“chez Koenig”

Rudolph Koenig, Public Domain, 1890. Link

Between 1859 and 1901 a Prussian immigrant named Rudolph Koenig ran one of the more popular scientific ateliers in Paris. It was a place singularly devoted to sound. Visitors bought instruments, performed experiments, learned about acoustics, discussed the instrument trade in Paris, witnessed demonstrations, and stayed for an evening of food, drink, music and literature. Many of the apparatus which adorned his atelier became the foundation of modern acoustics. There were graphical instruments for recording sound, manometric flame instruments for making sound waves visible, sirens, tuning forks for precision experiments, and a variety of demonstration instruments.  ~ David Pantalony,  Altered Sensations: Rudolph Koenig’s Acoustical Workshop in the Nineteenth-Century Paris.

Koenig’s studio became a place for exploration of acoustics and sound. Instruments for producing, observing, and recording sound were introduced here by him and his colleagues; many focusing on “making for pure motives” as opposed to commercial success.  As described by Pantalony, ‘Koenig’s atelier’ was a multi-use space:

Workshops entailed the spaces where instruments were actually made; showrooms (or boutiques or studios) involved the business activities of instrument making; laboratories supported experimentalactivity; and living quarters related to the daily aspects of life as a scientific artisan.  ~ David Pantalony,  Altered Sensations: Rudolph Koenig’s Acoustical Workshop in the Nineteenth-Century Paris.

The work/live studio culture promoted by Koenig is very interesting to me.

Koenig experimented with and created many devices for producing sound which I intend to study further. Among many devices, Koenig developed a mechanical means to visualize sound using his manometer;  a device that depicts sound waves using a flame and a rotating mirror.

Flame Manometer, the Whipple Museum. Link

Rotary mirror and manometric flame according to Koenig, from Physiologische Graphik, Langendorff, Oskar. 1891. Link 

Illustration of two manometric traces, from Koenig’s Acoustic Catalogue, 1865. Link

At the moment, I am interested in Koenig’s exploration into the visualization of sound. I intend to further explore this topic by studying the interactions between light and sound. Pursuing techniques of listening to light, recording light, visualizing sound using light, and modulating sound with light.


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