Audio Historians Discover First Tune Ever Recorded, Dating Back to 1860

One of the most legit news stories this month has been all but ignored by most media sources, or at least pop culture.

American audio historians in Paris extracted a 10-second recording of “Au Clair de la Lune,” a traditional French folk song, recorded in 1860 from a phonautograph, almost two decades before Thomas Edison would be crowned a world-class innovator for inventing the phonograph.

The phonautograph, created by Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, was an invention that recorded sounds visually, designed to document human speech (?!). The phoautograph has been essentially forgotten about, since it was perceived as not being incapable of reproducing sound the way Edison’s machine did with his first official aural document, a Handel concert, in 1888.

The clip of “Au Clair” from the phonautograph was extracted by scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and now stands on its own as a seminal piece of recorded history.

Hear the snippet of “Au Clair de la Lune” recorded on the phonautograph in 1860 here, and read the entire New York Times article covering this important historical breakthrough.

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