Sound Tracks

Sound Tracks

Uncovering Our Musical Past


A transporting voyage of archaeological discovery: Sound Tracks unearths instruments from around the world and across time, releasing the past's musical secrets for the first time.

‘A thrilling journey into the sonic richness of human experience’ PHILIP BALL, author of The Music Instinct

‘A magical book’ FRANCIS PRYOR, author of Britain BC

From the present day back to the dawn of time, from dark caves and murky swamps to open deserts and ocean depths, here is the history of humankind's relationship with music in fifty detective stories.

We see a child’s delight in Peru in AD 700, playing with a water-filled pot that chirps like a bird; we shiver with a lonely soldier sending trumpet signals to the next watchtower on Hadrian's Wall; we sway to the stately rhythms of the 64 bells buried in a tomb in China in the 5th century BC. And on this grand tour, we learn that music is part of what makes us human – a way of commemorating our pasts, communicating with others and shaping our lives.

Brimming with astonishing insights, Sound Tracks provides an enthralling alternative history of humanity in which the silences of the past are filled with a glorious treasure hoard of vanished sounds and voices.

‘Piles revelation upon revelation to shed a completely new perspective on the tools we use for making music’ NORMAN LEBRECHT, author of Why Beethoven

‘Lawson has brilliantly conjured up the sounds of 30,000 years of human history’ DAVID ABULAFIA, Professor Emeritus of Mediterranean History


  • In exploring the historical traces humankind has left of our music-making, Graeme Lawson captures the full scope of the ingenuity and passion that we have brought to this mysterious yet universal and vital impulse. You’ll encounter instruments you never knew existed, find yourself humming the songs of the Bronze Age, and ponder the connections between our own musicality and that we see in other animals. It’s a thrilling journey into the sonic richness of human experience
    Philip Ball, author of The Music Instinct

About the author

Graeme Lawson

Graeme Lawson is an archaeologist, musician and historian with a lifelong fascination for music’s fossil record. He has held senior research fellowships at Cambridge and the Freie Universität Berlin, pioneering the application of science to music’s prehistory and tracing musical continuities through time and across continents.

An acknowledged authority in his field, his ability to communicate with the wider public has made him much sought after, both as performer and speaker, and has done much to raise the profile of music archaeology. His writing brings into sharp focus humankind’s profound and enduring relationship with sound and music.
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