Voice recordings assembled at the Lautarchiv of the Humboldt-University Berlin dating back to the First World War may tell us volumes about those speaking but they also represent a unique collection to research into sonic archaeology. The grammophonic storage medium versus the symbolic order of the alphabet – the écriture automatique of the grammophonic recording of wave forms on wax discs offers us a reality of a different kind. Foreign dialects and voices have been translated here into phonetic wave forms whereas the technographical measurement of sonicity allows for precise mathematical analysis of the shape of the line permitting us to deduce the individual waves that are combined in it. What is analysed here are the sonic events and sonic articulations – which are in fact no longer literary narratives but numerical analysis resulting „in digital sampling of the analogue records which is the transduction of ghostly voices into computability.“ Sonic analysis in a Lautarchiv focuses on the materiality of sound equally valuable in its acoustic and its technological sense.
With the invention of the phonograph and other sound recording and sound measurement media speech used to be described not by means of linguistic texts any more but rather in mathematical diagrams and abstract numbers. Later on, during the World War II human speech was measured as to its speed, intonation, pitch, modulations of voice, pauses and speech melody - all precisely transcribed in mathematical formulas, diagrams and abstract numbers. Among others speech tests involving phonometric measurements were intended for individuals in extreme states of military combat or utmost bodily exhaustion to examine the bodily capacities of a human being in war conditions. On the other hand various dialects and tongues spoken by various folk groups were thus recorded and assembled in these so-called archives of life (Archive des Lebens) where linguistic differencies were primarily emphasised on the principles of nationality and folk characteristics that could be easily used for the purposes of propaganda and ideological influence. The procedure of sound measurement – the phonometrie and its graphic representation thus became inevitable in the study and analysis of speech. In the following two excerpts media theorist Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Ernst from the Institute of Music and Media Theory of the Humboldt-University of Berlin analyses the abovementioned phenomena.