History Amended by Earliest Recording of Sound

By Steve Kastenbaum Cnn Radio National Correspondent | St. Joseph News-Press, February 8, 2012 | Go to article overview

History Amended by Earliest Recording of Sound


Steve Kastenbaum Cnn Radio National Correspondent, St. Joseph News-Press


(CNN) -- Thomas Edison came up with a way to play back recorded sound in 1878. But 20 years before the inventor patented the phonograph, French scientist Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville was fiddling around in his laboratory trying to come up with a way to record sound. His invention, the phonautogram, enabled him to create a visual representation of his voice.

Scott de Martinville wasn't able to listen back to his recordings, though. The science of acoustics was in its infancy. He could only see lines etched in soot. His achievements were long- forgotten until a group of historians, audio engineers and scientists searched for his work. The First Sounds Collaborative found it in the archives of the French Academy of Sciences in 2008.

"His machine would capture the vibrations out of the air and write them on to a moving piece of paper," said David Giovannoni, one of the founders of First Sounds. "When you look at the writing that this machine made, it looks exactly like a sound wave would look on audio editing software today."

Giovannoni and his group analyzed Scott de Martinville's work with audio software and unlocked the sound held in the waveforms. The result is like listening to a ghostly time machine, the voice of a man from 150 years ago singing French song "Clare de Lune." The earliest known sound recordings can be heard at www.firstsounds.org.

Giovannoni said recordings like these are extremely important.

"Imagine studying art without being able to actually look at the canvases themselves. What modern technology and modern scholarship are opening up is a window into past human endeavors that we can hear through."

Nearly 20 years after Scott de Martinville experimented with recording his voice in Paris, Edison perfected a way to record and play back audio at his laboratory in New Jersey. His invention would spark a new industry, the recording business.

Tim Brooks is a historian of early audio recordings. His home in Greenwich, Connecticut, is a private museum of sorts, with a collection of recording and playback devices from a century ago. Chests of drawers are filled with recordings made more than 100 years ago.

Brooks is part of a network of historians and audiophiles on a mission to find and preserve the earliest recordings ever made. They do this with a sense of urgency. The recordings from the late 1800s were made on very fragile cylinders.

"They were made of a soft kind of wax," said Brooks. "They're very subject to humidity and mold. And if they're not stored carefully, then you will take them out a few years later and suddenly you can't hear anything because the mold has eaten it up. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

History Amended by Earliest Recording of Sound
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.