While we were in Chicago, I finished the book that my folklore professor gave me. It's How Early America Sounded by Richard Cullen Rath. It was a fascinating book, and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in pre-Industrial Revolution times. It's not so much about music (though music does figure heavily into it) as it is about the sound world of 17th- and early 18th-century America. Rath talks about the different ways in which English colonists, African slaves, and First Nations tribes all perceived sound and its importance in their lives. He describes the use of sound to mark the boundaries of a community, to seal political alliance, to mark membership and authority in society, and to communicate with the divine.
Along the way, you learn some fascinating things, such as that the streets in a major city like Philadelphia are probably quieter now than they were three hundred years ago. Church bells don't ring as loudly as they used to, because we ring them differently in the modern era. And the acoustical structure of an older church, it seems, can tell you a lot about its denomination's concept of authority and relationships between the preacher, the congregation, and the divinity.
It's an amazing book. It really digs into the ways in which people thought about sound and how that shaped their perspective on the larger world they inhabited. Definitely worth reading, and I thank my folklore professor for it.