What are some of your favorite sounds?
We live in a world of sounds. It’s a fact that most of us take for granted unless you, like me, have discovered the sense of hearing is not as acute as it was when I was younger.
Today, there’s a lifetime’s worth of recorded sound to which someone can listen. On Thursday, what is believed to be one of the oldest recordings that is still playable was made public at the Museum of Innovation and Science in Schenectady, N.Y.
The recording, which originally was made onto a sheet of tinfoil, took place in 1878 on a Thomas Edison-invented phonograph in St. Louis. According to museum officials, Thursday’s playing of the recording was likely the first time it had been played publicly since it was created during an Edison phonograph demonstration on June 22, 1878, in St. Louis.
In terms of content, the 78-second sound bite features what experts believe is the oldest playable recording of an American voice, the first-ever capturing of a musical performance and what is likely the first recorded blooper.
According to an Associated Press story, the recording opens with a 23-second cornet solo of an unidentified song. That’s followed by a man's voice reciting "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and "Old Mother Hubbard." The man laughs at two spots during the recording, including at the end, when he recites the wrong words in the second nursery rhyme.
"Look at me; I don't know the song," he says.
The recording, which has now been digitized so that in theory it can endure forever, excites historians since only a handful of the tinfoil recording sheets are known to survive, and of those, only two can still be played.
There are those, who because of its historic significance, will say listening to the recording was a memorable experience. For most folks, it’s sounds that are seemingly far more common that rank as the most wonderful to hear.
For new parents, it’s the rhythmic breathing of their sleeping baby.
For parents of a driving teen, it’s the sound of that young driver’s car pulling into the driveway.
For grandparents, it’s the happy laugh of a grandchild.
For some, it’s the recorded voice of a deceased relative.
For an athlete, it can be the roar of the crowd or a word of praise from his or her coach.
For a patient, it’s hearing a doctor say their disease appears to be in remission.
For a tenant or homeowner, it’s the click as a furnace turns on when the temperature outside is hovering around zero.
In the Henley household, I’ve come to appreciate what most people would consider an unusual sound.
For years our kitchen sink would periodically clog up. Consequently, when the drain plug was pulled after doing the dishes the water would either take forever to drain off, or worse, just sit there. When the dishwasher was used, water during the draining cycle would often back up in the sink.
An assortment of methods – drain-opening commercial products, “snakes,” a plunger and boiling water - were employed over the years to deal with the problem.
While it is not uncommon for drains to clog, our kitchen drain’s issue was as much a result of poor design of the pipes as anything. Because of that fact Nancy, my wife, and I decided to “bite the bullet” and hire a plumber to put in new pipes, along with a clean out opening. Since that work was completed, we’ve had no further problems, knock on wood.
Now when I’ve finished washing a sink full of dishes and pull the plug, before I can turn around and dry my hands off the water has vanished from the sink. And more than once as I’ve listened to the gurgling of the water draining out of the sink I’ve turned to my dish-drying wife and said with a smile, “What a wonderful sound that is.”