Friday, March 28, 2008

Written in smoke

I was half-asleep at the time, so I didn't immediately realise what gave Charlotte Green such a fit of the giggles on the radio. It later transpired it was a comment overheard about a newly restored recording from 1860 - the earliest known recording of a human voice - sounding like a bee in a bottle.

There's something extraordinary and wonderful about this. This voice, the name of whose owner was apparently not considered important enough to be recorded, preserved on nothing more substantial than soot on paper, all that remains of someone from a distant past, untouchable but made tantalisingly close by this tiny fragment. Something about the fragility of existence and the tenaciousness with which we cling to it.

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