CSP 64 - Spring 2019

From the Phonograph to Auto-Tune...

Author: isaacgm10


This page is a leaf from a manuscript Antiphonary. Pages like this were written during the Middle Ages for choral singing. They were made very large so that whole choirs could read them. The antiphonary was one of three books used by the Divine office and the were named because of a specific element: Antiphons. Antiphons are, in general, are short sentences sung or recited before or after a psalm or canticle. From the information in the Special collections room, this leaf is written on parchment paper in black and red gothic hand. It is most likely Flemish and from the early 16th century.

The history behind Antiphonal singing is very old. It is said to have been introduced into Christian worship by “one Ignatius in the first century, after he had vision of angels singing in alternate choirs” (Special Collections card). It was brought into the Latin church (Catholic) by Ambrose, Bishop of Milan. The form of antiphonary used in modern times and seen below is the work of Gregory the Great in the 6th century. Not much evolution there. Professor Johnson mentioned that this one was not one of the nicer ones. I’ve attached some photos of nicer looking leafs below.

Preservation of Sound

The idea of the preservation of the voices stems from human curiosity. One of the things that struck me about this article was how the phonograph seemingly made a bunch of adults into giddy children. On top of this, as humans do, this group tested and experimented with the device. For these people, these are their first ever experiences with recorded sound. The appeal behind hearing their voices perfectly recorded comes from their curiosity of the limits of the device. Today is no different, humans want to hear sound as if someone were next to them speaking into their ear. But those practices have also evolved today. Humans have moved from wanting to perfect the recording of their voice to wanting to perfect the manipulation of their voices. Things like reverb and echo and auto-tune have altered the way humans can communicate in recorded sound. This has ended up exceeding humans actual ability to speak. Recorded sound can now be produced in a way that could never have been done before. And we now see this production being applied to live concerts as well through the use of amps and sound boards. I’m sure Edison never imagined this is where the phonograph would go.