Graphical Observations of Sound

Contrasting the acoustic studies of Helmholtz; who listened to resonance with the ear, Koenig and his colleagues in Paris became fascinated with a way to view sound.

Phonautograph by Scott (1857), Pantalony, pg. 42.

…the phonautograph, an instrument that recorded sounds directly from the air… marked a lasting shift in acoustics from reliance on the to the eye. ~ David Pantalony,  Altered Sensations: Rudolph Koenig’s Acoustical Workshop in the Nineteenth-Century Paris, pg. 41.

Recording instruments like Koenig and Scott’s phonautograph provided a means for a group to study sound without the individual subjectivity related to hearing.

Self-recording instruments… with an emphasis on automation (replacing human skills with machines), objectively in instrumentation (making it possible for data to be viewed and shared by several witnesses at once) and the investigation of previously unobservable patterns and effects (extension of the senses).  ~ David Pantalony,  Altered Sensations: Rudolph Koenig’s Acoustical Workshop in the Nineteenth-Century Paris, pg. 41.

The phonautograph provided acoustics with means to observe and graphically record sound.  This allowed for the measurement and analysis of sound without the temporal limitations.  The records could be shared graphically at anytime.  Unlike Helmholtz’s focus on hearing, the machine became the device for observing sound.  Acoustics were no longer dependent on the subjective nature of the the human ear; the machine (even with its limitations) provided a new objective approach.

Les Phonogrammes Traces by Koenig (1882), Pantalony, pg. 48.

Koenig’s graphical recordings (les phonogrammes) became tools for studying and resolving error in his devices. They aided him with discovering subtleties which were difficult to perceive by ear.  This allowed for a refinement of many of his devices that previously was not available.

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