Sound Sterile: Making Scientific Field Recordings in Ornithology

Joeri Bruyninckx

in The Oxford Handbook of Sound Studies

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780195388947
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Sound Sterile: Making Scientific Field Recordings in Ornithology

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Animal sounds had been recorded in musical notation for centuries. By the early twentieth century, other techniques had been developed to record such sounds. From the late 1920s onward, electrical recording devices began to feature as tools for the study of birds' singing behavior. With this shift from recording by ear to a mechanical recording with microphone, the culture of scientific recording changed. The emergence of electrical recording presented ornithologists with different material and technical conditions of their work. It also forced them to rearticulate the role of recording in their scientific studies. This article examines how the mechanization of sound recording has altered the ways ornithologists dealt with natural sound as an object of scientific study. It traces dynamics between field and laboratory, between science and music, between wanted sound and unwanted noise, and between the audible and the visual. Finally, it presents the contribution of mechanized recording to recording histories.

Keywords: sound; electrical recording devices; recording; ornithologists; birds' singing behavior

Article.  10143 words. 

Subjects: Music ; Sound Studies

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