In addition to my vacation video snooping, I’ve been scouring the public domain universe for early sound recordings from around 1860 – 1930. The idea of people throughout history, utilizing new technology to document the mundane (ie. Thomas Edison recording animal sounds in 1878), is endlessly fascinating to me. I was initially searching for such recordings, when I stumbled across the examples below. If you’re looking to snoop (like me), Archive.org has an amazing collection of early phonograph recordings available to download for free (and weird modern day home videos as well), that you should check out.
Here are a few recent (not so mundane) listens that instantly transport me back in time…
Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville
“Vole, Petite Abeille (Fly, Little Bee)” (1860 Phonautogram)
This track was discovered just a few years ago, recorded on tin foil by a Frenchman, years before Edison registered his phonograph patent (don’t tell Edison he didn’t invent it). From what I understand, it was never meant to be played back, so its not a good “listen” but since it has its place in history, its worth cataloging in your brain for reference.
I can’t really find out anything about Gertrude, but there’s something so charming about this recording.
“Last Kind Words” (1930)
This recording gives me chills, and is currently residing in my “i want to cover this one day” file.
On a side note, if anyone has any leads as to where I can find early recordings of native music… from Africa or the Americas, let me know.