A Gray Box: The Phonograph in Laboratory Experiments and Fieldwork, 1900–1920

Julia Kursell

in The Oxford Handbook of Sound Studies

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 A Gray Box: The Phonograph in Laboratory Experiments and Fieldwork, 1900–1920

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The historiography of recording has done great service in enumerating technical devices. While in the beginning, the phonograph was immediately accepted as a scientific instrument, its commercial use soon dominated. Scientists, however, did not stop using the phonograph but rather integrated its new functions into their own work. This article traces this ambiguity, looking at the emergence of the Phonogram Archive in Berlin. More specifically, it shows that the researchers had to adjust, calibrate, and standardize the new functions again before integrating them into the scientific context. It thus proposes a view of the complex history of sound as it moves through the laboratory. Science and technology studies (STS) offer the framing for a history of media that can accommodate the idea of change and allow for the analysis of the phonograph as a site of intersections between its various uses, which is the crux of this article.

Keywords: phonograph; recording; Phonogram Archive; Science and technology studies; laboratory

Article.  10583 words. 

Subjects: Music ; Sound Studies ; Music and Media

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