Tuesday, July 19, 2016

ATA57 S&TD Guest Speaker – Dr. Carl Haber, Seeing Voices: Using Light to Restore and Preserve Early Recorded Sound

The Science and Technology Division is delighted to have Guest Speaker Dr. Carl Haber confirmed for ATA57 in San Francisco. Dr. Haber’s two-part presentation, “Seeing Voices: Using Light to Restore and Preserve Early Recorded Sound,” will discuss his use of techniques developed for particle physics research to scan and preserve some of the earliest known sound recordings, including Alexander Graham Bell’s restored voice (1885) and Native American voices from the early 20th century.

Sound was first recorded and reproduced by Thomas Edison in 1877. Until about the 1950s, most recordings were made on mechanical media such as wax, foil, shellac, lacquer, and plastic. Some of these older recordings contain material of great historical interest that may be in obsolete formats and are damaged, decaying, or considered too delicate to play. Among these delicate recordings are 2,700 unique wax cylinder recordings of the voices of California Native Americans, now housed at the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley. Dr. Haber and his team use a series of techniques based on non-contact optical metrology and image processing to bring these voices back to life. These techniques, as well as studies of some of the earliest known sound recordings, are the focus of Dr. Haber’s presentation and will be illustrated with sounds and images.

The presentation is divided into two parts, both of which are preliminarily scheduled for the morning of Saturday, November 5, 2016. Part one will focus on the techniques, while part two will focus on the audio recordings themselves. We expect that especially the second part of the presentation series will be of great interest not only to members of ATA’s Science and Technology Division, but also to ATA members interested in linguistics, anthropology, history, and language preservation.

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. His career has focused on the development of instrumentation and methods for detecting and measuring particles created at high energy colliders, including Fermilab in the United States and at CERN near Geneva, Switzerland. Since 2002 he and his colleagues have also been involved in aspects of preservation science, applying 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. Dr. Haber’s work has been profiled in The New YorkerNationalGeographic magazineand The Wall Street Journal.