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Phonautograms by Soundiron is Soundware (samples or presets that load into other products) for macOS and Windows.
Windows XP / Vista / 7. Dual Core CPU, 2 GB System RAM, 7200 RPM 8MB Buffer SATA II hard drive recommended.
Intel-Mac and Mac OS 10.5 or higher. Dual Core CPU, 2 GB System RAM, 7200 RPM 8MB Buffer SATA II hard drive recommended.
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This library from Soundiron is a vocal sample-based "instrument" and was created by cutting, editing and programming a selection of the earliest known sound recordings, as restored by the non-profit group First Sounds. This original method of recording, called 'Phonautography' was invented in the early 1850s, by French inventor Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville. The sounds were captured by projecting the voice and other sounds into a cylindrical horn attached to a stylus, which in transferred the vibration into lines over the surface of oil lamp soot-blackened sheets of paper.

They had been preserved by the archives of the French Academy of Sciences (Académie des sciences de l'Institut de France). One of First Sounds' founders, David Giovannoni, tells us that "the Academy is the institution whose stone walls have preserved these magnificent documents through social upheavals, political revolutions, world wars, and other disturbances since Scott's deposit of Gamme de la Voix in 1861 — just five years short of the bicentennial of the Academy's founding in 1666.".

Essentially, these recordings were purely optical and no device existed which could translate the recorded acoustic information back into sound, until the First Sounds organization acquired the preserved papers in France and brought them to scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, who devised a method of scanning and deciphering the images.

The 1860 recording we chose for this library features a D major scale being sung by a single voice, presumably that of the inventor. The original capture left the pitch one octave too high, giving the resulting timbre a female vocal quality. The newer version was translated at the proper original pitch, revealing the singer to have been a man. We used both audio files to give us a full two octave range of notes to work with.

You'll notice that the distortion of pitch, tone and general lack of preserved acoustic information yields a smeared and warbling quality, somewhere between a voice and some sort of woodwind and possessing a frail and innocent affect. I like it, because it really reminds me of the humble beginnings that our modern audio-visual media has grown from and the power to share and explore music and sound that our technology has given us.

First Sounds is an informal collaborative of audio historians, recording engineers, sound archivists, scientists, other individuals, and organizations who aim to make mankind's earliest sound recordings available to all people for all time. First Sounds was founded in 2007 by David Giovannoni, Patrick Feaster, Richard Martin and Meagan Hennessey.

  • Price: 99 cents.
  • 33 Samples (standard PCM wav).
  • 2 .nki files (unlocked format).
  • 3.27 MB installed.

Native Instruments Kontakt version 3.5 or 4 full retail version of Kontakt required to use all .nki instrument program presets included in this library. The free Kontakt "Player" does not support this library.

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