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12
, 10 2021  
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12 19:00   Phonographies of the Voice, 1930-1935 // , 1930-1935


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What does it mean to capture a single voice within an ensemble? What kind of listening is made possible through techniques of separation and isolation, such as those that became common with the advent of multitrack tape? And what kind of music lends itself to these techniques?



In this presentation, Brian Fairley (New York University) discusses a little-known landmark in the history of sound recording: the wax cylinders recorded by Evgeny Gippius in 1930 and 1935, which used three phonographs recording simultaneously to isolate individual singers in a choir. The singers were part of an ethnographic ensemble from Guria, a region in Western Georgia, whose complex, multipart music has fascinated researchers for over a century. By understanding the intellectual and political context in which these recordings were madeand the twists of fate which have left them virtually unknown todaythe outlines of an alternative history of multitrack recording come into view. In his response, Peter McMurray (University of Cambridge) reflects on processes of inscription and multisensory perception, with reference to media documents from the Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature.

Brian Fairley is a PhD candidate in Ethnomusicology at New York University. His dissertation, "Dissected Listening: a Media History of Georgian Polyphonic Recording," investigates the early history of multi-channel recordings of Georgian folk and sacred music, while exploring the media implications of polyphony as musical form and metaphor.

Peter McMurray is Lecturer in Ethnomusicology at University of Cambridge. His research focuses primarily on Islam, sound and migration and is currently finishing a book and film project, Pathways to God: The Islamic Acoustics of Turkish Berlin. He is also interested in South Slavic oral poetry and histories of recording technology.

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