In 1857 Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville was granted a patent for an invention he called
the “Phonautograph.” The contraption was the first to capture sounds, but it did not have a mechanism to play them back. These sounds were locked away until 2008 when researchers found a way to recreate them through modern technology.
Around the time that those sounds were being revived, the decision was made to intentionally make the recording of a song as rare and unique as recordings once were. Alec Duffy, from Hoi Polloi and Jack, won the rights to a previously unheard Sufjan Stevens song in a Christmas contest. Rather than release the song on a wide scale, Alec devised a plan to make every time the song is heard a truly unique experience. Learn about the phonautograph and why Alec usually keeps his song locked away in his Brooklyn home.
Phonautograph recordings for the episode are from FirstSounds.com.