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 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. 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. 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 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 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.
I also still maintain that aural memory is unreliable (though it does
vary from person to person), 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. 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.
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.
Michael Biel wrote:
> From: David Seubert <[log in to unmask]>
>> James, George Dick et al.
>> Thanks for your help here. Every company is different, but I'm
>> always skeptical that I'm misinterpreting the data if I find
>> too many alternate takes (except Edison). Above about 10% in
>> a given run of 78s
> Perhaps it would make more sense to bring this up on the 78-L where
> there are far more 78 experts than on ARSCList, but I find nothing
> strange in higher percentages of alternate takes on acoustical records.
> All the early century records that stayed in the catalog had alternate
> takes, and even in the post WW I years some labels like Columbia might
> have 20% of their sides with alternate takes. Sometimes three different
> takes. It wasn't just Edison.
> And I am appalled that classical collectors and archives do not
> routinely check multiple classical sets for alternate takes. I find
> them all the time on both Victor and Columbia classicals. (Some of you
> might remember that I discovered a forged sheet in the Rachmaninoff
> artist file at BMG which re-designated alternate takes as the approved M
> master takes on 9 of the 10 sides of his Rach 2 to hide the usage of
> secondary takes for decades, including all the microgroove issues.)
>> like Emerson where I don't know the system used for designating
>> takes, I usually question if what I think are take numbers are
>> stamper numbers or something.
>> 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.
> Surprising statement. I have no problem in many cases, and if there are
> any doubts it is easy to simultaneously play both records. Every
> collector I know does it. I just spent the weekend with jazz collectors
> who can identify a trumpet player in a 12 piece band and identify three
> alternates of some pieces,
>> In the acoustic era it's not exactly like different versions of
>> The Dead doing Dark Star (though many would say these all
>> sound the same too, I suppose), but aural memory is notoriously
> You ARE kidding, of course. Aren't you? You're not?? You don't hear
> differences in jazz solos? In inflections of voice even in regular pop
> records? Timings of instrument or vocal entries? Emphasis of one
> instrument over another of a note here and there? All the collectors I
> know can. My aural memory is notoriously reliable. I've spotted
> alternate takes in records I am familiar with but might not have heard
> in years. I was just tonight watching the LaserDisc of The Court
> Jester, and was listening to hear if the soundtrack songs were the same
> as on the Decca LP -- and I spotted where there was a deviation. I've
> spotted the change in the syncronization of the train bells in different
> pressings of the Original Cast of The Music Man. I hear these
> difference in acoustical recordings as well as any other kind of record.
> My VISUAL memory is not as good, and I know that many people have very
> good visual memories but lousy aural memories. People's brains are just
> wired differently. But it IS possible for some people, many people, to
> spot alternate takes easily.
>> My method is usually to lay the edge of a piece of paper across the
>> center hole of the disc and mark the beginning and end of the grooves.
>> Then I lay this paper on the other disc and see if they match. Even if
>> one take is only a few seconds shorter or longer it will be obviously
>> different as even a couple of grooves difference is noticable.
> My method -- and the method of every other collector I know -- is to
> play the records, simultaneously if necessary. Often time two takes
> will have the exact same time but still sound different. If the takes
> ARE a few seconds shorter or longer the sound of the recordings will be
> MORE obviously different. Different copies might have different groove
> lengths because the engineer might have run the machine longer before or
> after the recording. And of course this doesn't work for Pathe family
> discs since all are dubs. The take indication for Pathe's is the letter
> above the dash because the number after the dash is more of an
> indication of transfer dub number. And I can think of many other cases
> where this doesn't work when some blank grooving can be shaved away,
> either because of extra blank grooving, or else they are adding a
> different lead-out.
>> I'm sure George's method works too, but the paper and pencil method
>> is very quick and we are essentially measuring the same thing in
>> different ways. David
> No, we are measuring the sound, the differences in the sound. There are
> too many flaws in your method. Your method does not take into account
> alternate takes of exactly the same time length but yet are different.
> Etc etc.
> Mike Biel [log in to unmask]
> On Jun 19, 2009, at 11:15 AM, James L Wolf wrote:
>> I've worked a lot with Emersons in the LOC's collection, and while
>> we don't have many duplicates of the same record so that I could
>> aurally compare different takes, I did notice that the matrix
>> information (e.g. 3391-1) was usually matched by the known
>> discographical information. Which, of course, only means that
>> previous discographers have taken that matrix info to be take-number
>> information, but that may count for something.
>> Furthermore, for the acoustic era I don't see anything odd about one
>> copy have 2 first takes and another having a second/third takes.
>> I've seen similar situations on many labels in the acoustic era;
>> Victor, Columbia, Edison, etc.
>> Until something definitive comes along saying otherwise, I think it
>> would be safest to assume that the matrix information refers to the
>> take number.
>>>>> David Seubert <[log in to unmask]> 6/19/2009 1:42 PM >>>
>> I'm de-duping a stack of 9" Emerson discs and in the dead wax there is
>> what appears to be a matrix followed by a take number. However, there
>> are too many different take numbers for me to believe they are take
>> numbers. For example, I have one copy of #9118 with 3391-1/3397-1 and
>> another with 3391-2/3397-3. Are these stampers? Does anybody know
>> how to
>> distinguish alternate takes on Emerson discs?
>> David Seubert, Curator
>> Performing Arts Collection
>> Davidson Library
>> University of California
>> Santa Barbara, CA 93106-9010
>> Tel: 805-893-5444 Fax: 805-893-5749
>> [log in to unmask]
David Seubert, Curator
Performing Arts Collection
University of California
Santa Barbara, CA 93106-9010
Tel: 805-893-5444 Fax: 805-893-5749
[log in to unmask]