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Re-hearing the Past in the Age of Digital Re-Production A Sonification of Media Artefacts

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posted on 13.05.2022, 02:58 by Paul Dunham

The objective of this research is to reinterpret historic relationships between different forms of obsolete and contemporary media expressed through a series of sound-based art works. The research brings related artefacts, taken from different moments in time, into dialogue with each other by employing approaches and techniques drawn from media archaeology and data sonification. With sound no longer manipulated and rendered solely through digital audio software, each work expresses itself in each historically related artefact’s ‘voice’ through indexical relationships and the re-presentation of data. The primary contribution of this thesis provides a novel approach for methods of inquiry within a media archaeological idiom to the representation of historical media relationships expressed through sound.

Following an investigation and critique of media archaeological approaches, its use in sound-based art and methods of representation, the research’s creative output focuses on the expressive materiality of the objects under inquiry. Such a transdisciplinary inquiry provides a new perspective for the re-presentation and representation of information. Each work explores the musicality of numeric sequences in space and time through rhythmic and spatialised patterns created by the absence and presence of data. As sound-basic music, the application of several access tools facilitated by data sonification are used to enhance audience perception and reception of the works. The works show that sonically interesting results can be obtained by creating abstract relationships between source data and the sounding object.

The research establishes a framework in which the method of inquiry realises different outcomes. The framework utilises data sonification to defamiliarise one communication medium, the visual, before refamiliarising it within another medium, sound. Organising sound by using data sonification techniques as a media archaeological method facilitates the creative shaping of an historical narrative. As an approach to sonification within the field of auditory display, the works employ each artefact’s ‘voice’, or elements of it. Thus, the alternative representation of data as a media archaeological method of inquiry is used to achieve different outcomes unique in this research’s diversity of inquiry and intent.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka - Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License


Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka - Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Music

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

280122 Expanding knowledge in creative arts and writing studies

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

1 Pure basic research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

New Zealand School of Music


McKinnon, Dugal; Zareei, Mo; Carnegie, Dale