A Voice from the Past

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 Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville was fiddling around in his laboratory trying to come up with a way to record sound. The science of acoustics was in its infancy. His achievements were long-forgotten until a group of historians, audio engineers and scientists searched for his work.

“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.”

Analyzing Martinville’s work with audio software, they 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 “Au Clair de la lune.” The earliest known sound recordings can be heard at http://www.firstsounds.org.
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.

A new window onto history was recently opened up at Edison’s laboratory in NJ. As the place was undergoing renovations, someone discovered a long-forgotten box containing cylinder recordings. Now the group is researching the earliest recordings ever made!
As we like to say: You never know what/when history reveals itself.

On our next adventure through the hippest neighborhood in town, the Taste the Tower adventure will include a stop at Spinners where you can put your hands on many of rocks oldies. Better hurry because our half-off special is fading fast. Purchase your tickets on BrownPaperTickets.com!


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