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“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” – Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)

Fresh Reads from the Science 'o sphere!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

First Voice Recording In History

In our current world of ubiquitous high quality digital sound, it's hard to imagine that until about 150 years ago, there was absolutely no way that a person's voice could be captured, stored and replayed at a later time.

Once the words have been spoken, once the songs have been sung, these transient vibrations in the air dispersed into nothingness, lost forever.

Then in 1860, French inventor Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville created a device that could etch sound waves onto a piece of sooty paper, which is called a "phonautograph".

Researchers have recently translated these etchings back into sound, and have recovered the earliest known recording of a human voice: a woman singing part of the French folk song "Au Clair de la Lune".

Click the below link to hear the reconstructed sound clip:

Au Clair de la Lune (1860)

A haunting voice emerges again from ages past.

*Update: Here is a YouTube video that shows you details of the phonautograph machine.


Also, compare the 1860 recording with a recording of the same melody (with different lyrics) about 100 years later by singer France Gall.

Au Clair de la Lune (1964)

Would you like to know more?
First Sounds (website dedicated to the earliest sound recordings)


Edgar said...

Sounds freaky and unhuman.

Lim Leng Hiong said...

Hi Edgar, welcome to Fresh Brainz! Yes, the recording is too scratchy to hear words clearly, ("de LA" in the first line sounds the most distinct) but it's amazing that the melody is recorded correctly. I've just embedded a 1964 version of the song for comparison.

Darryl said...

I appreciate the posting, a tad of history was nice. My biggest prop's is for the heads up on the history of sound recordings link.

Lim Leng Hiong said...

Hi Darryl,

Welcome to Fresh Brainz! I'm glad you found the post informative. Cheers!