The New York Times has a new article about the newly recovered, mid-nineteenth century recordings of Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, a Parisian “tinkerer” who invented a recording device called the Phonautogram YEARS before Edison (that bad bastard) ever even thought about recording. This phonautogram of “Au Claire de la Lune,” which dates to 1860, is now considered the earliest playable recording in existence:
Scott’s technology – and the technology used to recover it – are amazing. A really worthwhile read.
ps. the article mentions Jonathan Sterne’s The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction. It’s a fabulous book and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who wants insight into the history of sound recording and a better understanding of how technology changed the way people listened to the world. It’s all about the ensoniment, folks!
pps. the article also mentions Archeophone, an amazing company that preserves, remasters and reissues recordings of the acoustic era of the recording industry. All of their releases are worth having. (My favorite is the Billy Murray album, but the Bert Williams releases are mind blowing too. If you’re into popular music history, this stuff is de rigueur).