What Does a Photograph Sound Like?

Michael J. Kramer (Assistant Professor in the Department of History) published an essay in Digital Humanities Quarterly that explores the interpretive possibilities of turning visual data into sound for historical analysis.

Michael J. Kramer’s essay, “What Does A Photograph Sound Like? Digital Image Sonification As Synesthetic AudioVisual,” published in Digital Humanities Quarterly 15, 1 (2021): AudioVisual Data in DH Special Issue, uses a photograph of Joan Baez from the Berkeley Folk Music Festival Collection to explore the interpretive possibilities of turning visual data into sound for historical analysis.

The essay is part of Kramer’s interest in how digital technologies might reinvigorate core historical and humanities modes of investigation. Seeming to distort the visual object into an aural one paradoxically allows an observer to observe the visual evidence anew, with more accuracy. A kind of generative, synesthetic criticism becomes possible by cutting across typical boundaries between the visual and the audio, the optic and the aural. Listening to as well as looking at visual artifacts by way of digital transpositions of data enables better close readings, more compelling interpretations, and deeper contextual understandings.

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