Dr: Carl Haber “Hear My Voice: Alexander Graham Bell and the Development of Sound Recording from a Modern Perspective”

Join us for a presentation by Dr. Haber, Senior Scientist with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the University of California, titled “Hear My Voice: Alexander Graham Bell and the Development of Sound Recording from a Modern Perspective.”


Sound was first recorded and reproduced by Thomas Edison in 1877, but it was Alexander Graham Bell, and associates, who shepherded this technology into a practical form. Today, the artifacts of Bell’s research, some 400 experimental recordings, reside at Parks Canada’s Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site, in Baddeck, and at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, in Washington, DC.  All are in archaic formats and are difficult or impossible to recover with standard playback methods.

Recently, techniques, based upon non-contact optical scanning and data analysis, have been applied to create and analyze high resolution digital images of sound recordings. Using these, the audio content of a small fraction of the Bell materials have been recovered and exhibited.  A new project is now being mounted, with a goal of restoring both of these collections, in their entirety, and digitally reuniting them.

This lecture will discuss the characteristics of early sound recordings and the use of this new technology as applied to the Bell archives, and a number of other notable collections. These include field recordings of Native Americans and Canadians from the early 20th Century, and ethnographic recordings collected by Milman Parry, in Yugoslavia in 1930, which led to the oral-formulaic theory of epic poetry. The technology and restoration of historic audio recordings, and Bell’s contributions, will be illustrated with sounds and images.  Additional information can be found at http://irene.lbl.gov/

Dr. Carl Haber Biography

Carl Haber is an experimental physicist.  He received his Ph.D. in Physics from Columbia University and is a Senior Scientist in the Physics Division of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the University of California. While primarily a particle physicist, with a focus on instrumentation development for high energy colliders, since 2002 he, and his colleagues, have also been involved in cultural preservation science. They have applied methods of precision optical metrology and data analysis to early recorded sound restoration.  He is a 2013 MacArthur Fellow and a Fellow of the American Physical Society and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.