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Re: [ARSCLIST] Earliest recorded sound update on NPR

From: Patent Tactics, George Brock-Nannestad


David Brenneman asked:

> Is there any indication that Scott ever intended the
> Phonautograph to be anything other than a one-way
> conversion of a sound wave to a "readable" as opposed
> to a "playable" image?  

----- no, it was intended for two things related to recording only, but only 
one was fulfilled. Scott wanted it to be able to write speech, so that the 
intermediary of a human stenographer would be superfluous and the errors of 
such a person could be avoided. The second was to improve the rendition in 
writing of a performance/execution of theatrical declamation. In this he was 
succesful, as I argued at the Conference "Acoustics Paris'08" *) of the 
Acoustical Society of America. Related to this, in his second sealed letter 
to the French Academy of Sciences, he envisaged further uses as well as 
identifying the resonance of the recording system as a distorting influence. 
A French collegue and I last year deposited a transcription and translation 
into English of this second sealed letter at the archives of the French 
Academy of Sciences.

Every time this topic comes
> up in the popular press, it's usually accompanied by
> a sort of "Ah Hah!  Edison was a fake - he didn't really
> invent the phonograph!" type of comment from the
> reporter.  Edison's critical insight seems to have
> been that not only could sound be recorded, it could
> be played back.

----- as Patrick Feaster has very convincingly argued, Edison's intention was 
originally to write speech by actuating keys, but he stumbled upon the 
logical possibility of playback of a recording. Charles Cros had the idea of 
reproducible sound before Edison, he started from traces on a disc (as 
opposed to Scott (with the aid of Koenig, the instrument maker) on a 
cylinder, and he proposed photo-reproduction and etching of a groove. That 
did not materialise until Berliner took it up 10 years later. However, Scott 
was very bitter and took precisely the opposite view from that of the present 
popular press: Edison was taking all the credit. 

I spoke about the different definitions of recording and reproduction at the 
ARSC conference 2003 in Philadelphia, but I believe my approach was 
considered quite dense. Just check the title of my 50': "The Real Basics: the 
Epistemology of Recorded Sound". 

Kind regards,


Brock-Nannestad, G.: "Prosody in French theatrical declamation traced 
backwards in time", Proceedings of Acoustics Paris'08, pp. 2399-2404.

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