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World's oldest sound recording played in US

A 10-second excerpt from the French folksong Au Clair de la Lune was played at the Stanford University where ARSC was holding it's annual conference.

world Updated: Mar 29, 2008 22:54 IST

"It's magic!" exclaimed David Giovannoni when he heard a shaky and distant voice fill a spacious auditorium at Stanford University.

This 10-second excerpt from the French folksong

Au Clair de la Lune

made before the American Civil War was nothing less than the world's earliest sound recording.

The excerpt was played at this prestigious university where the Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC), an international, non-profit organization dedicated to research, study, and information exchange surrounding all aspects of recordings and recorded sound, was holding it's annual conference yesterday.

The recording was discovered in February at the archives of the French Academy of Sciences in Paris by First Sounds, an informal association of audio historians, recording engineers, sound archivists, scientists and others who aim to make mankind's earliest sound recordings available to all people for all time.

The group was established in 2007 by David Giovannoni, who is a member of the ARSC.

"It's a very haunting song," Giovannoni said of

Au Clair de la Lune

," the melody that Parisian inventor Edouard-Leon Sott de Martinville recorded on a "phonautograph," a device that engraved sound waves onto a sheet of paper blackened by the smoke of an oil lamp.

The scientific breakthrough occurred on April 9, 1860, or 17 years before Thomas Edison invented his phonograph.

It is, however, necessary to give Edison his due. At the time, the French were unable to come up with a device that would allow reproduction of his musical recording.