Au Clair de la Lune

PT 1001EP PT 1001EP

Dust-to-Digital proudly inaugurates its vinyl imprint Parlortone with the earliest intelligible recording of the human voice: a historic 20-second version of "Au Clair de la Lune" made in 1860, 17 years before Thomas Edison invented the phonograph. This one-sided 45rpm record comes complete with an etched back, a descriptive essay and a reproduction of Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville's original "Au Clair..." phonautogram. Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville was born in France in 1817. As a printer by trade, he was able to read accounts of the latest scientific discoveries and became an inventor. On March 25, 1857, he received French patent #17,897/31,470 for the phonautograph. This device made a visual image of sound waves on a cylinder, but did not play or reproduce any sounds. Scott used a horn to collect sound, a diaphragm at the end of the horn that vibrated from the sound, a stiff brush bristle attached to the diaphragm, and a rotating cylinder covered with lampblack or blackened paper that recorded the wavy lines from the vibrating diaphragm and bristle. Example "No. 5" -- "Au Clair de la Lune" was recorded on April 9, 1860. Scott prepared its recording surface by wrapping a sheet of paper around a cylinder, which he rotated over a smoking lantern to cover with soot. He recorded with two styli -- one driven by the vibrations of a tuning fork, the other driven by a membrane vibrating in sympathy with his voice. He removed the paper from the cylinder and immersed it in an alcohol-based fixative from behind its curtain of noise. He sang purposely into his instrument to reveal the shape of sounds and the frequency of his notes. In listening to "Au Clair..." we eavesdrop not on a musical performance, but on a scientific experiment -- wafting imperfectly through a window in time.