Organizers: Andreas Fickers and Stefan Krebs
Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History (C2DH)
University of Luxembourg
Date: February 2–3, 2017
Place: Campus Belval, Maison des Sciences Humaines, DH lab


This workshop has two objectives: First, it aims at contributing to the (still limited) historiography of stereophony. As Théberge, Devine and Everrett have recently stated: given the importance of stereo in 20th century musical culture, “it is surprising that stereo’s widespread aesthetic, social and economic implications have been largely ignored in music, sound and media studies” (2015, p. 1). One might add: in history of technology.

Clément Ader’s Théâtrophone is often cited as first stereo sound reproduction system, often described as “binaural” (Paul 2009). However, the Théâtrophone was only “binaural” in a rudimentary sense, and even monophonic at times (Van Drie 2015). Since the 1930s, several researchers in Europe and the US experimented with different stereo systems, using two or more channels to create an impression of sound heard from various directions, as in, or close to natural hearing. It was not before the late 1950s, that some of these technologies reached the consumer market and (regular) radio broadcasting. From the beginning, stereo was praised for its auditory “realism” and “high-fidelity” sound; but, consumers were not immediately convinced and had to be educated how to listen “correctly” to discover the enhanced auditory perspective and acknowledge the superior quality of stereo (Anderson 2015). And recently, monophonic recordings of classical rock and jazz music have been (re-)discovered as being more authentic to the artists’ original intentions (Barry 2015). The workshop wants to pick up on these brief observations and discuss the recording and listening practices and socio-technical discourses that accompanied the invention and diffusion of multi-channel sound technologies.


Kunstkopf, built 1957 at the Institute for Electrical Communication Technology, RWTH Aachen University (Courtesy of P. Laws)

Second, the workshop wants to promote a hands-on approach in the study of sound (and other media) technologies. For us, experimental media archaeology offers an alternative method to a sense and object-oriented technology and media historiography. Drawing on experiences in the experimental history of science, experimental media archaeology emphasizes the performative dimension of media and communication technologies-in-action. Through hands-on experiments the intrinsic performative quality of devices and the interaction between user and object becomes perceptible and can then be described and reflected upon. The aim is not to reconstruct an authentic historical experience of whatever nature. On the contrary, the aim is to create a situation in which prior inventories of knowledge can be unsettled in a creative manner.

If you are interested in attending the workshop please send us an email.


Thursday, 2 February

10:00-10:30 Introduction by the organizers

10:30-11:15 Melissa Van Drie (Cambridge), Moving from binaural to monaural listening: rethinking through concepts of stereophony by way of the Théâtrophone (1881-1936)

Coffee Break

11:45-12:30 Stefan Krebs (Luxembourg), Understanding Stereophony? Early Dummy Head Research on Sound Localization

12:30-13:15 Eric Barry (New York), The Perfect Image: Stereophiles and The Visualization of Sound in the Quadrophonic Age


14:30-15:15 Susan Schmidt Horning (New York), Stereo and the Emergence of Multi-Track Recording

15:15-16:00 Aleks Kolkowski (London), The Auditory Palimpsest

Coffee Break

16:15-17:45 Hands-on: Producing an Audio Palimpsest


Friday, 3 February

10:00-10:45 Andreas Fickers (Luxembourg), Recording a Binaural Radio Drama About the History of Binaural Sound Recording

10:45-12:45 Hands on: 3D Audio Recording


14:00-14:30 Werner Bleisteiner (Munich), Binaural – Multichannel – Object-based: Merging Technologies for the Future of Audio

14:30-15:15 Hands-on: Comparison of 3D Audio Recordings

15:15-15:45 Closing discussion