1787 __ « Entdeckungen über die Theorie des Klanges »
‣ Comment : Already in the 1787 text "Entdeckungen über die Theorie des Klanges" (Discoveries about the Theory of Sound) by the so-called father of acoustics, Ernst Florens Friedrich Chladni, one can read about a graphic transcription of sound that, unlike all previous notational practices, was not strictly arbitrary. Chladni’s discovery that a layer of quartz dust upon a sheet of glass would, when vibrated by a violin bow, form distinct and regular patterns or Klangfiguren(tone figures), as he called them, that correspond to specific tones, effectively demonstrated the existence of visual traces of pitches whose iconico-indexical character differentiated them in a semiotically crucial fashion from all other conventional means of notating sound. What was so exciting about these acoustic “ur-images” (as a contemporary of Chladni called them) was that they seemed to arise from the sounds themselves, requiring for their intelligibility not the hermeneutics appropriate to all other forms of musical notation but instead something more akin to an acoustic physics.The subsequent prehistory of the phonograph. — and Chladni’s practical insight into the relationship of sound, vibration, and its graphic transcriptionality points to nothing less than the inscriptional condition of possibility of the phonograph as such. — is concerned initially with the rendition of sound as (visible) trace. Indeed, this task was of great interest to the nascent field of early linguistics known since the 1830s alternately as Tonschreibekunst, phonography, or vibrography, which both supported and profited from various protophonographic inventions.5Central among these were Edouard Léon Scott’s wonderfully named “phon-autograph” of 1857, often described as the first oscillograph employed for the study of the human voice; the Scott-Koenig Phonautograph” of 1859, which (like its predecessor) transcribed sound waves in real time as linear squiggles; and Edward L. Nichols and Ernst George Merritt’s photographic records of the flickering of Rudolph Koenig’s 1862 manometric capsule, in which changes in pressure produced by sound waves are captured by the vibrations of a burning gas flame. In various ways, all these technologies were exploring the relationship of speech and inscription, as evidenced, for example, in the experiments undertaken in 1874 by the Utrecht physiologist and ophthalmologist Franciscus Cornelius Donders, who is described as having used Scott’s phonautograph to record the voice of the British phonetician Henry Sweet, noting next to the acoustic traces the exact letters being spoken, while a tuning fork was used to calibrate the curves. (Thomas Y. Levin)
‣ Source : Levin, Thomas Y. (2002), ““Tones from out of Nowhere”: Rudolph Pfenninger and the Archaeology of Synthetic Sound”, Grey Room 12, Summer 2003, Grey Room, Inc. and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, pp. 32–79.; “’Töne aus dem Nichts’. Rudolf Pfenninger und die Archäologie des synthetischen Tons”, In Friedrich Kittler, Thomas Macho and Sigrid Weigel, Eds., “Zwischen Rauschen und Offenbarung: Zur Kultur- und Medien-geschichte der Stimme”, Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2002, pp. 313-355.
‣ Urls : http://www.centerforvisualmusic.org/LevinPfen.pdf (last visited )
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