----- Original Message -----
From: "Michael Biel" <[log in to unmask]>
> From: David Seubert <[log in to unmask]>
>> The only way to determine for certain if a record is an alternate
>> take is to have access to the original documentation (or a
>> discography that used it) and understand the system the company
>> used. Everything else, A/B comparisons, "golden ears," micrometer
>> measurements, or my marks on pieces of paper are speculative to
>> varying degrees. In the absence of concrete information on how
>> a company marked takes in the wax (information I don't have for
>> Emerson) it's all just "Bixing."
> I shudder to think what would happen if I were to forward your message
> to Fr. Jerome Webber. Although he is a man of God, he has a temper, and
> one of his passions is for proper discographcal standards. He has been
> the conscience of ARSC discographical standards for 40 years. He, and
> almost every other experienced discographer will tell you that this
> statement is the absolute worst advice that could possibly be given.
> The paperwork means NOTHING. NOTHING NOTHING NOTHING. The ONLY thing
> that matters is the RECORD. If the record exists, it is the be-all and
> end-all of discography. NOTHING COMES BEFORE THE EVIDENCE OF THE RECORD
> ITSELF. NOTHING. And discographies that rely ONLY on the company
> documentation is not worth the paper it is printed on, or the bits and
> bytes it fills in computers, servers, or CD-ROMs.
> He spent years, and travelled tens of thousands of miles to actually see
> and listen to every record in his Gregorian Chant Discography. He found
> HUNDREDS of errors in all kinds of paperwork EVEN ON THE RECORD LABELS
> THEMSELVES. Although this was a very unusual case, he found that the
> only way he could even be sure of what chant was actually recorded on
> the record was to listen to it. Recording ledgers had errors. Catalogs
> had errors. Discographies had errors. Reviews had errors. The ONLY
> thing that did not have errors are the grooves. If no copies of the
> record could be found anywhere in the world -- and I mean ANYWHERE in
> the WHOLE WORLD -- only then would he rely solely on on prior paperwork,
> even recording ledgers. Even if the LABEL said one thing and the
> grooves showed that there was a different chant recorded, the chant that
> was recorded was listed (with a notation about the label error and other
> errors that might have come from it). He grew to distrust ALL
> paperwork. The only thing that mattered was the music in the grooves
> and the original ancient manuscripts of the chants that he found in
> monasteries, archives, and collections all over the world.
> As I said, this is an extreme case because it involved a genre of music
> that is very difficult for any but experts to decipher, but I don't
> think there is a reputable discographer who would take the evidence of
> paperwork over what is contained in the grooves of a record. I know
> first-hand that the discographic standards of many of the finest
> discographers require confirmation that the records themselves were
> actually consulted to confirm information from outside sources. Most
> have codes in their original notes of where the info came from, who
> submitted it, who actually had the record itself, in order to decide
> what info to use. You are the ONLY person I have ever known in the
> field in over 40 years who would consider placing primacy of something
> like a discography that used ledger information over the evidence of the
> record itself.
> Today the list was given info on where to get on-line access to WERM and
> the Gramophone Shop Encyc. Fine. I own hard copies of these. But I
> have also been warned that there are factual errors to be found on every
> page of WERM. Over on the 78-L we have several German, Swedish and
> Norwegian discographical experts who constantly are giving corrections
> to listings of European classical recordings that others find in
> standard discographical sources like WERM. We all know that if we need
> info on a record we have we can ask on the list for info, and if enough
> people have enough different sources we might get the correct info. If
> someone sees a listing of something, every so often we get corrections
> from someone who owns the record -- or several people who own it.
> If you consult five jazz discographies you will find six answers, and if
> you have the record you might find that all six are wrong. At the Jazz
> Bash this weekend John Leifert had his corrected copy of Rust's American
> Dance Band Discography, compiled from ledger sources, catalogs, and
> records. There is no page in it without at least 3 or 4 corrections,
> many with dozens. (The cover of his Vol 1 disappeared long ago.) NO
> discography is 100% correct. NONE.
>> I was hoping that somebody had information on the take numbering/marking
>> system used by Emerson. Without this information, I'm going to choose
>> the most accurate and most efficient means of speculating on what are
>> alternate takes and what are not.
> EFFICIENT? Yes. Accurate? You can't tell. If you refuse to listen to
> the records (and I have a feeling that you now cannot listen to them
> because to do that would be admitting defeat) then you will never know
> whether your system was accurate. You could say it was accurate, but
> there is no way you can prove it once the records have gone.
>> In the cases where I've used my method on Victor discs with no
>> marked takes and then compared my results to the documentation,
>> my method has been able to reliably predict whether an alternate
>> take was issued.
> If you haven't listened to them, you haven't confirmed if your
> predictions are correct. I have found evidence of forged sheets in the
> Victor files, markings that were changed to fit production changes. And
> what about test pressings of unissued takes? Pressings of test
> recordings? Issues of dubbed masters? Factory errors? Some of these
> are evident by sight, but some are evident only audibly.
> The irony of all this is that in Leah's documentary I talk about often
> needing to see a recording rather than hearing it. But if you listen
> carefully to what I say, the examination of the recording is usually for
> the confirmation or explanation of what had been already heard. Both is
>> Measuring with a micrometer would produce a more accurate measurement
>> but without knowledge of the system it still wouldn't remove the
>> speculative element of whether a disc is an alternate take.
> I've given reasons why this is not a reliable method of determining
> takes, so I agree with you. Two records that look the same but sound
> different ARE DIFFERENT.
>> I could record my caliper measurements and A/B every pair of
>> records in the collection, but that would leave an awful lot
>> of more important work undone
> AH HA! EFFICIENCY IS YOUR GOAL, NOT ACCURACY. You are willing to have
> errors as long as your method is EFFICIENT. WHY DIDN'T YOU COME OUT AND
> TELL US THAT YOU ARE INTERESTED IN PILES OF WORK DONE WHETHER IT IS DONE
> CORRECTLY OR NOT???????????????????
>> and I'd have a big warehouse of records that are uncataloged,
>> unsorted, and unused rather than an organized and accessible
>> archive of sound recordings.
> Then determining alternate takes is the LAST and FINAL step to take. Why
> are you doing it first? Sort the records, catalog the records, shelve
> the records, and later on, when they are all sorted, cataloged, and
> shelved, then, and only then, if the question comes up as to whether
> there are alternate takes, THEN you check them. Don't do it FIRST!!!
> Do it last.
>> I also still maintain that aural memory is unreliable (though it does
>> vary from person to person),
> What are your qualifications to make this statement???? You might be a
> trained cataloger, but are you a trained LISTENER??? I have no doubt
> you are the former, a very well trained cataloger. I see evidence in
> your writings that you are not a trained listener.
>>> I've never really relied on aural comparison (though it is obvious in
>>> some cases.) I don't trust my ears enough to detect the often slight
>>> variations between takes.
> And that you have an attitude that might preclude you becoming a trained
>> and furthermore, simultaneously playing two records is great
>> for a night of cigars and trading collecting war stories,
>> but is totally unrealistic in an archive.
> There you go again. EFFICIENCY. Get your records sorted, cataloged,
> and shelved, and then if the question comes up turn the specific records
> in question over to someone who IS qualified. Being an efficient
> manager means hiring people who have the skills you need.
>> Yet before I get attacked again for being lazy or incompetent, I
>> would point out that managing an archive is ultimately a matter
>> of managing priorities.
> I have no doubt that you are a very efficient and competent archive
> manager. But perhaps you are making the matter of alternate takes an
> improperly understood priority without hiring staff with the necessary
>> That's at the core of archival appraisal, something that a few
>> collectors might want to take a course in. Archival science is as much
>> about the process of making decisions about what not to keep, not just
>> about knowing what to keep. David Seubert UCSB
> AH HA! RETENTION! Retention has reared its ugly head. This is a
> subject that has been battled out at ARSC, IASA, IAML, MLA, etc for more
> years than you have been involved and even I have been involved. It was
> being argued when I entered the research field over 40 years ago. And
> every researcher going back to the days of the ancient Greeks can give
> you their examples of archives, libraries, and collections which
> discarded the very things that were needed for their research. Whenever
> there is a retention policy that is decided on by a cataloger,
> librarian, archivist who is not a USER and a RESEARCHER, there is a
> disaster. Every researcher can cite specific examples where catalogers
> and librarians were entrusted with the retention policy and made
> disastrous decisions.
> Here is a warning for archives: your reputation among researchers is
> dependent primarily on your retention policy, secondly on your access,
> third on your cataloging, and fourth on your storage procedures. ARSC
> was formed back in the 1960s as a way to bring researchers/collectors
> together with archives and libraries. Many of the sessions back in the
> 60s and 70s discussed these four things. While researchers appreciate a
> well cataloged collection, they were astonished to find that so many
> archivists and librarians were obsessed with cataloging to the detriment
> of other things. "Keep out till we get it cataloged!" Thankfully this
> policy was the first thing that was discarded by the archivists that
> were there back in the early 70s. We also told them, don't discard
> anything without consulting us. And back then they understood that users
> and researchers knew more about what they needed for their use and
> research than did the catalogers, librarians, and archivists. For
> example, back then LC was very poorly cataloged. Record catalogs were
> finding-aids. Collections sat in different areas. But soon we heard
> Don Leavitt, Bob Carneal, Jim Smart, and Gerry Gibson saying, "We got it
> somewhere, go find it and organize it for us while you are at it." And
> soon over and over we early ARSCers met archivists and librarians who
> understood that many collectors and researchers knew more about the
> records than they did, and were willing to trade info with us and we
> with them.
> But now I am sensing an attitude here that "our catalog means more than
> your knowledge". It is like you are telling us "We got the info and we
> will tell you what our info tells you it is and you will go
> golly-gee-whiz-your-catalog-tells-us-everything-we-need-to-know." And
> if the evidence of our ears tell us that what you have in your catalog
> is bullcrap, we will sit quietly and say that heaven forbid we disagree
> with something that is printed on a piece of paper when it is just plain
> A DISCOGRAPHY OR A CATALOG IS NOT THE HOLY GRAIL. THE SOUND IN THE
> GROOVES IS. And the bixologist might have more experience and know more
> than the librarian.
> After finishing this I realized that there was something that bothered
> me at the very beginning of this discussion.
>>> I'm de-duping a stack of 9" Emerson discs
> Why? To make an 11-inch stack of these an 8 1/4-inch stack? How many
> dupes of these scarce records could you have? Why spend time to reduce
> the group maybe 12%? Is shelf space THAT scarce??? And EVERY
> restoration engineer will tell you that having dupes is GOOD! Having
> two copies to choose from is great, three copies are fantastic, four
> copies is nirvana. And I know restorations that were made up of three
> or four copies for one side, part of one copy here, then part of another
> copy next, etc. Many archives don't discard anything less than a third
> Archival retention policy based on shelf space is the least, the
> absolutely least academically viable, defendable, intelligent, or
> historically sensible policy. It will always come back to bite you.
> But all too often the decision maker has long since moved on, and it is
> the researcher of the future who gets shot down because some librarian
> in the past was anal retentive about their shelf space.
> For many years I fought the idea that ARSC conferences should split up
> into concurrent sessions. I predicted that the unity among collectors,
> catalogers, researchers, and archivists would start to dissolve. That
> institutional collections would not understand their users as well as
> they had. Two years ago I saw that we were now getting once again a
> large number of relatively new institutional representatives, as was
> evident in the higher amount of newbie-type questions in the evening
> technical forum. Fine, this IS the place to ask and get the info. I
> missed last year due to illness, but this year I noticed as I attended
> some of the cataloging oriented sessions that all too often we were
> being shown cataloging techniques for cataloging technique sake. That
> the techniques of manipulating data did not take into account what the
> user would use the data for. They were cataloging "things" not
> recordings. They were cataloging info that was super keen for the
> catalogers but were not what were important for the researcher who was
> using the recording. In 1971 it was evident that all too many sound
> recording library personnel had been dragged in kicking and screaming
> from over at the print side of the library. Many admitted it. We set
> up an "Education and Training Committee" which gave a report in Phila in
> 74, but the sudden death of the chair, Ida Rosen, slowed things down.
> But many of the collectors in ARSC took the institutional people under
> our wing. Collectors had a major voice in explaining what was needed in
> the developing cataloging rules. But now, once again, I don't see the
> "content" people at the cataloging sessions, and I don't see the
> cataloging people at the content sessions. And the researchers look at
> some of the new whizbang cataloging things and wonder "Why?"
> As I mentioned earlier, I often have to look at the record in my
> research. One of the reasons is often the cataloger doesn't know how to
> properly describe the record, or doesn't know what physical descriptive
> information is necessary to the researcher. They catalog info that will
> help find the dub of the recording but that is all they have been
> trained to do, or all they know about recordings. But that info is only
> one part of what researchers need, but all too often the catalogers and
> librarians are not researchers or users of the archive or all that
> familar with the actual records and recordings.
> I realize that this has been super-long, but I hope that it will help
> explain things that have been bubbling under, which some very simple
> questions have now released.
> Mike Biel [log in to unmask]
First...what is implied in the above is/are that TWO things are required...!
First, the phonorecords in question...and, second (and MORE important!)
these having been heard by individuals who are (1) VERY knowledgeable,
and (2) have near-perfect memory for musical detail!
Personally, after almost four decades of collecting 78rpm phonorecords,
I will admit that I DO NOT posess the detailed memory needed two
hear two different takes of a recording in succession...and then pronounce
"These are OBVIOUSLY different...on one, the sax player hits a quick
E-flat, and on the other he holds the E-flat for almost the whole bar!"
I own some 55,050 78rpm phonorecords. IF my "connect my 78rpm TT
to my "Line In" jack" project FINALLY works (with luck and a favourable
tail-wind, I shall know to-morrow...?!) I will be able to (1) PLAY the
dommed things...and (2) compare recordings, to the limited extent that
my semi-reliable memory allows...?!
The ONLY 78-ophile I have EVER met who had the memory and
understanding needed to compare records (and HE usually employed
simultaneous playing using two TT's!) was the late Jeff Healey...this
is why I deferred to him in such debates!!
However, company ledgers (insofsar as they still exist...all too often
they DON'T!) can provide important discographic information!!
Consider the endless debates of the thirties/forties as to whether
the trumpet/cornet passage briefly heard on such&such a record
WAS or WASN'T Bix...?!
Steven C. Barr