National Museum of Computing enlists sound artist Matt Parker to create sound archive of computing

By Culture24 Reporter | 27 January 2015

A new project at the National Museum of Computing aims to capture the sounds of 70 years of computing

a photo of a man holding recording equipment in the snow next to a building
Matt Parker recording at an Icelandic data centre© Photo: Sébastien Dehesdin
A permanent sound archive of the restored and recreated working machines at The National Museum of Computing is to be created by award-winning sound artist and composer Matt Parker.

Promising to capture the “sounds and ecology" of 70 years of computing, Parker’s Imitation Archive will be the first of its kind in the world and will represent the rapid progress of computing during the past 70 years.

With recording due to begin in February 2015, Parker is also going to use the audio material for a series of interlinked musical compositions that will reflect the development of computing - from the code-breaking Colossus computer to the present day.

The National Museum of Computing, located at Bletchley Park, houses the world's largest collection of functional historic computers, including the rebuilt Colossus - the world’s first electronic computer - and the WITCH, the world's oldest working digital computer.

Parker will be recording all of these iconic devices together with the wartime Robinson and Tunny code-breaking large systems of the 1960s and the mainframes that followed.

"The sounds of handheld devices are all around us today and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to look back to where modern computing began, in Bletchley, and trace the rapid growth of technology through an original sound archive,” said the sound artist, whose recent project exploring cloud computing, The People’s Cloud (thepeoplescloud.org) scooped the 2014 Deutsche Bank Creative Prize in Music.  

Describing the National Museum of Computing as a “truly unique" place to hear these sounds across the decades, Parker said he wanted to explore "the sonic impact of computing within contemporary society”. 

Having performed his music across the world, Parker’s recent audio pieces have been heard at The Science Museum London, The V&A, The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts and the Melbourne Fringe Festival.

The archive is being produced with support through Arts Council England’s Grants for the Arts Scheme and will be made available to visitors at the museum as well as through The British Library Sound Archive.

Previews of the work will be made available on the TNMOC website and the museum’s Facebook , Google+  and Twitter accounts.

Parker will be giving a talk on his work at TNMOC on April 16 2015 at 7.30pm. Visit ticketsource.co.uk/tnmoc to book.

For more information on Matt Parker, visit earthkeptwarm.com. For more on the British Library Sound Archive, visit sounds.bl.uk.

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