The (Dis)articulating Voice of the Phonograph: Early Spoken Recordings and the Sound of the Literary

Vancouver, BC - The SpokenWeb Symposium - David Mowafaghian World Arts Centre

SpokenWeb Symposium 2019
Closing Plenary – Dr. Jason Camlot

The (Dis)articulating Voice of the Phonograph: Early Spoken Recordings and the Sound of the Literary

Date: May 31, 2019, 5:00pm
Location: David Mowafaghian World Arts Centre (G 2555, Goldcorp Centre for the Arts)
149 W Hastings St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1H4

In this plenary lecture, Jason Camlot will share his appreciation of the strange sonic and material qualities of early sound recordings (c1888-1920), and outline methodologies for the critical study of early spoken recordings as literary artifacts.  To these ends, his presentation will first work to define some core critical concepts such as “literary recording”, “sound”, “signal”, “audiotextual genre” and “sound media formats” and then move into a more focused discussion of what “the literary” sounded like during the earliest period, the “acoustic era” of sound recording technology. Through discussion of early promotional fantasies surrounding “the voice of the phonograph” in relation to modes and genres of recitation practice, it will become clear that the distance between a recorded selection from Tennyson, a prayer or psalm, and an ethnic dialect recording was not great if understood within the context of elocutionary delivery and the moral and cultural purpose of generic literary recitation at this time. That discernibly grave elocutionary techniques were parodied in comic novelty records underscores the degree to which “literary” recordings and elocutionary recitations were in constant play with numerous other genres of spoken performance that mimicked, challenged, reinforced, and defined the emerging sound of the literary. As we listen to selected speech recordings from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and consider how they inflected their mutual significance on the historically located continuum of speech sounds that moved from disarticulate snores to elocutionary swells, the sound of the literary in early spoken recordings will become increasingly audible and critically discernible to us. By introducing the idea of the “early” literary recording, this lecture will also provide a pre-history to the historical forms and modes of literary reading and performance captured on subsequent electronic analogue and digital media technologies that represent the primary source artifacts of critical study for the SpokenWeb research network.

This event is part of The SpokenWeb Symposium 2019 hosted by Simon Fraser University. For more information and to view the rest of the symposium events, click here.

About Jason Camlot

Jason Camlot’s critical works include Phonopoetics: The Making of Early Literary Recordings (Stanford 2019), Style and the Nineteenth-Century British Critic (Routledge 2008), and the co-edited collections, CanLit Across Media: Unarchiving the Literary Event (with Katherine McLeod, forthcoming with McGill Queen’s UP, 2019) and Language Acts: Anglo-Québec Poetry, 1976 to the 21st Century (Véhicule 2007).  He is also the author of four collections of poetry, Attention All Typewriters, The Animal Library, The Debaucher, and What the World Said. He is the principal investigator and director of The SpokenWeb, a SSHRC-funded partnership that focuses on the history of literary sound recordings and the digital preservation and presentation of collections of literary audio.  He is Professor of English and Associate Dean in the Faculty of Arts and Science at Concordia University in Montreal

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