Hear Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville’s “Au Clair de la Lune”, the earliest intelligible recording of the human voice, 1860

Dust-to-Digital proudly inaugurates its vinyl imprint Parlortone with the earliest intelligible recording of the human voice: an historic 20-second version of “Au Clair de la Lune” made in 1860, 17 years before Thomas Edison invented the phonograph. This single-sided 45rpm record comes complete with an etched back, a descriptive essay and a reproduction of Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville’s original “Au Clair” phonautogram.

The recording, part of the French folk song Au clair de la lune, was initially played at a speed that produced what seemed to be a 10-second recording of the voice of a woman or child singing at an ordinary musical tempo. The researchers leading the project later found that a misunderstanding about an included reference frequency had resulted in a doubling of the correct playback speed, and that it was actually a 20-second recording of a man, probably Scott himself, singing the song very slowly. It is now the earliest known recording of singing in existence, predating, by 28 years, several 1888 Edison wax cylinder phonograph recordings of a massed chorus performing Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt.