Displaying Historical Newspapers as Motion Pictures

The rise of digital newspaper archives has opened up many new possibilities for cultivating the periodical past.  Old newspapers have obviously become easier to search and more convenient to read than they were before, but here I’d like to explore another novel opportunity we have for experiencing them: as motion pictures made up of long runs…

Speech Averaging: “A Visit From St. Nicholas”

Consider the performance art of reciting poetry.  We recognize that it can be done well or poorly, that everybody will do it a little differently, and that no two performances will ever be quite alike.  But what if we were to average a number of recitations?  Would the result approach an ideal “performance” that sounds…

The Secret Military Origins of the Sound Spectrograph

The sound spectrogram is a playable audio format, even though it’s usually meant to be seen and not heard.  Most spectrograms represent types of content that are readily accessible in other, more convenient formats.  But if we want to hear what the secret speech-scrambling technologies of the Second World War sounded like, spectrograms printed in…

Reading Secretary Hand (and Sound Recordings, Too)

“Griffonage” literally means hard-to-read handwriting, and it usually refers to a careless, hasty scrawl.  But even the tidiest handwriting from the past can be hard to read today if it’s in an unfamiliar script, a point I’d like to underscore here by working through three documents in the secretary hand that was routinely used for…

Archivorithm #1: Experiment in Indeterminacy

For my 78th Griffonage-Dot-Com post, I’ve written a piece of software that randomly taps the tens of thousands of old records digitized through the Great 78 Project as a sample library; layers, sequences, and loops the clips according to a set of chance-controlled rules; and then introduces some randomized harmonic filtering and percussion.  The results…

Induction and Retroduction

A couple years ago, I posted an essay here called “What is Eduction,” spelling out part of a framework I’ve found helpful for analyzing processes of media transduction.  I’d now like to follow up with a similar essay centered on two more pieces of the same framework: induction and retroduction.  Much as with eduction, these…

The Music of Snow Crystals

Snow crystals can be stunningly beautiful, thanks to their unique and complex symmetrical forms.  It’s no wonder that the “snowflake” has become a favorite visual icon of winter.  And given that snow crystal structures are so alluring to the eye, I found myself wondering whether they could also be made alluring to the ear.  Could…