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ARSCLIST  June 2009

ARSCLIST June 2009

Subject:

Re: Recording Speed

From:

Steven Smolian <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 23 Jun 2009 17:04:21 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (166 lines)

Usually A=440.  From 1916 on, certainly 440 in the US if newer musical 
instruments were used. The Navy recognized 440 that year, followed by the 
National Bureau of Standards then or the year following- I forget which. 
This may have been abetted by our impending entry into WWI.  Years ago I 
gave an ARSC talk on this subject, not published.

Thus all US military and reserve bands were to use 440 and replace 
instruments if they were incapable of or, perhaps, awkward at, tuning to 
this A.  The "Charles Ives" effect of bands playing at different pitches 
(his "Three Places in New England") may have been limited to amateur and 
municipal bands without funds to reequip themselves.

I'm convinced that this brought a bunch of older band instruments into the 
surplus market at much reduced prices.  They may have gone to hock shops or 
been given to servants (in those days, many even lower class households had 
them.)  I've long assumed the funky sound of some early jazz bands on record 
was a result of this technology transfer.  I once mentioned this to Guther 
Schuller who disagreed, but I still think this aspect of musical history 
needs further exploring.

In the early 1960s I talked with a fellow at Steinway who tuned the pianos 
at the Victor Studios.  He told me that he worked on pianos used at the time 
of Caruso's recording sessions to A=440.  Caruso died in August, 1921 so 
that gives a "no later than" date.

Starr Piano Company didn't make Steinway-quality instruments but one assumes 
they took sufficient care with Gennetts to present their studio instruments 
in tune, seeing the records as, in part, a promotional tool.  I have an H&D 
Gennett which advertises their pianos rather than records.  I'm not sure at 
what pitch (from the pine) Wisconsin Chairs resonated to.

Steve Smolian


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Don Chichester" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, June 23, 2009 4:25 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Recording Speed


>
> I have one of those 'dog whistles'.  8>)
> I guess I was referring to a reference tone, not a pilot tone. Tuning A.
> What was that frequency back in the 'teens?
> Don Chichester
>
> In a message dated 6/23/2009 4:16:34 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
> [log in to unmask] writes:
>
> From:  Don Chichester <[log in to unmask]>
>> Re: pilot tone. Is this what is  recorded on some Euopean acoustics
>> back in the early 'teens? If so,  what is their pitch?  Don Chichester
>
> A pilot tone is recorded  continuously with the entire recording from
> beginning to end.  It is  sent into a resolver which steadys it which
> will restore the recording to  original pitch and undo any variations in
> speed that might have happened  during recording.  It will be either
> filtered out of the sound  recording, or is recorded 2-track out-of-phase
> and will disappear when  played with a full-track mono head.  This allows
> the tape to be synced  with the film which is assumed to run at a
> constant 24 frames per  second.  What you might be referring to is a
> reference tone like what  I mentioned with the Sarasate records where a
> tuning A was played in a  separate band at the end of the side.  I don't
> know of any others --  maybe our European collectors do.  Unless you are
> thinking about the  high pitched chattering that sometimes is recorded on
> wax master discs that  get too warm.  Since these are heard especially on
> early Victor  Orthophonics, they are often called "His Master's
> Dogwhistle".
>
> Mike  Biel  [log in to unmask]
>
>
> In a message dated 6/23/2009  2:58:27 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
> [log in to unmask] writes:
>
> From:  Doug Pomeroy <[log in to unmask]>
>> Thanks Mike.
>> I was  most confused by George's reference to "the counter", which
>> appeared  with no explanation that I could find.
>
> It was hidden away a few  sentences earlier, at the end of the second
> sentence of the part I'm  reprinting below.
>
>
>> > The frequency of the calibration  track? It was calculated to be
>> > 10 times the rpm of the turntable,  in other words, at 78 rpm it
>> > gave out 780 Hz, suitable for a  frequency counter. In use of the
>> > tape as a secondary master, the  content could be de-chipmunked
>> > by changing the speed of the tape  recorder, and the tape rewound
>> > to the calibration track, which  was measured by the counter and
>> > would give the rpm of the  original record at the de-chipmunked speed.
>
>> It is much simpler  than I thought. Doug
>
> I believe as turntables with internal speed  counters became more common,
> George backed away from mass producing the  little calibration discs, but
> now more than ever with digitization of  recordings being made without
> documentation of rotational speed, this would  be a quick and easy way to
> supply a notation of rotational speed in just  one extra step. If all
> records had been made with a reference tone like the  Seresate records,
> things would be so much easier!
>
> While we are on  the subject of using known frequency tones to determine
> speed, the ARSC  presentation of the Early Sounds project explained that
> Leon Scott's  Phonautograph continuously recorded a tuning fork tone
> alongside of the  sound, which now enables the constant speed playback of
> these hand-driven  pre-tinfoil recordings. This is now called the "Pilot
> Tone" system, and is  still used to synchronize sproketless-analogue tape
> sound with motion  picture film. I don't think this has ever been
> discussed, but not only did  Leon Scott apparently invent sound
> recording, he also apparently invented  the Pilot Tone speed resolution
> system.
>
> Mike Biel [log in to unmask]
>
>
>> Date: Mon, 22 Jun 2009 11:23:26 -0700
>> From: Michael  Biel <[log in to unmask]>
>> Subject: Re: (Fwd) [ARSCLIST] Fwd:  Recording Speed
>>
>> I understand what George is saying partially  because I've seen him
>> do it and I am lucky enough to have one of his  calibration discs.
>> In case Doug and others still do not understand it,  Doug's snip
>> cut out the important info and left in material that has  no
>> meaning without the snipped part.
>>
>>
>> In 1982  George commissioned a 7-inch pressing made of a 450 Hz.
>> tone cut at  45.0 RPM. That disc can be played at any RPM and a frequency
>> counter  will show a reading that is 10 times that RPM. (Play it at 73.7
> RPM
>> and it shows 737.0 Hz. 78.26 shows 782.6 Hz. Etc.) If you have a
>> frequency counter handy, you can find what rotational speed you are
> using. BUT,
>> if you include a few seconds of that calibration disc  played on the
>> same turntable at the time of your transfer of the  record you are
>> working on, then later on that frequency can be read  with a counter and
> at any
>> time you can establish the rotational  speed you used. It's like an
> audible
>> strobe disc that has the  unique ability to be recorded, and it is as
>> accurate as your frequency  counter is. Sure, you could use a normal
>> test disc of, say, a 1000 Hz.  tone, but George's disc is more directly
>> readable without using math  to have to determine percentage of 1000
>> Hz. whatever tone you  used.
>>
>> Mike Biel [log in to unmask]
>
>
>
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