Spectral Sound: A Cultural History of the Frequency Domain


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This project is a counter-history of the digitization of sound that gives priority to the concept of frequency. It locates the conceptual shift necessary for the digitization of sound in the development of the modern science of acoustics, circa 1900, and then charts the ascendance of a frequency-based model of sound through the twentieth century: from the invention of the noiseless typewriter to the proliferation of radio technology, Cold War research on digital signal processing, and the emergence of new sonic practices on the internet. The standard narrative of digitization paints everything, including sounds, in ones and zeroes. But the shift toward frequency preceded digital technology and constitutes a sort of digitization avant le lettre.