Ramblings & ephemera

Recover sounds from the ancient world

From Christer Hamp’s “Archaeoacoustics“:

By archaeoacoustics I mean the recovery of sounds from the time before the invention of recording. This implies that such sounds would have been recorded inadvertently, while intending to do sometring else. Not much has been written about this subject and only very few experiments have been made, but I find the subject fascinating enough to dare the deep waters of the unproven and often scorned.

So far no ancient sound has been heard, and the experiments conducted have been attempts to reproduce the conditions at which such recordings would have been produced, successful attempts, according to the papers published.

What is probably the first publication on the subject appeared in 1969, when Richard G. Woodbridge, III related four experiments in a letter in the Proceedings of the IEEE1. In the first experiment, he could pick up the noise produced by the potter’s wheel from a pot, using a hand-held crystal cartridge (Astatic Corp. Model 2) with a wooden stylus, connected directly to a set of headphones. The second experiment yielded 60 Hz hum from the motor driving the potter’s wheel. More interesting were the following experiments, with a canvas being painted while exposed to sounds. In the third experiment the canvas was painted with a variety of different paints while exposed to martial music from loudspeakers. Some of the brush strokes had a striated appearance, and “short snatches of the music” could be indentified. For the fourth experiment, the painter spoke the word “blue” during a stroke of the brush, and after a long search the word could be heard again when stroking the canvas with the stylus.

Comments are closed.