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Music

Historic 'St. Louis Tinfoil' Added To National Recording Registry

NOEL KING, HOST:

The Library of Congress is preserving the sound of American history. It's added 25 new entries to its national recording registry. Here's the librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CARLA HAYDEN: This year, everything from Kermit the Frog...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RAINBOW CONNECTION")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As Kermit the Frog, singing) Why there are so many songs about rainbows.

HAYDEN: ...Kool & the Gang, "Celebration"...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CELEBRATION")

KOOL AND THE GANG: (Singing) Celebrate good times, come on.

HAYDEN: ...And, for the first time, a podcast - "This American Life."

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "THIS AMERICAN LIFE")

ADAM DAVIDSON: Awards for all these financial securities, including the one...

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

There's a cornet performance from 1878.

(SOUNDBITE OF RECORDING, "ST. LOUIS TINFOIL")

MARTIN: It's part of the earliest known recording of a musical performance and the oldest playable recording of an American voice. It's called the "St. Louis Tinfoil."

DAVID GIOVANNONI: Folks would come and yell into a horn, and it got recorded on a sheet of tinfoil that was revolving on a cylinder.

KING: Audio historian David Giovannoni helped restore that recording.

GIOVANNONI: Thomas Edison got the phonograph working in December of 1877. It's difficult for us today to comprehend the mind-bending impact it had on people.

(SOUNDBITE OF RECORDING, "ST. LOUIS TINFOIL")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Inaudible).

KING: It only lasts 78 seconds. It includes a reading of "Old Mother Hubbard" and then some laughter.

(SOUNDBITE OF RECORDING, "ST. LOUIS TINFOIL")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Laughter).

GIOVANNONI: Hearing this really instills a sense of appreciation for a really rich and shared sonic heritage.

MARTIN: And that, says Giovannoni, is why the National Recording Registry was created.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOSHUA BELL AND EDGAR MEYER'S "BT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.