Tools for Historians of Science Drift 25, Rm. 204 Organized Session
24 Jul 2019 04:00 PM - 06:00 PM(Europe/Amsterdam)
20190724T1600 20190724T1800 Europe/Amsterdam Sounds of Language, Languages of Sound: Histories of the Humanities and Sciences

The broad domain of acoustics that emerged in research settings throughout the modern era is usually categorized as part of the natural sciences. Yet the study of sound is rarely interested in the formal, "hard" description of sound alone; "soft" practices of observation, experiential knowledge, and description generally play their part as well. Our panel addresses this entanglement by investigating the multifold relationships between sound and language-from the modern disciplinary formation of acoustics and the institutionalization of the social sciences and humanities in the late nineteenth century, to the scattering of sound research across specialized sub-fields and industrial arenas, such as computerized speech processing, in the postwar period. During this process, disciplines including electric engineering, musicology, phonetics, linguistics, sociology, and computing all aspired to pin down sound, and in particular the spoken word. They forged different epistemic and representational strategies to that end. The panel will examine these strategies, as well as tracing the dual use of language as a theme and a tool of knowledge production. We are interested in how, as a research theme, the analysis, regulation, and interpretation of language often breaks through frontiers that have formed between the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences, as well as between academic and non-academic forms of knowledge production. At the same time, we look at the new languages and modes of speaking that were developed as tools to examine, represent, and functionalize sonic phenomena-in auditory cognition, the standardization of music, broadcasting, or speech recognition.

Organized by Viktoria Tkacyzk and Julia Kursell

Drift 25, Rm. 204 History of Science Society 2019 meeting@hssonline.org

The broad domain of acoustics that emerged in research settings throughout the modern era is usually categorized as part of the natural sciences. Yet the study of sound is rarely interested in the formal, "hard" description of sound alone; "soft" practices of observation, experiential knowledge, and description generally play their part as well. Our panel addresses this entanglement by investigating the multifold relationships between sound and language-from the modern disciplinary formation of acoustics and the institutionalization of the social sciences and humanities in the late nineteenth century, to the scattering of sound research across specialized sub-fields and industrial arenas, such as computerized speech processing, in the postwar period. During this process, disciplines including electric engineering, musicology, phonetics, linguistics, sociology, and computing all aspired to pin down sound, and in particular the spoken word. They forged different epistemic and representational strategies to that end. The panel will examine these strategies, as well as tracing the dual use of language as a theme and a tool of knowledge production. We are interested in how, as a research theme, the analysis, regulation, and interpretation of language often breaks through frontiers that have formed between the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences, as well as between academic and non-academic forms of knowledge production. At the same time, we look at the new languages and modes of speaking that were developed as tools to examine, represent, and functionalize sonic phenomena-in auditory cognition, the standardization of music, broadcasting, or speech recognition.

Organized by Viktoria Tkacyzk and Julia Kursell

A Note on Tone: Carl Stumpf’s Tone Psychology and the ViolinView Abstract
Organized Session 04:00 PM - 04:30 PM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/24 14:00:00 UTC - 2019/07/24 14:30:00 UTC
This paper tackles philosopher Carl Stumpf’s contributions to founding the discipline of musicology from the vantage point of his musicianship. In an autobiographical essay of 1924, the philosopher and experimental psychologist wrote that he had considered becoming a professional violin player before taking up the study of philosophy. Against this background, the paper examines some of the writing strategies that Stumpf applied in his quest to capture the features of musical sound. It focuses on Stumpf’s on the term "tone" as he used it in the early days of the journal Vierteljahrsschrift für Musikwissenschaft (founded in 1885)—that is, the period between the publication of the two volumes of his magnum opus Tonpsychologie (1883–90).
Presenters
JK
Julia Kursell
University Of Amsterdam
The Languages of Sound: Pitch Data across Fields, Disciplines, and Nations in Europe and the United States (1877–1900)View Abstract
Organized Session 04:30 PM - 05:00 PM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/24 14:30:00 UTC - 2019/07/24 15:00:00 UTC
Over the late eighteenth and the nineteenth century, classical music was increasingly perceived as a universal language in Western countries. At the same time, however, intensifying processes of globalization and growing historical knowledge about the musical past revealed the plurality of musical systems in use across nations and time. In response to this complexification of the Western musical field, attempts were made to standardize pitch as a way of helping to regulate and secure such historical and geographical exchanges. Collections of pitch data, based on methods from the natural sciences, were a first step towards gaining control over tuning practices. But the production of this knowledge on pitch was embedded in different material, professional, scientific, and linguistic contexts, a diversity that challenged the universalist aims of pitch data collection and in some ways exacerbated the existing chaos in sonic and musical practices. Analyzing the epistemic struggles of two scholars (the British Alexander J. Ellis and the American Charles R. Cross) who attempted to create a unified language to represent and circulate pitch data in the late nineteenth century, my paper highlights the variety of disciplines—natural sciences, musicography, linguistics—involved in the production of acoustic knowledge at the time and their entanglement with their diverse fields of application, whether musical performance, instrument making, or psychophysics. Examining these intersections in a comparative and transnational perspective allows me to recover the political implications of pitch data and stress the significance of sound for the study of nationalism and internationalism.
Presenters
FG
Fanny Gribenski
Max Planck Institute For The History Of Science, Berlin
Languages of Broadcasting: Early Radio Research in Berlin and PrincetonView Abstract
Organized Session 05:00 PM - 05:30 PM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/24 15:00:00 UTC - 2019/07/24 15:30:00 UTC
The emerging technology of radio posed epistemic difficulties for a range of disciplines in the twentieth century and prompted interdisciplinary initiatives such as the radio laboratory (Rundfunkversuchsstelle) at the Berlin Academy of Music, led by musicologist Georg Schünemann from 1928 to 1935, and the Radio Research Project at Princeton University and Columbia University, managed by sociologist Paul Lazarsfeld from 1937 to 1944. The defined aim of both ventures was to integrate scholars in the humanities, the sciences, and the social sciences into new forms of applied research. My paper examines these modes of applied research, with particular attention to the multiple ways in which the two projects searched for novel “languages of broadcasting.” This search ranged from the phonetic examination of radio-transmitted speech and the development of testing and training programs for radio announcers, to the design of tailored microphone and transmitter technologies, experiments with newly defined genres such as radio journalism, and the formulation of new audience research methods and techniques of media criticism.
Presenters
VT
Viktoria Tkaczyk
MPIWG
Between Signal and Symbol: Sound, Speech, and the Data of LanguageView Abstract
Organized Session 05:30 PM - 06:00 PM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/24 15:30:00 UTC - 2019/07/24 16:00:00 UTC
In 1969, J. R. Pierce, executive director at AT&T Bell Laboratories, called for a suspension of all speech recognition research, condemning the field as an “artful deceit” perpetrated by “untrustworthy engineers.” Automatic speech recognition, he insisted, could not be solved through engineering, and would be possible only once computers incorporated linguistic expertise comparable to a native speaker. Just two years later, IBM launched its Continuous Speech Recognition research group, which developed a data-centric approach that became standard not only in speech recognition and natural language processing, but across “big data” and machine learning applications for everything from financial modeling to bioinformatics. Frederick Jelinek, the IBM group’s director, infamously attributed their success to firing all the linguists. This talk looks at the history of speech recognition research as it was refashioned from a problem of simulating language to one of sorting data. Starting in the 1970s, speech recognition research shifted from efforts to study and simulate the processes of speech production and linguistic understanding to what researchers characterized as a “purely statistical” approach, organized around the technical and commercial demands of digital computing. I examine how the problem of automatic speech recognition, laden with the technical challenges and institutional legacies of acoustic engineering, helped bring language under the purview of data processing—and how, in the process, speech recognition research became critical in shaping the conceptual, economic, and technical terrain that gave rise to data-driven analytics and machine learning as privileged and pervasive forms of computational knowledge. 
Presenters
XL
Xiaochang Li
Stanford University
University of Amsterdam
Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin
Stanford University
 Alexandra Hui
Mississippi State University, Society Editor
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