First *Intentional* Recordings

The First Intentional Recordings

The first sound recordings were not done intentionally, and is the topic of another **link to post on pottery recordings**.  However the first intentional recordings were done in the mid 19th century. 

  David Giovannoni, NY Times

David Giovannoni, NY Times

Contrary to popular assumption, these recordings, done with a device called the phonautogram, pre-date Edison's phonograph by twenty years.  Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville is the inventor, and his vision revolved completely around the recordings.  Today we take for granted that if you record something, you will be able  to listen back to it.  But with these initial recordings were designed to provide a visualization for various sounds in order to track loudness and/or pitch. 



They were used for scientific study of sound, not for listening back to the original sounds.  In fact, there was no way to play them back.  The subtle etchings on a black sooted background remained a silent historical object until 2008 when modern technology was used to decode and play back these early recordings.  The initial attempts at this decoding revealed that Scott's equipment was (not surprisingly) was not perfectly calibrated, and the voice and guitar that were captured played back at the wrong speed and pitch. "squawky".  The sounds were slowed down to what reasonably resembles human voice.  Here's one of the recordings and the attempt at decoding it!

Scott set out to record and visualize speech and sound;  he never wanted to play it back, while Edison's goal, by contrast, was specifically to recreate sound.

Scott felt that it was an inappropriate use of the technology to "reproduce" the sounds.  He wanted to transcribe speech as a typewriter or note-taker might.  Phonograph means "writing speech".

see **post on sound recovery*** on how to get theses sounds off the sooted paper and into your ears.

Posted on April 30, 2015 and filed under Article.