Henri Lioret

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Henri Lioret with his La Cigale pocket watch , caricature by Coll-Toc (around 1890).
Lioret roller from 1894

Henri Lioret (born June 26, 1848 in Moret-sur-Loing , † 1938 in Paris ) was a French watchmaker and inventor . He is considered to be the manufacturer of the world's first usable music recordings and one of the fathers of the early talkies.

Lioret, who ran a watchmaker's shop in Paris, caused a sensation at a young age with his complicated human-shaped automatons ; In 1878 one of his designs won a bronze medal at the Paris World's Fair .

In 1893 , the then world-famous doll manufacturer Emile Jumeau commissioned him to design a special mechanical doll on the occasion of the Russian tsar's trip to France, which was to be given as a gift to the tsar's daughters. Lioret had recently become acquainted with Edison's phonograph and was considering using a similar device to enable the doll to speak short sentences. Initial tests showed that neither Edison's sensitive wax rollers nor the recently invented record, which was still very limited in its sound quality, was suitable for his purposes.

In order to avoid Edison's mistakes, Lioret decided to completely rethink the phonograph and, within a few months, developed a device that combined a wealth of new ideas: the small speaking machine that was completely housed in the body of a Jumeau doll, was the first phonograph in the world powered by a spring mechanism and the first with a resonator system instead of a sound box ; Lioret used small, round, gold-plated brass bodies as a sound carrier, which were provided with a celluloid jacket that carried the sound groove. These rollers were the first really durable and practical sound carriers in the world; they were robust, easy to change and playable hundreds of times; they sounded loud and extremely clear - at a time when Edison's phonograph with its voluminous electric motor was still used almost exclusively as a dictation machine and Berliner's hand-operated gramophone was far from being ready for the market. One serious disadvantage was inherent in the Lioret system, however: its sound carriers could not be reproduced by casting or pantographing ; up to the end, every Lioret cylinder was recorded directly by the performer.

The talking doll caused a sensation when it was introduced in the summer of 1893, although it was completely unsuitable as a children's toy - the doll's body was not allowed to be moved while it was playing; Before each use, the doll had to be opened to re-oil the roller; the mechanics were complicated and extremely sensitive. That is why the relatively few copies of the then extremely expensive doll that were sold served mainly as decorative objects in shops and at trade fairs; at Jumeau it remained on offer until after 1900.

Inspired by his success, Lioret continued his experiments with phonographs after completing the order and began producing and selling the corresponding devices himself. At first he simply assembled the work designed for the doll in a cardboard box and sold it under the name “Le Merveilleux”; In the years 1895 to 1900 he further developed his apparatus, bringing large concert phonographs, high-quality pickups with large membranes and longer versions of his cylinders onto the market. All Lioretgraphs intended for sale were pure playback devices which, in contrast to most wax cylinder phonographs, could not be used for self-recording; In return, they delivered a sound quality that was far superior to that of all other sound carriers known at the time - the clarity of the reproduction of Lioret cylinders is fascinatingly good, even with preserved pieces that are more than 100 years old, and are close to the best acoustic recordings made thirty years later Era approaching. Lioret has enriched its product range with coin operated devices; In addition, he also experimented with silent weight drives and the synchronization of his phonograph with early cinema projectors. His process of doing this was simple, but combined three of the most important technical inventions of his time: a silent film was made; Then a more or less synchronous "sound track" was recorded using large format cylinders. When the film was shown, the Lioretgraph stood in front of the screen; The sound was transmitted to the projector room via an electric telephone so that the projectionist could constantly regulate the speed of the image reproduction and thus improve synchronization. At the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900, he and his partner Clement Maurice showed films that were produced using the Phono-Cinéma-Théâtre system. Among them Cyrano by Bergerac , the first film in film history to combine sound and hand-colored paint. Complete equipment systems were mainly sold to showmen who completed successful tours throughout Europe with them around 1900; In Paris there was even a permanent sound film cinema with Lioret technology for three years.

When Pathé , Edison , Columbia and many smaller suppliers pushed their way onto the market from around 1898 with increasingly inexpensive wax cylinders and play devices, the expensive Lioret system lost its importance despite its technical superiority. Out of necessity, Lioret began in 1900 with the production of normal-sized wax rollers and corresponding devices, which quickly replaced their own system in its range; temporarily he even offered combination devices that could play both formats. In 1901 the production of celluloid cylinders was stopped. In spite of this, Lioret could not compete with the large corporations in terms of price; In the following years he limited himself to the production of simple phonographs based on the Pathé model; in 1910 he withdrew completely from the phonograph sector.

The sound recordings made in Lioret's small studio from 1893, for which he often invited prominent singers from the Paris Opera to his watchmaker's workshop, are among the earliest musical sound recordings; its rollers, which have only survived in small numbers, are now treasures of music and technology history.

Web links

Commons : Henri Lioret  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Fischer, Martin: fascination shellac: gramophones, shellac records, needle boxes ; Regenstauf: Battenberg 2006; ISBN 3-86646-008-2 ; P. 28; See also: [1]