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Stretching Time: Quantum Legacies in Analog and Digital Media

Thursday, September 25, 2014
12:00 AM
Hatcher Gallery Room 100

A Lecture by Jonathan Sterne

This talk examines the lesser-known work and legacy of Dennis Gabor. Gabor was a physicist famous for inventing holography. But he also applied quantum theory to sound, and in so doing offered an important corrective to prevailing interpretations of wave theories of sound derived from Joseph Fourier’s work. To prove his point, Gabor built a device called the “kinematic frequency compressor,” which could time-stretch or pitch-shift audio independently of the other operation, a feat previously considered impossible in the analog domain. After considering the machine, Professor Jonathan Sterne (McGill University) traces its technical and cultural descendants in advertising, cinema, avant-garde music, and today in the world’s most popular audio software, Ableton Live.

Bio:

Jonathan Sterne is Professor and James McGill Chair in Culture and Technology in the Department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University. He is author of MP3: The Meaning of a Format (Duke 2012), The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction (Duke, 2003); and numerous articles on media, technologies and the politics of culture. He is also editor of The Sound Studies Reader (Routledge, 2012). His new projects consider instruments and instrumentalities; histories of signal processing; and the intersections of disability, technology and perception. Visit his website.

Sponsored by Digital Studies at the University of Michigan, the Digital Environments Workshop, the Department of Screen Arts and Cultures at the University of Michigan, and Science, Technology & Society at the University of Michigan.