Friday, March 28, 2008

Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville Beats the Anti-Semite Edison to the Recorded Sound Crunch

As many of you may know, I have a partiality to old recordings. Supposedly, they get no older than those of Thomas Edison's. (The fact that we share a birthday is purely coincidental. Another thing we share in common: neither of us invented the light bulb.) There are two interesting facts about Edison and his tin ear I want to bring up. The first is that Edison only ever thought of record and playback devices as a way to increase office efficiency. Second, when it was pointed out to Edison that people were using their phonographs to listen to music, Edison, never one to miss a business opportunity, set out to record the greatest opera singers of the time. Edison, as was his wont, made himself the ultimate judge of what a good singer sounded and summarily dismissed any singer who at all deviated from how Edison had already decided a singer should sound. Maria Callas, for example, would never have made the cut. And while people still give Edison credit for inventing recording, he didn't. Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville did. What's more, Edison's system used a roll, which you could only record on one side, and 'hill and dale' modulation, where the sound was recorded vertically rather than horizontally. Neither system gained much traction in the market but still, curiously, our winter neighbor of Henry Ford who printed at his own expense that anti-semitic rag The Dearborn Independent still managed to procure himself the credit.We also, outside of cars, do not use DC powered light bulbs either.

I won't even get to the fight wit Tesla over Direct Current. Fortunately, Edison lost the battle, but even more unfortunately Tesla was found dead and penniless in a New York Hotel room. Curiously, even though our favorite Serbian inventor supposedly committed suicide, Nikola's notebooks were never found.

You may hear Scott's original recording here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments more than welcome!