Posts tagged ‘phonautograph’

April 28, 2011

Two Records

“People used to make records
As in a record of an event…”
Ani DiFranco

In 1857 Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville obtained a patent for the phonautograph. Scott was a printer and bookseller and was interested in perfect stenography. He was looking for a way to record conversations without omissions. In other words, he imagined his phonautograph, as the word implies, as an audio self-writing machine. It never occurred to him that the process could be reversed and the record of the conversation turned back into sound. (Other people were thinking about this, but the world would have to wait for Edison for this to become reality.)
The technology to turn the records the phonautograph made back into sound did not exist until 2008. This is Scott de Martinville recording himself singing Au Clair de la Lune in 1860:

Sometime in this century, Katie Paterson came up with an ingenious art project. She recorded the sound made by three glaciers in Iceland (Langjökull, Snæfellsjökull, Solheimajökull). The sound was pressed into three records made of melted and refrozen ice from each respective glacier. And the ice records were played on turn tables until they melted.

Literally, the sound of the glacier ice melting and moving: