Phonographia

October 1 - Birthday of Charles Cros

     

 

Charles Cros was a well-regarded French poet and humorous writer. As an inventor, he was interested in the fields of transmitting graphics by telegraph and making photographs in color (1).

Cros is best known, however, for the letter he sealed in an envelope and submitted to the Academy of Sciences in Paris describing how to reproduce sound from a recording of sound waves.

This description for his concept of an invention that he intended to name the Paleophone (voix du passé) was submitted slightly before Edison first conceived and published his ideas on reproducing sound with his Phonograph. Cros is therefore credited "with anticipating, though barely, what Edison was to accomplish" (2).

For Friends of the Phonograph, October 21, 1842, the birthday of Charles Cros, is celebrated by toasting his phonograph conception with a glass of French wine served with salted herring while viewing Mars and listening to "A Signal from Mars".

This seems a poetic touch to honor the poet-inventor since Cros was the author of "The Salt Herring" and additionally was convinced that there was life on Mars spending "years petitioning the French government to build a giant mirror that could be used to communicate with the Martians and Venusians by burning giant lines on the deserts of those planets."(1)

Note: A Signal from Mars, played by John Lacalle's Band on Indestructible record number 3080, released in 1910, is available by downloading from the UCSB Audio Archive. (See "A Signal from Mars" sheet music below(4)).

The Kippered Herring (Le Hareng Saur) by Charles Cros was translated and illustrated by Edward Gorey in his 1971 book "The Salt Herring".

 

 

(1) Wikipedia

(2) Charles Cros, as described in “The Talking Machine”, by Timothy C. Fabrizio and George F. Paul

(3) Goreyana, ampootozote@aol.com

(4) Sheet music from the Allen G. Debus collection. Courtesy of UCSB Cylinder Audio Archive

 

 

 

 

 

Announcement card that was sent to advertise the publication of Gorey's "The Salt Herring". (3)

 

 

 

 

Sheet music from the Allen G. Debus collection