Tuesday 21 September 2010

The World's First Recorded Sounds

See: http://www.firstsounds.org/

These are sounds recorded by the French scientist Eduard Leon-Scott de Martinville. They were made in 1859 a full 20 years before sound recording was officially invented by Thomas Edison. The amazing thing is that these recorded sounds were not recorded for the purposes of letting people hear them played back; the objective was simply to see what the sound waves looked like when scratched onto paper. There was no way to play them back at the time and the inventor of the “phonautograph” didn’t intend to do so. But then in 2008 somebody had the bright idea of designing a computer program that could adapt the etchings on the phonautograph logs into a soundtrack! As a result we can now hear the recordings made!

You can hear a recognizable yet indistinct man’s voice, de Martinville himself, singing a musical major scale and then chanting the famous French folk song Au Clair de La Lune. There are also other recordings, of a train in New York and a speeded-up version of the song. Listening to these soundtracks gives me a very strange feeling. We’re hearing sounds that were first emitted as audio waves over 150 years ago, long before we were supposed to be able to hear them. It’s a kind of audio-fossil.

No comments: