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2015 Abstracts

Tom Stockham: The Father of Digital Audio Recording

Sam Katz, University of Utah

Fine Arts

“Tom Stockham: The Father of Digital Audio Recording” is a 30-minute documentary film about former University of Utah professor Thomas Greenway Stockham, Jr., who developed the first commercially viable method of recording sound digitally with extremely high fidelity and made it possible to edit sound and music using a hard drive. Despite the limitations of 60s and 70s computing technology, as well as a number of audio professionals who opposed to the shift to digital audio, Stockham believed in his ideas, persevered, and changed the way we listen to music forever. To this day, these innovations have dramatically altered the shape of the audio recording industry in music, television, and film. Despite Dr. Stockham’s many achievements, his story remains relatively unknown outside of the audio engineering world, even here at the University of Utah and in Salt Lake City, where much of his pioneering work was done. This film brings well-deserved attention to Dr. Stockham’s story. Sadly, Dr. Stockham passed away from early-onset Alzheimer’s in 2004, therefore I portray him by interviewing those who knew him best: his wife, his four children, and his colleagues. I situate Stockham’s life and work in a larger historical context by interviewing historians, musicians, and audio industry professionals, and by mining archival footage, family photos, voice memos, and magazines for relevant material. I travel from Seattle, to Boston, to Lake Powell, to Moab, to Salt Lake City. In homage to Stockham, I use the sound and music of the film, rather than images, as the locus from which meaning and emotional power are derived. The finished film serves as an important educational and historical resource and helps to preserve an important piece of the history of the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, and the State of Utah in general.