Hoosier could make Grammy history

(WISH Photo)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WISH) – Old recordings could bring new recognition to a professor at Indiana University. Professor Patrick Feaster, a teacher of communication and culture, is nominated for a Grammy award.

The album represents his work with something called the First Sounds Initiative. Feaster said that’s a group of people who want “to find the world’s oldest sound recordings and make them talk.” That’s what he did for the nominated album.

Feaster’s Pictures of Sound: 1000 Years of Educed Audio is entered in the Best Historical album category. As the name suggests, he found images of sound. Not actual recordings.

“Wavy lines on pieces of paper, things like that,” he said.

When those wavy lines were created, he said, “they were meant to look at. So that you could see wave forms and try to study sound through them.”

Feaster found a way to digitize those lines and produce sound from them. On Pictures of Sound, you can hear something called Der Handschuh from 1889.

“That’s the oldest gramophone recording that we can listen to today,” Feaster said. “So, if you take vinyl LPs, 45, 78 RPM records — trace those back as far as you can go — that’s the oldest audio we can listen to right now.”

The techniques used to create that sound have also produced recordings made back in the 1850s and 1860s. But, Feaster said he has even been able to create music based on medieval music that dates back to 980.

Feaster acknowledges that others may take sheet music and re-perform old compositions. However, what he is doing “is an unusually direct way of doing it.” He said, “it really is listening directly to what they wrote down.”

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