The first successful sound recording device was developed by Leon Scott de Martinville in 1857. In March of that year he was granted Patent No. 31470 for a method of drawing or writing by sound. Scott's "phonautograph" used a mouthpiece horn and membrane fixed to a stylus that recorded sound waves on a rotating cylinder wrapped with smoke-blackened paper. There was no way, at the time, to play the sounds back, but the device was a crucial foundation for the developments that would come two decades later.
Almost simultaneously, in 1877, Thomas Edison and Charles Cross theorized about a machine that would not only record sound, but would play it back. Cross never made a working device, but Edison did. The original device consisted of a foil covered cylinder on which to record the sound and two needles and diaphragms to record and playback the sound.
The Edison Cylinder Phonograph Eventually the wax cylinders were replaced by flat discs, in spite of the contention by Edison and others that the cylinder was a superior format.
An early attempt to monetize the invention was the Edison talking doll. It was not a successful venture because of the delicacy of the tiny phonograph Located in the chest of the doll and because of the ear-piercing tone of the doll’s Prerecorded voice.
The phonograph separated the production of sound from the reception of sound. Initially, the phonograph was a rather simple tool for the recording and reproducing of sound. But in the mid 20th century, this tool was transformed into an instrument of aesthetic production in its own right. Innovations: Pierre Schaeffer and Concrete Music Christian Marclay Turntablism / Hip-hop
Audio Recording – Magnetic Tape 1928 - Dr. Fritz Pfleumer patent in Germany for application of magnetic powders to strip of paper or film. 1931 - Pfleumer and AEG begin to construct the first magnetic tape recorders. 1932 - BASF of I.G. Farben joined with AEG of Telefunken to develop magnetic tape recording using Pfleumer patent; by 1934, BASF is able to manufacture reels of plastic-based tape. 1935 - first public demonstration of BASF/AEG "Magnetophon" at Berlin Radio Fair. 1936 - first BASF/AEG tape recording on Nov.19 of live concert by Sir Thomas Beecham.
The recording medium for the tape recording process is typically made by embedding tiny magnetic oxide particles in a plastic binder on a polyester film tape. Iron oxide has been the most widely used oxide, leading to the common statement that we record on a "ribbon of rust". But chromium oxide and metal particles provide a better signal-to-noise ratio and a wider dynamic range.” (Georgia State University) AEG Magnetophon, 1935, from EMTEC
“Magnetic tape brought about sweeping changes in both radio and the recording industry. Sound could be recorded, erased and re-recorded on the same tape many times, sounds could be duplicated from tape to tape with only minor loss of quality, and recordings could now be very precisely edited by physically cutting the tape and rejoining it.” (Georgia State University, Hyperphysics)
Magnetic Tape RecordingInnovations • Terry Riley: A Rainbow in curved Air (1967) • The Beatles: Revolution 9 (1968) Each of these innovations reflects a conceptual movement from magnetic tape as a tool to record audio towards tape as an instrument for creating new types of music.
Digital Audio Samplers Digital samplers ushered in a new era in making music. The approach to sound and music that began with Pierre Schaeffer and concrete music would create new forms of popular music. In this music, recorded sound became the starting point of the musical composition. “Recording began as a reproduction of the live act. Yet, today, the recorded event has all but displaced the live event as primary.” (Cox Warner, “Audio Culture”)
The first popular consumer sampler was the E-Mu Sp 1200 which became the industry standard. It stored sounds in Ram memory (the sounds had to be reloaded every time the machine was turned off) and could hold a whopping 10 seconds of sound (4 banks of 2.5 seconds each.) The Sp 1200, because of its sample rate, filters and limited capacity, came to define the sound of late 80s and early 90s hip-hop.
Samplers advanced in both memory and sequencing ability, eventually becoming robust music production stations such as the Akai MPC 2000. Today software-based sampling programs can perform complex manipulations of sound. However, the MPC 2000 and the SP 1200 remain in high demand.