The Sound and Society Workshop and Department of Music at the University of Chicago present a talk given by:

Jonathan Sterne (McGill University)

“Of Tape and Time: Time-Stretching and Pitch-Shifting in the Analog Era”

 Wednesday, October 24, 2018


Franke Institute for the Humanities


Reception to Follow

Today, our singers are auto-tuned, our podcasts and lectures can be speed-listened, and our commercials are synced to their 30-second slots. But in the mid 20thcentury, it was a strange and wonderful possibility to change the duration of a recording without affecting its pitch, or to change the pitch of a recording without affecting its duration. Techniques that we now call time-stretching and pitch-shifting represented something at the frontier of possibilities for audio, a break with phonographic models of sound recording, and new possible relationships between sound and time. This work-in-progress talk will offer a play-show-and-tell tour of some of our research covering the period from the first attempts with film, tape and wires in the 1920s and 1930s until the turn to digital solutions in the early 1970s, discussing some techniques of time-stretching and pitch-shifting in the analog domain in the US and Germany. Drawing on competing meanings of the technology as it moved between blind readers, musicians, information theorists and broadcasters, it will challenge prevailing theories of sonic time and media.

Please note: this talk is drawn from a co-authored book in progress, Mara Mills and Jonathan Sterne, Tuning Time: Histories of Sound and Speed. 

Jonathan Sterne is James McGill Professor of Culture and Technology at McGill University.  He is author of MP3: The Meaning of a Format (Duke 2012), The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction (Duke, 2003); and numerous articles on media, technologies and the politics of culture. He is also editor of The Sound Studies Reader (Routledge, 2012) and co-editor of The Participatory Condition in the Digital Age(Minnesota, 2016).  His current projects consider instruments and signal processing; artificial intelligence; and the intersections of disability, technology and perception. His next book, tentatively titled Tuning Time: Histories of Sound and Speed, is co-authored with Mara Mills. Visit his website at

As part of a two-day residency at UChicago, Jonathan Sterne will also lead an:

Inclusive Pedagogy Seminar

Thursday, October 25, 2018


Fulton Recital Hall (Goodspeed Hall, 4th Floor)

Persons who need assistance should call 773-702-8484 in advance.

Co-sponsored with the Music Department and Inclusive Pedagogy Project

Both events are free and open to the public. We are committed to making our workshop events fully accessible to persons with disabilities. Please do not hesitate to contact the Sound and Society Workshop coordinators, Amy Skjerseth or Ailsa Lipscombe, with any questions or concerns.

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