25 October 2012
Light Metal Music – Reappraising Edwardian Sound AmplificationLight Metal Music – Reappraising Edwardian Sound Amplification
Meeting Room 10, 2nd Floor, JLB
12:30pm - 13:45pm
Aleksander Kolkowski - Science Museum - London
The quest for improved and louder sound reproduction in the acoustic era (1877 – c 1925) occupied the minds of the greatest inventors and engineers of the age. One significant but largely forgotten invention is the ‘Auxetophone’ by Horace Short (of Short Brothers' aviation fame) and Sir Charles Algernon Parsons, inventor of the modern steam turbine engine. When playing gramophone records, this device could be used in the open air, in large halls, even compete with an orchestra, but though championed by leading figures in science and music, it’s application to musical instruments was vehemently opposed by orchestral musicians who feared for their jobs. This illustrated talk seeks to reappraise this and other contemporaneous audio and instrumental technologies that represented a radical shift in the function and reception of recorded, amplified music and instrument design too. Some common misconceptions about the way in which electronics have shaped music-making and our listening habits are exposed.
Aleks Kolkowski is currently the sound artist-in-residence at the Science Museum, London, where he is creating new works based on research of the collections and recordings made within the museum. In recent years Aleks has explored the potential of historical sound technology to make contemporary mechanical-acoustic music. His works often feature live-made sound inscriptions onto wax cylinders and lacquer discs using Edison phonographs and old disc recording lathes. Other activities include repurposing digital CDs as 45rpm analogue records and both installations and performances where historic sound reproducing machines, mechanicaz`l musical instruments and archival recordings are combined with state-of-the-art electronics. Such practice-led, AHRC-funded research using antiquated audio technologies and investigations into little-known forms of mechanical amplification led to the award of a PhD from Brunel University. His major project to date has been an archive of contemporary musicians, artists and writers recorded exclusively on wax cylinders. Begun in 2006 and continuing, the entire Phonographies collection is accessible online.
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