Carl Haber (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)

Imaging the Voices of the Past: Using Physics to Restore Historical Sound Recordings

Watch the talk (running time 54:16)

Sound was first recorded and reproduced by Thomas Edison in 1877. Until about 1950, when magnetic tape use became common, 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 value or interest but are damaged, decaying, or now considered too delicate to play.

This talk will begin with a discussion of the history and technical basis of sound recording and the issues faced by archives and libraries as they strive to preserve, and create greater access to, these valuable materials. Recently, a set of techniques, based upon experimental physics methods, have been applied to restoring historical sound recordings. This approach, current results, and prospects for the future, are the focus of this talk and will be illustrated with sounds and images.

Additional information can be found at http://irene.lbl.gov/

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. Most of his research interest involves the development of instrumentation and methods for detecting and measuring particles created at high energy colliders such as the Tevatron at Fermilab. These interests have also led him, and his colleagues, to apply techniques in use in this research to the topic of sound restoration. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

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