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Happy 153rd Birthday, Recorded Sound!

Happy 153rd Birthday, Recorded Sound!

Posted by: Nicolas Grizzle on Apr 5, 2013 | Comments (0)

The Phonautograph, first sound recording device

All lovers of vinyl need to check this out. It’s the audio of the earliest known gramophone recording, which is the grandfather of the modern vinyl record. Sure, Thomas Edison had his cylinders in the 1870s, but Emile Berliner invented the flat version of records in 1887. In the prequel to Betamax vs. VHS, or HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray, Berliner’s gramophone disc dominated the recording industry and Edison’s neat little vertical audio cans remain mostly as footnotes in audio history.

The cool thing about this recording is not that the record itself has survived since 1890, but that it doesn’t actually exist. There are no known physical copies. So how does one hear audio from something that doesn’t exist? The Media Preservation Initiative at Indiana University, Bloomington, had found a way to take the photographs of the physical specimens from reference books and advertisements of the time and recreate the audio from those records. The result is discernible audio recordings of speech, song and a voice memo recorded as a test from the inventor to a friend.

But wait, there’s more.

These are not the first recordings ever made, nor are they the first reproduced sound. Edison’s invention was the first to reproduce the sound audibly. But it was “Au Claire de la Lune,” an 18th Century French folk song, which Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville sang slowly into a vibrating diaphragm, that changed music forever. The long tube transferred the sound via hog’s bristle and a piece of a feather into waveforms. There was smoke, a rotating barrel and a hand crank involved. Though the phonautograph was a complicated and temperamental device (well, maybe not compared to an iPod in a WiFi-dead zone), audio could now be captured. And in 2011, a mere 151 years later, archivists have found a way to play it back. The recording was made on April 9, 1860 (before the American Civil War)–marking the birth of recorded sound.

Telephones, speakers, microphones–everything we know about audio today–is based on Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville’s hog’s bristle and feather recording device. From one audio engineer to another, thanks, brother!

What the Hell’s Wrong with Neil Young?

Posted by: Gabe Meline on May 7, 2008 | Comments (1)

For what has literally been decades of anticipation, Neil Young fans have been waiting for the ultimate Neil Young box set. Years have rolled by. All of his comrades and co-workers released box sets. Even Buffalo Springfield released a box set. Nothing from Neil.

This week, Neil Young announced that he’s finally satiating the thirst for his massive treasure trove of old recordings by releasing a huge 10-disc set this fall—hell yes, finally!

Here’s what sucks: the Neil Young Archive, as it’s called, is only coming out on Blu-ray.

Do you own a Blu-ray player? Yeah, me neither. They’re $400.

The set, announced as the first of five volumes, will contain 128 tracks, 500 photos, letters, old papers, and additional material designed to be viewed on the screen while listening to the music. In his press conference, Young encouraged his mostly middle-aged fans to buy a Sony Playstation 3 in order to be able to “experience” the box set. “We want people to spend the same hours on it like a video game,” he said.

You know what? Neil Young has been beating this misguided audiophile horse for far too long. He’s latched onto DVD audio like it was the second coming of Christ and saturated the market with awkwardly-shaped and utterly confusing versions of his albums—many of which get returned by customers who can’t listen to them, and which go back to collect dust on warehouse shelves or clog up landfills. His belligerence with the technology is a waste, and the world is not going to get in step with him on the idea. It’s expensive, it’s ego-driven, it’s elitist, and I think it’s pretty much the last straw.

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