Until the middle of the 19th century, there was no recorded sound. A performance had to be seen to be heard, with no record left beyond the audience’s recollections. Much of music was forgotten by time.
Then, in 1860, Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville captured the first sounds as waveforms. Still, the idea of actually hearing those sounds again did not seem possible. Instead, he imagined people would read waveforms like a new language, and hear the performances imaginatively in their “mind’s ears.”
A Brief History of the Waveform follows the evolution of sound recorded as a wave, from Scott de Martinville to SoundCloud.
Featuring the voices of: Patrick Feaster, sound media historian; Karen Topp, senior lecturer in physics, Bowdoin College; Jonathan Sterne, sound historian, McGill University; Carlene Stephens, curator, National Museum of American History; Eric Wahlforss, co-founder and CTO, SoundCloud.