Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Earliest Recording Unearthed

Move over, Thomas Edison, it’s time for Frenchman Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville to get the credit for the earliest known audio recording.

According to the New York Times, a 10-second recording of a woman singing “Au Clair De La Lune” was discovered earlier this month, and researchers are certain that it was created on April 9, 1860, 17 years before Edison’s infamous “Mary Had a Little Lamb” recording.

What was merely squiggles on paper turned out to be a phonautogram, which was a recording created on a 19th century phonautograph. The phonautograph, invented by Scott, could transcribe sound into a visual medium, but was not made to sufficiently play back any sort of audio. Scott, a Parisian inventor, was fully convinced that Edison had received recognition that was rightfully his own.

Scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California used a mix of optical imaging and modern technology to extract sound from patterns etched on the soot-blackened paper 150 years ago, and with that, the rag-like 9 by 25 inch rectangle gave way to the clearest, cleanest audio waves conceivably possible for such a time period.

Before this momentous occasion, scientists were only able to make phonautogram’s “squawk,” but this one was special. In the recording, a hissing, popping background gives way to a woman’s eerie rendition of the lyrics “Au clair de la lune, Pierrot répondit” in a hauntingly short and creepy fashion.

Some Central Connecticut students provided their thoughts on the recording, which were rather mixed reactions.

“It reminded me of a class I took while going to school in Chicago for two years,” said junior Nick Garofolo. “We analyzed recordings and had to figure out what they were recorded with while learning the history of recording.”

“Sounds really rough... haven’t these people ever heard of digital?” quipped junior Phillip Causey, while others, like freshman Nicole Verderame, were naturally curious. “This is really interesting, especially knowing that it was waiting in storage somewhere just to be discovered,” she said. “It makes me want to know who the person was that was recorded.”

On a broader social front, the audio clip has continued to get national recognition. Charlotte Greene, a BBC newsreader, dissolved into a fit of giggles after playing the recording over the airwaves. She attempted to continue business as usual, but could not do so after a studio member remarked that it sounded like “bees buzzing in a jar,” according to BBC News.

Discoveries such as the April 9, 1860 phonautogram ignite cravings for history that are insurmountable, and should be spoken of to children and young adults alike. It is a driving force that will propel students into a world of education that they will not want to leave, and will most likely inform and teach others of what they learn.

But seriously, in all the years of knowing what is produced from a coal oil lamp or what lines the inside of a chimney, who would have realized that by simply putting that and a piece of paper together, that a voice could be recorded? It is a marvel, and a mystery, and thanks to Scott, it will now be researched.

Staying Connected: After 31 years, four CCSU grads have remained close and reminisce about their days on campus.

“We used to keep our beer cold in the window,” laughed Pam LaCharity as she sipped a glass of wine. “Only the rich kids, like Nancy, had refrigerators,” Colleen Kubinsky said as she pointed at her friend Nancy King. Robin Gooch began to chuckle, and the women dissolved into a fit of laughter.
For 31 years, these four CCSU alumni have been meeting for an annual lunch to catch up with each others' lives, and to revisit and remember the memories. “We've all gone different roads in our lives, but we've always been together,” said LaCharity.
Nancy King and Pam LaCharity had once went to high school together, but their friendship did not solidify until they roomed in the 'once upon a time' all-girls dorm of Seth North. It was there that they had met Robin Gooch and Colleen Kubinsky; and the quartet was established.
Central was, during the 1970's, a wet campus. A pub used to reside inside the student center, and it was always packed. “A line used to snake out the doorway; as each person left, they took someone in,” recalled LaCharity. The ladies had VIP access, all thanks to a friend who had worked there. Two dollars pitchers of beer were enjoyed as movies graced the screen of the pub every Thursday night.
Campus mainstay Elmers was around back then, and doubled as a strip bar. A pizza joint called Belvedere Pizza was nearby, and the ladies would walk there to grab a few slices and have a good time. With three out of the four not having a car, anything within walking distance was a sure-fire check off of the 'things to do' list of Central happenings.
Imagining a time before cellphones, computers, and Facebook may be difficult for some, but for these women, college without these gadgets was not a disappointment. “You had to go out to socialize,” said Kubinsky, a 1976 education graduate. “We traveled in packs.”
Every dorm at Central used to have parties; they would hire a DJ, get a keg, or would make a nice big barrel of 'Purple Jesus.' “People would bring the hose in and fill a garbage can full of water, a can of Kool-aid, and a ton of grain alcohol, then turn around and sell tickets for two bucks a cup,” said LaCharity, a 1977 education graduate.
Semi-formal dances, called functions, were also held for each dorm every semester, giving everyone an excuse to dress up like the prom and dance the night away. “Some of our fondest memories include us getting ready for the functions in our rooms together; sometimes we'd just take the whole day off from classes to do so,” said Gooch, a 1977 business graduate. The invitations would not forget the most important ingredient to the night however, and would mention the most popular initialism in a college setting: BYOB.
As I sat with these four cheerful “bitties” (as Gooch referred to them as) they showed me pictures of them dressed up at functions, parties, for Halloween, and their graduation days. Each photo had a particular story, and a laugh or two to accompany it.
“Partying was a part of our life, but within reason,” said Gooch.
“It's pretty amazing that any of us graduated,” laughed Kubinsky, and the others followed suit.
CCSU in the 1970's was considerably different: technology was undergoing changes, security wasn't an issue, and students weren't the stressed out multi-taskers they are today. Students wrote their papers on typewriters, the main doors to residence halls would stay wide open until late at night, and when they were not partying, students went to class, and worked 10-15 hours a week to hold up their discretionary funds. “There was no need to drive off campus,” said Kubinsky.
Primitive methods of the yesteryears have been replaced with easy clicks of the mouse on the Internet. Picking classes, for example, used to be an ordeal. Students had to go to the student center, get in the line of the department the class is in, and get a card punched. Today, e-mail makes contact with professors a quick, impersonal act, while before computers, students had to grin and bare it by walking to offices and having face to face conversations, although meetings such as these are still welcome.
Simply put, there were no individualistic luxuries. Students typically did not own the common technological devices that today's students take for granted, whether it be a computer or television set. With one television being in the basement of an entire residence hall, or one major movie being shown in Welte Hall, these were the moments that students came together to enjoy a good flick, and some great company.
The four recalled some loopier memories, in which they spoke of the ridiculous stunts boys would pull to get attention. “Guys used to come out of their buildings and streak naked, and go flying across campus,” said Kubinsky.
“Some of the boys who lived in Vance owned tarantulas,” said LaCharity.
“Then there were the pranksters who would shove pennies in our doors, and we couldn't open them,” said Kubinsky, proving that boys will be boys, even to this day.
Certain residence halls had different reputations, as well. “Beecher were the pot heads, Vance were the jocks, Gallaudet was co-ed, Barrows were the elite girls, and above all, Seth North was home to the nicest people,” said Gooch, recalling her own residence dorm.
Dorm life was always abuzz; residents would hang outside of their rooms, using the hallway to its fullest advantage. “We'd sit in the hallways to study and support one another,” said LaCharity. A phone booth existed in each hall, and was the only means of contacting the outside world other than snail mail.
While there was no such thing of a spring weekend, spring break was the time to take a bus trip down to Florida with a bunch of friends. “We would drink beer on the bus, and then drink grain alcohol out of the hotel room tub,” recalled Gooch.
Once the four graduated, they were adamant about keeping in touch, and thus established annual get-togethers. “When we began doing these, we'd laugh and say, 'Wait till we all get married, wait till we all have children,' and now we're at the point where our children are getting married. Now we're saying, 'Wait till we're all grandparents.' Every time another milestone rolls around, we're still together,” said LaCharity.
Gooch smiled and agreed. “Us getting together is a testament to the fact that the friends you make in college can really become lifelong friends,” she said. “Now that we're older, we drive more slowly, and drink finer quality wine.”
“Enjoy it while you can,”Kubinsky said in regards to college. “It goes by way too fast.”