History Before the Recording of Sound

Tape recorder

While it’s possible to imagine a time before recorded history, I don’t think it would be completely possible to think of this time as being fruitful and less forgetful.

In the modern day we’ve never had to experience a time or place in which there weren’t some sort of recordings of sound beyond a few hours or days at most.

With that, I posit this question; what would sound recordings have sounded like if they had been invented during, say, the 1500’s or earlier? I’m sure that for much of human history, things would sound similar to the ways they do now, but it’s interesting to think of what it would have been like to record a citizen of the British Empire or a senator of the Roman Republic simply to get their take on the issues of their time, or even to understand their tonal qualities.

Nowadays, we have a recorded history, both audio and visual, of current human history, which has been possible since the early 1900s. But the awe of the theoretical in which we could’ve possibly recorded sounds of ourselves back in the day is fascinating. How did people learn music without video or audio references?

While sheet music and scholarly dedication to music was likely the strongest way for music to spread up until the early 1900s, it also happened that music didn’t stop there. There were people who wouldn’t have been able to see music performances, people who couldn’t afford them or people far out on the countryside, so they likely had to play some type of wind, percussion, or stringed instruments alone and without any formal lessons beyond practicing.

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