Monday 30 November 2009

‘History and Hardware’ A Lecture on the Mechanical Reproduction of Sound and Vision

On Wednesday December 2, I will be giving a lecture to BAGD students at Central St Martins on how we are all still recovering from the technological disaster that occurred when sight and sound were mechanically copied and reproduced for the first time in the nineteenth century. Titled ‘History and Hardware’, the talk will take place in G12 at 16.30. I hope to see you then.

Using Friedrich Kittler’s Gramophone, Film, Typewriter as a guide, this lecture will look at how humans and machines have entered into a complex series of shifting social relationships. From the pen to moveable type to Emerson’s invention of the phonograph, how we mediate experience has continued to change. As sound recordings are used to contact the dead, typewriters devised to enable those with poor eyesight to write, and the cinema becomes a place where those with poor hearing can learn to speak out loud, we will be looking at how the sensory spectrum has been altered by the mechanical reproduction of sight, sound, speech and writing. Are silent movies really silent? How out of our minds do we need to be to listen to our own voices? Is the modern office a place overshadowed by the spectres of sex, love and death? What does this lever do?

Suggested Reading:
Friedrich A. Kittler, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter, translated with an introduction by Geoffrey Winthrop-Young and Michael Wutz, Stanford University Press, California (1999)
Lewis Mumford, ‘The Monastery and the Clock’ (essay), 1934
Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘Works and Days’, (essay), 1870
Jerrold Northrop Moore, Sound Revolutions: A Biography of Fred Gaisberg, Founding Father of Commercial Sound Recording, Sanctuary Music Library, London (1999)
Nicholas Carr ‘Is Google Making Us Stupid?’ (online article), 2008

Reproduced above: The Roundhay Garden Scene, shot in 1888 (all two seconds of it) and the first moving picture ever made, courtesy of YouTube, where ghosts come to life out of pure habit.

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