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The First Recorded Sounds - from the mid-1800s!

Discussion in 'off topic' started by George J, Sep 10, 2019.

  1. George J

    George J Herefordshire member

    On a forum that is based on an interest in music replay, this youtube video may be of interest in general.

    It seems that the first replay possible is from 1857 capturing a Cornet playing an ascending scale!

    Three years later comes the inventor singing Au Clair de la Lune ...

    Of course this does in no way diminish the achievement of Thomas Eddison with his first complete recording and replay invention two decades later. Visionaries are so often so far ahead of their time that nothing comes of it. The point here is the element of the visionary, rather than the success of the venture at the time.

    Please enjoy this little piece of acoustic history.

    Best wishes from George
  2. glancaster

    glancaster In the silicon vale

    An intriguing find.

    On a similar note, for those who are interested in such things, I was going to recommend the Mechanical Music Museum in Northleach, Gloucestershire, containing all sorts of early gramophones, wax cylinder machines, music boxes, and similar, much still in working order. Unfortunately, I just found out that it has ceased trading. It was quirky -- a single room packed to the gills with exhibits, and a pretty much mandatory guided tour from an enthusiast with an encyclopeadic knowledge of it all. A loss, I think. I wonder where all the machines have now gone?

    Kind regards

    - Garry
    George J likes this.
  3. Big Tabs

    Big Tabs hearing problems

    Thanks for that, I will watch it all when I have an hour spare.

    My oldest records are from 1928.
  4. glancaster

    glancaster In the silicon vale

    Apologies to George, but 55 minutes is too long for me to work through (I know, lazy ******). Can anyone tell me at which point the 1857 cornet and 'Au clair de la lune' make an appearance?
  5. George J

    George J Herefordshire member

    The recordings mentioned appear very much towards the end of the film, but I did not notice the exact timings to go to.

    On the other hand, the narrative never rambles or drops interest. For example the recordings were made with two tracks, with a secondary trace made of a tuning fork. This makes playing the reproduced sounds possible at a precise and correct pitch [and speed], and the actual digital processing is equally fascinating for technical reasons as the traces were often unplayable without adjustments to the track. The explanation is a model of clarity.

    The real fascination here, apart from the existence of the recordings from so long ago and also apparently being the first recordings of airborne sound waves, is the methodology both of the making of the recordings [and the philosophical notions and influences behind them], and how modern science in the 21st. Century has made it possible to produce distinguishable sounds from traces on paper made as long ago as 1857.

    The rather poor recordings themselves do not carry the main fascination in my view.

    If you listen to Arthur Sullivan [at exactly four minutes into the film] as recorded by Eddison roughly two decades later, the replay has much greater clarity and lucidity in the actual sound.

    Certainly for me the main interest in this film is the build up and explanation, rather than the very short snippets of worse than bad phone line quality of the actual reproduced sounds.

    I hope I may have encouraged you to give this little bit of out of the way audio history the hour that it possibly deserves!

    Best wishes from George
    gavreid and glancaster like this.
  6. George J

    George J Herefordshire member

    And here is a much shorter youtube film about the first ever "repayable from disc" stereo recordings - from 1934.

    AD Blumlein was a hero of mine even aged twelve! I don't suppose many twelve year olds held a largely unknown inventor of the then best mono replay system of the time, and also the far before his time inventor of practical stereo as a hero to to read about and find as many references as possible, when all references like this were in books! Nobody had pointed me at this line of study!!

    Best wishes from George
  7. Tim Jones

    Tim Jones pfm Member

    35:45 approx.
    glancaster likes this.
  8. glancaster

    glancaster In the silicon vale

    Thanks Tim. I found them now. That's the point of the first recorded voice (Scott de Martinville's, from 1860). The first recorded sound, of the cornet from 1857, comes later on (can't check now, but I think it's just before the 50 minute mark?).

    George is correct when he says the audio quality is very bad. If you got a phone line like that, you'd hang up and start again. But still, I felt privileged to hear these recordings. A window back to the past, which only opened recently. Being able to hear (or see) history makes it feel more real, more modern.

    Scott de Martinville's end was rather sad. He died in poverty, and was buried in a pauper's grave. He never made any money from his invention. It was only half of what was needed: the recording equipment without any playback facility. So, he didn't even know that he had been successful. His living relatives today cannot locate his grave, although they have searched all over Paris. But at least they have his voice, recorded on paper, and preserved through time.

    Kind regards

    - Garry
    George J likes this.
  9. George J

    George J Herefordshire member

    Dear Garry,

    I think that "out of the way" history is fascinating, and indeed offers us a privileged knowledge not available to people in the intervening years ... before research and work uncovers such amazing facts.

    Perhaps Scott de Martinville had the dreamer's frame of mind that denied him the logic of developing replay from his sound engravings. For him the beauty of it lay in his machine's calligraphy - the patterns on the paper ... It would take a much more pragmatically minded person, in the form of Thomas Eddison, to create the real basis of recording and replay. But I do think that Scott got far more right than could be expected, not the least of which was his recording of a tuning fork to calibrate the speed and pitch of play-back.

    Perhaps the lesson that can be drawn is that all research has its value, even when no practical use can be seen for it!

    Best wishes from George
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2019
  10. glancaster

    glancaster In the silicon vale

    Yes, the tuning fork track was especially smart. Without that, I doubt it would count as a successful recording, as the playback quality goes down from fuzzy but recognisable to borderline garbled noise.
    George J likes this.

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