Dr. Patrick Feaster
Indiana University Bloomington (USA)
Many historically significant records of sound survive only as oscillographic or spectrographic images on paper, including phonautograms recorded between 1853 and 1860, ink prints of otherwise lost gramophone discs, and early sound spectrograms. These documents weren’t intended by their makers for playback, either at all (as with phonautograms) or in the form they now take (as with the gramophone prints), but a number of them have nevertheless been played back recently, expanding the amount and diversity of historical audio available to modern listeners and challenging some ingrained assumptions about the nature of “historical audio” itself. The solution of technical problems in this emerging field has so far relied on putting existing tools to new and unanticipated uses rather than on the creation of new tools. Thus, the first playback of a Scott phonautogram harnessed “virtual stylus” software created for use with the IRENE system designed for the optical playback of grooved media. When this approach appeared unsuitable for phonautograms that violated principles of orthogonality (e.g., by looping back on themselves), the First Sounds initiative instead combined a sequence of graphic editing steps with software that simulates the playback of optical film sound tracks. We’ve succeeded in playing spiral gramophone traces similarly by applying a standard polar-to-rectangular-coordinates transform to them, while sound spectrograms (and other graphs of time versus frequency) can be converted into sound using readily available additive synthesis software. Meanwhile, some other relevant technical obstacles have yet to be satisfactorily overcome, particularly in the domain of speed correction.
Patrick Feaster PhD
Media Preservation Specialist, Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative, Indiana University, Bloomington (2014—); Post-doctoral research assistant, Media Preservation Initiative, Indiana University, Bloomington (2010-2014); Media survey specialist, Media Preservation Survey, Indiana University, Bloomington (2008-2009).
Lead researcher and co-founder, First Sounds initiative, FirstSounds.org (2007—).
Association for Recorded Sound Collections President (2014—)