A Sonic Conjuring

photo of sonic film
Listen to “A Sonic Conjuring”

Take a look at the photo above, the two strips of film from the collection at the Imperial War Museum in London. They document the sound of Armistice Day, the end of World War I, and the silencing of artillery.

On the left, the war at full tilt a minute before the end of the war. On the right, peace — a minute after the end of the war. The juxtaposition is startling.

Part of the film is missing, though. A full two minutes documenting the actual end of the war at 11 am on the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918. Last year, for the hundredth anniversary of the war’s end, the museum reached out to a sound design company, Coda to Coda, and asked if they could produce an audio file of those missing minutes — to fill the gap between war and peace, sonically.

They said yes, but the task was not easy. Those waveforms on the film aren’t actual sound. They’re just shadows depicting the sound captured on film. In other words, the staff at Coda to Coda couldn’t just take a listen to a recording, then reconstruct what might be missing. They had to learn to “read” the waveforms without hearing them.

The story of what those waveforms are, and how Will Worsley and Sam Britton at Coda to Coda conjured the war in sound, on this HowSound.


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  • jon brown




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