Abstract

Abstract:

The 2008 restoration of Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville's recorded voice from 1860 has rekindled old debates over the "true" origins of sound reproduction. Although Charles Cros submitted his design for the paléophone to the Académie des Sciences on 30 April 1877, they did not open it until 3 December. In the meantime, Thomas Edison produced a working model of his own phonograph. For many, the dispossession of Cros' glory placed French national identity at stake. In this article, I draw from neglected primary sources and hyper-contemporary works of fiction to show how Cros has alternately been erased and glorified as a national hero and mythical inventor. As three distinct waves of attention reveal, no matter if Cros is celebrated or ridiculed, defeat remains his inescapable legacy. Given the fact that attention to Cros persists even after the First Sounds initiative crowned Scott as the earliest recorded human voice in history, I argue that it is therefore Cros' loss of glory that is most intensely felt by the French through time, marking their relationship to the birth of the music industry as a "national tragedy."

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1836
Print ISSN
0098-9355
Pages
pp. 19-35
Launched on MUSE
2021-08-03
Open Access
No
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