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The history of acoustics, a subfield of physics, can be written as a narrative in which this field of knowledge came to be defined less by the study of sound itself than by the nonaural physical conditions that enable it. Having emerged in the early modern era simply as the science of the heard, acoustics was often viewed more specifically as a study of vibration. Since vibration is not only a feature of sound production but also a phenomenon independent of aural perception, acoustics increasingly found itself in communication with scientific endeavors, including precision measurement and processes of standardization, that relied on the regularity of vibratory patterns but had little to do with the aural as such. In short, “acoustics” familiarly understood is situated at an oblique angle to sound, promising epistemic access to hearing while pointing off toward other forms of knowledge.

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