Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sound Sampler

A photograph of a pile of wax cylinders.
Edison Wax Cylinders
Charles Furlong Papers (Stef Mss 197)

Sound recordings, whether spoken word, music or field recordings have always been part of the aural landscape (well at least as long as sound recording equipment has been around). There's a natural impulse to create some lasting impression of an event or artistic achievement.

As with any medium, the method of capturing sound has evolved over time. The earliest methods (called phonautographs) recorded sound as visual lines on paper. These were replaced by Edison's wax cylinder phonograph and the gramophone.  Both used a stylus to impress a continuous groove in some malleable material  - typically wax, lead, or tin foil. The "records" that are still in use today are a direct descendant of these early formats.
A blue-violet flexography and the case for an LP.
Great Issues (DA-12)
Standard 33 1/3 LP
Rauner Phonodisc 5
Magnetic recording technology was the next major evolution in the history of sound reproduction. Instead of capturing the vibrations as physical changes, an electrical analog of the sound was used to drive a recording head whose magnetic field varied according to the frequency and amplitude of the sound being recorded. Those magnetic imprints were then read back through a complimentary signal path. Wire recordings, reel to reel tapes and cassette tapes are all part of this format family.
A reel.A recording spool.
10" reel to reel
WDCR tapes (uncatalogued)
Wire Recording spool
Great Issues (DA-12)
The current age of digital recording employs DACs (digital to analog converters) and ADCs (analog to digital converters) to map the analog sound waves to a stream of ones and zeros and back again. Once in the digital realm, these files are typically distributed in magnetic (hard drives) or optical (CDs) form factors - a potentially ironic nod to their ancestor formats.

Rauner holds numerous sound recordings in many different formats.  We present a limited sample of those found in various collections.

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