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Music Science

Scientists Play World's Oldest Commercial Recording 105

Posted by samzenpus
from the before-cassette-tapes dept.
sciencehabit writes "The scratchy, 12-second audio clip of a woman reciting the first verse of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star doesn't sound like much. But the faint, 123-year-old recording—etched into a warped metal cylinder and brought back to life after decades of silence by a three-dimensional (3D) optical scanning technique—appears to belong to the first record intended for sale to the public. Made for a talking doll briefly sold by phonograph inventor Thomas Edison, the early record is the oldest known American recording of a woman's voice and may be the oldest known record produced at Edison's laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey."
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Scientists Play World's Oldest Commercial Recording

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  • by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @08:03PM (#36677904)

    Now, if they had resurrected a recorder/player device that actually "played" the cylinder, that would be different.

    The articles doesn't say but they may even have an original player. It doesn't really matter:

    1) The cylinder is warped so it may not be possible to play it on the original device without some dubious restoration.

    2) Even if it wasn't warped, actually playing the recording with an original or reconstructed device would almost certainly cause further damage to the recording. That may not be a big deal for some old 45 where there may still be thousands of surviving copies but Edison's cylinder is a one of a kind historical artifact.

    The cylinder likely sat around for many decades unplayed, not because it couldn't be done but because the artifact was too precious to subject to that kind of treatment. With the optical scan, we get the best of both world: We get to hear every note and scratch and we get to preserve the cylinder for future generations as it came to our own.

    The conservatory in Kansas City has numerous original wax recordings that the students can use and listen too. Not quite as old as this but only short a few years. And, yes, they "play" them on the original machines. Btw, optical scan does not let you hear every note and scratch, at least not the original notes and scratches, it is a digital representation of an analog signal, or put differently, it is a copy.

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