Sound Writing

As a continuation from the mapping, my interests seem to linger around sounds making or sounds recordings and the interpretation of it visually through the making of lines. I did some research of categories of sounds making and that includes musical instruments, voice recorder, gramophone record (vinyl), modern digital recordings, etc. I found the old way of recording and playing back sound first apparatus created by Thomas Edison’s Phonograph is much more interesting and has that classic feeling to it and yes, relatable to my current work scope which produced graphic lines pattern of waveform. It’s been known before that, Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville had completed a method for making graphic records of sound waveforms, patented in 1857 as the Phonautograph. The subject spoke into a drum; a vibrating stylus then scratched the image of the sound wave onto a layer of lamp black coating a paper wound round a revolving cylinder, or onto a glass plate.

Going back and forth between the two different time of Janet’s and ours, the lines produced then and now would be very different which means it kind of resonates time. In terms of space, it really does. I imagine if this is used in a big hall, the echo would probably create different kind of lines pattern. Am just stating that the nature of the lines is already identifies a moment; its space, time, people, activity.



This is an example of what was produced onto a layer of lamp black coating a paper wound . Scanned from one of Scott’s originals in the archive of the Institut de France and published by Firstsounds. 

I also found a few remakes of the Phonautography in 2010 by Ander Mikalson which I believe can be made as one the precedents. Here is one example:

phona   phonarecording



Soot (smoke) on paper

Materials he used was steel, plaster, wood, sheepskin, feather and paint, 62.5 x 30 x 60 inches. Taken from his website, , “the resulting images are a record of the first sound played on the first sound recording device – a compression of scientific discovery, a conflation of the histories of humanity and the universe.” For my own model, I am still figuring out on how to produce one of these or at least half of the system in most easy material to find. How to work with the precision of the drum rotation since it is handled manually with a careful speed in order to come up with at least, a working system of phonautograph machine?

Another precedent example: A remake of phonautograph machine in 2010 by Matthew Denniss.

DSC_0816 DSC_0455 DSC_0449

Made of wood, electronic components, motors, microphones, paper.  One of his interests area is forgotten technologies but always engaging directly with the world and collective individuals within it.

On further note, what I find more intriguing is how this device somehow is the physical realization of the imagination, the invented scenarios of Janet’s and can actually become the secret codes behind her voice recordings which are hidden in these lines (or at least, what I like to believe). But still, I’m having this thought of how to connect her realization of imagination with mine through this model? Or I don’t necessarily have to?

(Having so much thoughts. Still having doubts if this proposal is a go-go)

2 thoughts on “Sound Writing

  1. This is a good development from the ideas behind the drawing, first to look at how sound has been visualised through lines by other methods and technologies, and secondly what the potential is for spatial exploration of this. You note that sounds would be altered depending upon the space that they are projected into – what if you then made an image of this sound or a phonautograph – and began to create an index of different spaces graphically represented by how they morph the same sound?

    On the physical construction of space through sound – At the first meeting I mentioned another piece by Cardiff called ‘Forty Part Motet’. In this work a piece of music has been played and recorded in a large church space and the recording is then replayed by speakers arranged in a different space, say a gallery. The effect is to successfully create the aural experience of the larger space and is quite disorientating.

    The rotating drum that you have looked at also suggests the drum found inside a musical box, this functions through a series of raised pins which are turned on a drum to pluck the teeth of a comb and create a sound. Unlike a musical instrument that can play a series of sounds or compositions chosen by the player, the musical box repeats the same mechanical process and the same sound with every play, therefore functioning like the re-playing of a recording. This suggests interesting possibilities for programming a 3d object by manipulation of its surface so that a sound can be re-played in some way.

  2. Yes to continue Danielle’s comment, this device reminds me of a music box player, as well as a lie detector test in how it records information onto a drum or later a sheet of unrolled paper. Its a really nice continuation of your initial investigations of lines and sound. It would be interesting to see what you reveal from the audio walk recording if you put it through your phonautograph device – as one entire walk and perhaps with the audio separated out into different strands? I really like this idea about resonating time through comparing the lines created during Cardiff’s time and ours – maybe try to develop a prototype for your device for Tuesday as well as preparing some portfolio pages of how it works to show Charles and both of us. Think about what material you would like to record the sound on and what would create the lines – in the references you have included there are lots of unusual materials mentioned – think of what would have significance to objects/ experiences mentioned on the walk to give the process added meaning. Looking forward to seeing how it develops!

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