Forgive The Recording Quality, We Just Invented Recording Do not adjust your radio as contestants answer questions about some of the earliest audio recordings ever made.
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Forgive The Recording Quality, We Just Invented Recording

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Forgive The Recording Quality, We Just Invented Recording

OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

Next, we'll play a game about early recordings - and not just the voicemails my ex leaves me at 5 a.m. So this audio quiz is called Forgive The Recording Quality, We Just Invented Recording. These questions are about some of the earliest pieces of audio ever recorded. These clips come from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the AHRC research center. Eric, stay in the lead, and you're in the final round. Annabel, you need to get more points, or you have to watch every smartphone video you've taken at every concert.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: OK. Here we go. According to The Atlantic, this is, perhaps, the oldest playable piece of recorded sound from America.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

THOMAS EDISON: Mary had a little lamb. Its fleece was white as snow. And everywhere that Mary went, that lamb was sure to go.

EISENBERG: Amazing.

(LAUGHTER)

JONATHAN COULTON, BYLINE: Sounds really good.

EISENBERG: Yeah. That was a recording of "Mary Had A Little Lamb" made in 1878 by what inventor?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Eric.

ERIC BOSWORTH: I'm going to go on a limb and say Thomas Edison.

EISENBERG: Yeah. Your limb is gone on right.

(APPLAUSE)

BOSWORTH: That's a good limb. Is that what you were going to say?

EISENBERG: Yeah. I know there's a lot of static and stuff but also just sounds creepy.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Right?

COULTON: He's yelling it from far away. That's the weird thing.

EISENBERG: Right - yelling it from very far away.

COULTON: Why are you doing that, you crazy, old man?

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: OK. So it turns out Thomas Edison was not the first person to record sound. Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville beat him using an invention that recorded sound waves on a sheet of paper.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Singing) ...La lune, mon ami Pierrot.

EISENBERG: Sounds like a child playing a recorder into the wind.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: That is a recording of what famous composition by Claude Debussy? The title is French for light of the moon.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

ANNABEL JONES: "Clair De Lune."

EISENBERG: That's right, Annabel. "Clair De Lune" is correct.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: This clip from 1901 is one of the earliest recordings of a woman singing.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MEDEA MEI-FIGNER: (Singing inaudibly).

EISENBERG: Medea Mei-Figner originated roles in operas written by Tchaikovsky in what country?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Annabel.

JONES: Russia.

EISENBERG: Correct - yeah.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: This is your last clue. This 1885 recording is from Alexander Graham Bell's Volta laboratory.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: To be or not to be. That is the question - whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune...

EISENBERG: That's the famous to be or not to be from what Shakespeare play?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Eric.

BOSWORTH: "Hamlet."

EISENBERG: Yes, that is correct.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: All right - great game. Eric, you are going to the final round.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

EISENBERG: Coming up, actor Ilfenesh Hadera joins us to talk trivia. And we imagine what it would be like if tech support existed for old-timey inventions. I wonder if back then, the abacus IT guy rolled his eyes, too. I'm Ophira Eisenberg. And this is ASK ME ANOTHER from NPR.

[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In the original broadcast of this game, we played an early recording created by Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville of a musical work that we identified as “Clair de lune,” a composition by Claude Debussy. It is actually a similarly titled piece, “Au Claire de la Lune (mon Ami Pierrot).”]

(APPLAUSE)

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