Sunday, September 29, 2013

World's Oldest Motion Picture (1865) and Oldest Sound Recording (1857)




First of all, the entire premise of this thing is bullshit. This is NEVER the oldest motion picture ever made. The real oldest motion picture ever made is a few frames from some garden in England somewhere.  I'll try to find it, but I know I have seen it. Who knows who this is, but he looks like some guy from the Civil War spinning around and around, which I guarantee you they did NOT do during the Civil War. 

And the recording, that's bogus too, though it's a pretty old one, made before Edison came along. It was recorded by Thomas Lambert in 1878 on a lead cylinder and has some barely intelligible human speech on it, somebody counting and missing a few numbers. That's why Lambert never became an Edison, see. 

The REAL "oldest sound recording" is a phonoautogram, which is a tracing of lines on sooty paper that somebody folded up and used as a bookmark. The name of the guy is too long to pronounce, but he was French, like all these innovative guys. He yelled into a horn and a little stylus etched sound wave patterns into the paper as it revolved around and around on a drum. Then he put it away, experiment over.

For you see, this guy, de Martinville or whoever he was, did not even intend to play the sounds back! He wanted to see what sound waves might look like if they were traced. I don't think it even occurred to him that sound reproduction might be possible.

Today we can feed that creased-up black paper into a computer and light beams read the bumps and scratches and turn them back into music. So you can hear this wobbly, wavery singing of the first two bars of Au Clair de la Lune recorded in 1857 Hey, it ain't exactly the Pilgrim's Chorus from Tannhauser, but it's a start.


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