U.S. audio historians have discovered the oldest-known audio recording, created by a French inventor named Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville on April 9, 1860 – 17 years before Thomas Edison invented the phonograph. Up until now, the oldest recorded sound still in existence has been from 1888. This predates it by 28 years.

The recording, which lasts a mere 10 second, is of a person singing a line of the folk song “Au Clair de la Lune.” It was created by an invention called the phonautograph. The device scratched sound waves onto a sheet of paper which had been previously blackened by the smoke of an oil lamp. The phonautograph was incapable of playing the sound back, however. It was Edison’s breakthrough invention of the phonograph on August 12, 1877, that changed the course of history.

Before people thought of recording sound and playing it back, many inventors such as Edison, Scott, even Alexander Graham Bell, were trying to create a visual representation of sound. When Scott’s scratchings were made, it was so he could visually study what sound “looked” like. The recording at the time of its creation was never intended to be played.

Earlier this month, experts made very high-resolution digital scans of the paper. Scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California then converted these scans into sound. The result is a ghostly sounding recording of a human voice singing “Au clair de la lune, Pierrot repondit” (“By the light of the moon, Pierrot replied”).

The link to the recording in the Reuters article is broken. Here is a link to the correct page.

This article can also be found here at Sense & Serendipity.

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