1859-1860

The story you may have heard about the birth of sound recording goes something like this; Thomas Edison, alone in the lab after a hard day’s work, manages to record a recital of “Mary Had A Little Lamb” onto a wax cylinder. You may have even think you have heard the recording, but you haven’t. The recording in circulation comes from a 1927 recreation for the Golden Jubilee of the Phonograph ceremony, the original being lost on a sheet of re-usable tinfoil fifty years earlier.

But it really doesn’t matter. The real start date for us is seventeen years earlier than that, on the 6th of April 1860, when French printer and bookseller Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville decided to add a tuning fork to his experiments with recording the acoustic properties of the human voice. This is what he used – his own invention, the phonoautograph

phonautograp_25255_lg.gif

The phonoautograph was essentially an artificial ear. The barrel worked as an ear canal, a parchment membrane stretched over the end was the eardrum, then a pig bristle or piece of feather functioned as the ossicles, drawing a line of lampblack on a roll of parchment. The result looked like this:
marks.jpg

It wasn’t intended to be played back, and it wasn’t – not for another 149 years at least. The story of how the sounds were extracted from these scraps of paper is best told by the people at firstsounds.org who made all of this possible. In 2012 PRI radio show Studio 360 ran a feature on the recovery of the audio, the extended version of which is the best possible sub-10-minute primer on the subject.

…and finally, of course, the actual mix! Consider yourself warned that this is very far indeed from easy listening. Instead of scratches we essentially have slightly tuned white noise, through which you can hear something; not enough to really make out much, but unmistakably a human voice.

mp3 download link

…and both MP3s in a single package on Mixcloud, who apparently don’t agree with 2-minute mixes

Tracklist

1. Diapason at 435 Hz–at sequential stages of restoration (1859 Phonautogram)
2. Au Clair de la Lune – By the Light of the Moon (April 9, 1860)
3. Excerpt from Ducis’s Othello (April 17, 1860)
4. Au Clair de la Lune – By the Light of the Moon (April 20, 1860)
5. Opening lines from Tasso’s Aminta (undated, probably April-May 1860)
6. Gamme de la Voix – Vocal Scale (May 17, 1860)
7. Jeune Jouvencelle (August 17, 1857)
8. Vole, Petite Abeille – Fly, Little Bee (September 15, 1860)
9. Vole, Petite Abeille – Fly, Little Bee (undated, probably September 1860)

2016 preview mix

2016 - Walking_reflection

Around this time every year, I’ll post a preview mix. This will be out of the usual monthly cycle, and put up as a placeholder while the year is still warm. When I eventually get round to these years there will be a more considered mix posted in its place.

2016 was, by all accounts, a bit of a rough year. In terms of music, though, it will probably be better-remembered.

Tracklist

David Bowie – Lazarus
Ian William Craig – Contain (Astoria Version)
Buz Ludzha – Basslines For Life
Nadia Rose – Skwod
Yussef Kamaal – Strings of Light
DJ Fresh & High Contrast ft. Dizzee Rascal – How Love Begins
Chance The Rapper – All Night (feat Knox Fortune)
Alex Anwandter – Siempre Es Viernes En Mi Corazon
Metronomy – Old Skool (Fatima Yamaha Remix)
Kero Kero Bonito – Waking Up
Frightened Rabbit – Get Out
Hannah Epperson – Iodine (Iris)
Jessy Lanza – It Means I Love You
Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker
A Tribe Called Quest – We The People…
Mark Prichard – ?
Shura – What’s It Gonna Be?
Kaytranda – Lite Spots
Anna Lunoe – Radioactive
French Montana – Lockjaw ft. Kodak Black
Solange – Cranes In The Sky
King – The Greatest
Innercity Ensemble – III
Neiked Ft. Dyo – Sexual
Joey Purp Ft. Chance The Rapper – Girls
Graphs – Foxdie
Royalston, August Storm – Jungle Gone Down (Kimyan Law Remix)
Logistics – Icarus
Urbandawn – Still Breathing (feat. Keeno)
Rawtekk – Harbour
Hedvig Mollestad Trio – Approaching / On Arrival
Blanck Mass – D7-D5
Pye Corner Audio – Ganzfeld Effect
DUDS – No Remark
Beyonce – Sorry
Ngaiire – Diggin
Lindstrøm – Closing Shot
Anoushka Shankar – Boat To Nowhere
ANOHNI – Crisis
Autechre – Latentcall
Aphex Twin – CheetahT2 (Ld Spectrum)
Young M.A – OOOUUU
Julianna Barwick – Beached
Radiohead – Daydreaming
Shura – The Space Tapes
Christopher Tignor – The Will and the Waiting
Nick Cave – Distant Sky

Coming tomorrow: 1859-1860

%d bloggers like this: