian Ocean world”). In 2018, he co-curated the US Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale on the theme, “Dimensions of Citizenship.”
To RSVP: Paola50122@gmail.com
Minimum suggested donation: $20
This talk is free for Friends of Paola's Studiolo!
Look forward to seeing you on Zoom!