The Sounds of War

Conference at Freie Universität Berlin will investigate the soundscape of war and the significance of sound for how war is experienced and remembered

What do wars sound like and how do their sounds shape how we experience and remember war? These are some of the questions that historians and researchers from a wide variety of other disciplines will be debating as part of the three-day conference, "The Sound of War." Experts from across Europe and North America will be presenting and discussing their research. The conference will take place at Freie Universität Berlin’s Department of History and Cultural Studies from September 27-29, 2023. This is the first conference of its kind and is organized by the Arbeitskreis Militärgeschichte e.V., a working group dedicated to the academic research of military history and war from social sciences and cultural studies perspectives. Those interested in attending are asked to register in advance by sending an email to by September 10, 2023, at the latest.

War is an extremely aural experience, filled with the sounds of weapons and the cries of wounded people and animals. It is not only inseparable from violence, but also from sound. War has always been and continues to be one of the loudest events of human history. The main focus of the interdisciplinary conference "The Sound of War" will be on the soundscape of war and its effects - from antiquity to the present. Researchers will examine "belliphony" (i.e., the sounds of war) and its significance for how war is experienced, remembered, and presented. The organizers of the conference emphasize that the violence of war can only be fully understood when the acoustic aspects thereof are also taken into consideration.

In addition to the sound of weaponry, other sounds such as those stemming from movement, voices, and music all belong to the soundscape of war - as do the speeches, conversations, and prayers that take place in the run-up to conflict. However, the lack of sound also takes on new meaning in the context of war, for example, when the silence before the battle and the stealthy, noiseless enemy are perceived as particularly foreboding.

Additionally, belliphony also has an effect on how societies affected by war and noncombatants experience war with certain sounds ingraining themselves into collective memory.

In the six sections of the conference, "Soundscape Combat: Violence and Sound," "Battle Songs and the Music of Occupation," "Sounds of War and Trauma," "Silence and Quiet in Combat," "Narrative Belliphonic," and "Sound as a Political Means of War Commemoration," military historians and representatives from disciplines such as sensory studies or sound studies will have the opportunity to debate the soundscape of war from antiquity to the modern day for the first time. The conference also offers a platform to discuss the potential of sound studies for how we study military history.

The Arbeitskreis Militärgeschichte e.V.

The Arbeitskreis Militärgeschichte e.V. is a research network founded in 1995 with the aim of promoting research and academic exchange in the field of military and war history from an interdisciplinary and interepochal perspective. The group is open to approaches ranging from political, institutional, and economic history to social, cultural, and gender history. Its aim is to contribute toward the development of this topical and important field within the study of history. For this reason, the working group provides a forum to anyone interested in the historical aspects of war and the military, from antiquity to the twenty-first century. It offers a platform for information and communication, for example, through regular workshops, conferences, an annual general meeting for members, and the publication portal "Portal Militärgeschichte." The main office of the Arbeitskreis Militärgeschichte e.V. is based at the Institute for European Studies and History at Chemnitz University of Technology.