Listen to the First-Ever Recording of a Musical Performance from 134 Years Ago

This is the oldest recording of an American voice and the first-ever recording of a musical performance. Recorded by a Thomas Edison-invented phonograph in 1878, the audio recording (which lasts 78 seconds) is pretty much "as far back as we can go" in terms of the history of recorded sound.

The recording starts with a cornet solo and then transitions to a man reciting "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and "Old Mother Hubbard." How did we manage to re-capture a recording from over 100 years ago? It all starts with Edison.


You see, the way the recording was made was by a sheet of tinfoil placed on the cylinder of Edison's phonograph. The AP explains:

A hand crank turned the cylinder under a stylus that would move up and down over the foil, recording the sound waves created by the operator's voice. The stylus would eventually tear the foil after just a few playbacks, and the person demonstrating the technology would typically tear up the tinfoil and hand the pieces out as souvenirs, according to museum curator Chris Hunter.

A team of researchers sought to revive the recording by taking an optical scanner to replicate the action of the phonograph's stylus. Basically, it re-read the grooves in the foil and analyzed it to re-create the original sound. Technology is pretty damn cool, huh? You can listen to the 134-year-old recording here. [Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, ABC News via Engadget, Image Credit: AP]

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