History Of Sound Recording

The history of sound recording can be traced back to as far as the 9th century. It was then the earliest known mechanical musical instrument- a hydropowered organ was invented by the Banū Mūsā brothers. This hydropowered organ played interchangeable cylinders automatically. As per Charles B. Fowler, this cylinder with raised pins on the surface stayed as the fundamental tool or machine to produce and reproduce music mechanically until the second half of the nineteenth century, according to the sound recording history. The Banu Musa brothers also invented an automatic flute player which seems to be the first programmable machine.

As we look in the origin of sound recording, Flanders, in the 14th century, introduced a mechanical bell-ringer which was controlled by a rotating cylinder. There were similar designs appearing later in barrel organs, musical clocks, barrel pianos and musical boxes in the coming decades. But all of these machines could only play stored music. They were not capable of playing arbitrary sounds and could not record a live performance or get sound recording done. They were also limited by the physical size of the medium.

In the history of sound recording, the first device that could record sound mechanically was the phonautograph. It was developed in 1857 by Parisian inventor Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville. But this machine could not play the sound back. The earliest known recordings of the human voice were in 1857 by phonautograms, which include a dramatic reading in French of Shakespeare's Othello plus music played on a guitar and trumpet.

These recordings consist of clusters of wavy lines scratched by a stylus onto a delicate paper that was blackened by the soot from an oil lamp. On one of his phonautograms of Au Clair de la Lune, a French folk song was digitally converted to sound.

In 1876, as we trace the sound recording history, the player piano used a punched paper scroll that could store a subjectively long piece of music. This piano roll moved over a tool called the 'tracker bar', which had 58 holes in the beginning but was expanded to 65 and then was upgraded to 88 holes, corresponding to each piano key. As a perforation passed over the hole, the note sounded. These piano rolls were the first stored music medium that could be re-produced. But the hardware used to play them was much too costly for personal use.

It was not until 1904 that the technology to record a live performance was developed. A survey showed manufacturing of between 70,000 and 75,000 player pianos and 1,000,000 and 1,500,000 piano rolls produced in 1902 alone. The use of piano rolls however began to decline in the 1920s. There is although one type of these rolls still being made today.

We hope you found the above article on the history of sound recording both useful and informative.