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New SNF-Project: Voices in Wax. Recording the Acoustic Era

Áurea Domínguez Moreno


This project explores the earliest developments in commercially-recorded music and phonograph recording technology (c.1885–1915) from a technical perspective, employing a mixed-method approach methodology that includes comparative research of historical sources, qualitative research based on interviews, and systematic empirical experiments with original recording technology dating from c.1900. This project will detail a standardized recording framework that can be used by future researchers in musicology and sound studies to produce comparable and repeatable recording results. The final stage of the project will produce phonograph cylinder recordings using original equipment, while strictly controlling and documenting the various recording parameters. After determining the ideal material, acoustic, and mechanical properties for the recording session, three vocalists specializing in different styles of music (modern classic, jazz, and historical performance practice) will be recorded and the differences in their performances will be analyzed from a technical perspective. The experience gained through this innovative and empirical approach to knowledge production will allow for a firsthand understanding of the limitations and possibilities of early sound technology and their influence on the performance practice of the music of this period and beyond. This valuable research has the potential to change how we understand the relationship between musician and machine over the course of the crucial early decades of the twentieth century. 

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