What is phonography? In this essay, Christopher DeLaurenti, a phonographer with three decades of experience, maps an axiomatic 13-lesson pedagogy through an abbreviated history of field recording, from Jesse Walter Fewkes in 1890 to Tony Schwartz in the early 1960s. This paper surveys various meanings and uses of the term phonography from a text published in 1701 to the formation in 2000 of the phonography listserv, an online community of makers of field recordings. The author, himself an early member of the phonography listserv, discusses three traits to define phonography as a community in the early 2000s: inexpensive recording equipment; a community of knowledge; and the “easy fidelity” made possible by portable and lightweight Digital Audio Tape (DAT) and MiniDisc (MD) recorders. The author contrasts the traits of phonography with elements of soundscape composition as articulated by Barry Truax, Hildegard Westerkamp, and Andra McCartney. The paper concludes by proposing possible elements of post-phonography, including remote control recording, the possibility of voice print identification, and the generation of unimagined data.
Imperfect Sound Forever: A letter to a young phonographer
Christopher DeLaurenti makes sound works for installations, albums, live performances, and radio broadcasts including N30: Live at the WTO Protest November 30, 1999 (2000); Two Secret Wars (2003); Favorite Intermissions (2007); Live at Occupy Wall St. (2012); No Sound is Stolen: Fair Use Music 1983–2013 (2013); Fit The Description (Ferguson, 9–13 August 2014) (2014); To the Cooling Tower, Satsop (2015); and subaudible phonography (2020). He has performed live on countless stages from dingy bars and dives to tony venues including the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Biennial. DeLaurenti holds an MFA from Bard College and completed his PhD at Goldsmiths, University of London. During the last decade, he has taught courses and led workshops at William & Mary, Cornish, Harvard, Peabody Conservatory, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Duke, UC Boulder, Cornell, and elsewhere. Much of his sound work is usually free and mostly online: https://delaurenti.net
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Christopher DeLaurenti; Imperfect Sound Forever: A letter to a young phonographer. Resonance 1 June 2021; 2 (2): 125–167. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/res.2021.2.2.125
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