My current research interrogates the sound recording as an early twentieth-century artifact crucial to the production of knowledge. Taking up anthropologist Steven Feld's observation that sound recording is “a technology of creative and analytic mediation, which requires craft and editing and articulation just like writing,” I argue that the sound recording ought to be understood as a technology that generates rather than reflects knowledge.1 As such, it merits the kind of attention to context, materiality, and narrative that scholars have long devoted to written texts and visual sources such as photographs or film.

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I approach this through the work of Laura Boulton, a fascinating, peripatetic woman whose life and work have not, beyond the efforts of anthropologist Aaron Fox, received much attention.2 Laura Boulton made some of the earliest recordings of songs and stories, beginning in the 1920s. Although she...

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