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Music Science

Scientists Play World's Oldest Commercial Recording 105

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 elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @04:23PM (#36675048)

    This unauthorized duplication and public performance of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star is in clear violation of the "Copyright Lasts For Fucking Ever Act of 2009" and we insist you pay residuals to the Sony/BMG Music Group, which has acquired copyright to all songs written or recorded before 1923.

    • of "Baa Baa Black Sheep".
      • by BobNET ( 119675 )

        And the alphabet song. Now it's copyright infringement to use any letters between A and Z (inclusive).

    • I give you....MOD 10!
    • Sony encourages its customers to only use wax phonograph cylinders employing their Extended Copy Protection System technology.

      Bruce Perens commented on this development, "this is a rootkit!!, my American Graphophone(tm) was totally pw3n3d!!"
    • Edison probably stole the recording in the first place, much like he stole many other ideas and "IP".

      • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) *

        Every time someone is successful with an invention or innovation, you get a million blowhards and runners-up shooting their mouths off to their buddies "He stole that shit from *ME* man!" But it really only goes to show that an invention is only as good as the much harder work that goes into taking that invention and making it useful and practical, then effectively deploying it so that it actually gets USED.

        So you get ten different people working on inventing a light bulb. That doesn't mean all ten are goin

    • Why is this modded Funny? It's the goddamn Truth! Listen to Metropolitan.Orchestra-Medley.overture.(1900).-.LoC.mp3 [] - this is a recording from October 10th, 1900 (over 110 years ago). So you'd think it would be in the public domain, right? Bzzzt.

      Rights & Access

      This recording is protected by state copyright laws in the United States. The Library of Congress has obtained a license from rights holders to offer it as streamed audio only. Downloading is not permitted. The authorization of rights holders of the recording is required in order to obtain a copy of the recording. Contact for more information.

      The funny part is that you didn't own that record, according the label it was leased to you for the purpose of producing sound directly from the record []. And that was the state of the nation in the year 1900 A.D.

      • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) *

        That's because with enough legal wrangling, you can actually claim copyright on the MP3 itself. The original phonograph and recording isn't copyrighted, but the *MP3 version* is. It's absolutely bizarre, but such is the state of copyright in a country where Disney gets to write our copyright law.

        • by Thing 1 ( 178996 )

          but such is the state of copyright in a country where Disney gets to write our copyright law.

          Yeah, I and so many others wish that instead they would right our copyright laws...

  • Wow, nothing tech to restore lost tech, tho I doubt in 123 years time the lost mp3 codex will be able to be restored by taking photographs of a few broken hdds. Very cool that it was possible to get anything back.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Hsien-Ko ( 1090623 )
      Forget MP3s, I wish it were possible to recover all the Microsoft ADPCM WAV music stuck on my inaccessible zip disks!
      • by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @04:42PM (#36675284) Homepage Journal

        No one in their right mind wants to recover anything with "microsoft" in the name.

      • I have a zip drive sitting in my closet doing nothing. Two of them in fact. Want one?
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Unless the disks are damaged, it is not even hard or expensive: you can still use a USB or SCSI (but not parallel) Zip drive with Windows 7, and use SC Audio Converter to convert the files into more accessible formats.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        ADPCM WAV is stupidly easy to decode. The WAV-RIFF container is well documented. ADPCM stands for adaptive differential pulse-code modulation which means it's just pulse code modulation but instead of storing the wave-form (like in raw PCM) it stores the differential. The adaptive part just means that you can scale the size of samples who's differential you are calculating. It's just basic compression techniques applied to PCM wrapped in a very straight forward header. Your only issue is going to come from

      • by geekoid ( 135745 )

        trivial. Maybe if you tried you could get them? did you ever thing of that? trying?

    • 123 years? Oh, so THAT'S why the software is called "mpg123 []"
    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      No format will ever be lost again.

      WE have the internet, where migrating from one to a news one is easier, and the old won always lingers around.

      in 123 years, there will be 123 year of very accurate history, with all the information we need to use old files.

  • Scientists were surprised to find that the tin cylinder containing the lyrics "Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down". Lead investigator Hubert Hvarquhar explained that "the dolls were part of a short-lived gilded-age custom where well-to-do society members would give each other gifts that spontaneously started singing and could not be shut off. Many of the dolls were smashed in rage leading to their comparative rarity today."

  • Would have been better had they not recorded the cylinder during what sounds like a tornado, though. Also I am not sure I like her voice... seems a bit strained at points -- e.g. about half way through it sounds as though she struggles (possibly forgetting the lyrics)?

    • You only get one take per cylinder. So maybe they were just shooting for "good enough".

    • by blair1q ( 305137 )

      She just caught Simon Cowell looking at her, and he wasn't smiling.

    • I'm not up on my recording history but if memory serves there was no amplification, so you had to yell into a funnel to make the cylinder etching device leave an impression in the wax master.

      • That makes sense... it does sound like she might have been shouting and that would also explain the pause (getting her breath back)

    • I remember watching, I miss TechTV. G4 blows...everything is video games and cops reruns. What a waste.

    • Or let this guy report on it; []

  • I can clearly hear the talking doll saying, "I don't like you. I'm going to kill you."
  • People had really scratchy voices back in those days...
  • Where'd he record that, Silent Hill? Jesus, I won't sleep for days...
  • is there hidden messages if you play it backwards?
  • Frankly, I'm not convinced that is a woman's voice. Sounds like a man putting on a 'woman's voice'. They probably stopped turning the cylinder shortly before Edison's work crew started rolling around the floor laughing. They found that sort of thing funny back then. Being all manly an all of that...
  • So, which white rapper is going to sample this first?
  • Something about "I buried Paul Revere". Weird.
  • by Figec ( 20690 )

    I tried hard to discern her accent. I'm curious if the North Jersey or NY accent has changed in 122 years. It sounded like the "ar" in star is drawn out like a New England accent. Of course, it's all made the more difficult by her trying to make a baby voice.

  • slightly off topic, but so long as we're discussing edison recording cylinders, i remember watching this poor guy crush an historic, irreplaceable cylinder record on tv. []

  • Three minutes later, the RIAA filed suit against the scientists, claiming "unauthorized public broadcast."

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