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ARSCLIST  January 2010

ARSCLIST January 2010

Subject:

Re: Sony and Binaural

From:

Michael Biel <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Wed, 6 Jan 2010 11:53:47 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (124 lines)

From: Dave Lewis <[log in to unmask]>
> there is a subjective aspect to it, that to some extent
> stereo can be in the ear of the beholder. 
> While I was amazed at the results of the "Ride of the Valkyries"
> performance on Cala Records CACD0549 I wasn't necessarily wholly
> on board with the stereo aspect of it, as the recording did seem
> out of phase to me and did not achieve a true sense of "cancel."
> Although the perspective of the Mendelssohn performance on Cala
> Records CACD0551 is narrow compared to a typical true stereo
> recording, I felt it was far more successful than the other one.


I think what my pal Dave is adding now is indeed, a subjective analysis
of the stereophonic technique of the recording, something that can be
discussed about EVERY stereo recording ever made!!  And further in his
posting he gives his take on why this subjectiveness of the recordings'
"stereo-ness" is secondary.  Let me give my take on this.


It is most likely that these recordings' producer and engineers were not
monitoring the microphone placements in stereo in the first place.  Like
Arthur Keller's Bell Labs recordings in the 20s in the Capitol Theater
(which are either lost or pilfered), his Bell Labs Phila Orch recordings
in the early 30s, Blumlein, and even Fantasia, these were experiments,
if indeed eventual stereo playback was ever intended.  The same is true
of Bert Whyte, Robert Oaks Jordan, John Pfeifer, Emory Cook, and all the
other stereo pioneers of the 50s.  They were experimenting.  You can say
the image is too wide, too narrow, not convincing, too exaggerated,
nearly mono, too gimickey, or whatever, but that they ARE dual channel
recordings and that they deserve to be heard is beyond arguement.  The
same is true of the movie soundtracks of the late 30s and early 40s that
were recorded at multiple angles for quite another reason, as well as
the dual-track recordings of Elvis at RCA in 1957 and The Beatles at EMI
in 1962, and countless others.  

I get nauseous when I hear the vinylfools go on and on and on and on
argueing about the goshdarn soundstage and the relative values of Living
Stereo, Living Presence, Command, Stereo-Action
Sound-Your-Eyes-Can-Follow, Columbia multi-miking, the London Tree,
spaced-pair, coincidental, mid-side, etc, etc, etc, etc.  EACH of these
has their place in the history of recording, AND SO DOES ACCIDENTAL
STEREO.  What difference does it make if it is not "successful" in
recreating a full range of perspective of the up and down and forward
and back of the damn soundstage?  They were experiments.  IT EXISTS!  IT
HAPPENED!  IF YOU DON'T WANT TO MUDDLE-UP YOUR BRAIN WITH THE THOUGHT
THAT IT IS NOT A TOTALLY CONVINCING RE-CREATION OF WHERE THIS MUSICIAN
SAT IN RELATION TO THAT MUSICIAN, YOU CAN TURN ONE CHANNEL OFF AND
LISTEN TO JUST ONE OF THEM.  After all, in all likelyhood the issued
records DID come from just one of these channels.  These recordings have
more value than the entire combination of every phony electronic stereo
recordings ever issued!  These recordings might not have been made using
the techniques, experience, and equipment that were available in 1960
but THEY ARE NOT FAKE.  They show a perspective and allow for greater
detail of individual aspects of the orchestra.  That there IS a
perspective of soundstage -- "successful" or not -- is of minor
consequence.  

I am not dismissing at all any feeling or discussion of whether there is
any phasing problems with the synchronization of the channels.  That is
important.  But it mainly affects only what appears in both channels and
only to the extent that they are allowed to blend.  Things that are
unique in one or the other channel are not affected.  That is an aspect
in the Esquivel record where he used two studios a city block apart to
simultaneously record the left and right channels with COMPLETE
separation.  Same is true of all overdub recordings.  And I can show you
phase cancellation problems with MONO recordings -- listen to the last
35 seconds of "Younger Than Springtime" from the South Pacific original
Broadway cast.  An out-of-phase mic is brought up in the mix during the
musical interlude and was left up for the rest of the recording and
affects the voice.  

If phasing problems were evident in "The Ride of the Valkyries" and were
disturbing to the stereo effect when my pal Dave listened, that is
something that might be fixable.  Combine the channels, reverse the
phase of one, and vary the synchronization for maximum cancellation of
what instruments are heard in both channels.  My discussion of
cancellation in my prior posting was to give a test to see if the two
masters are identical.  If they are identical EVERYTHING will cancel. 
If all that remains is comb-filtering, that is evidence of identical
source but some variation in frequency flatness of the recording chains.
 If what remains are INSTRUMENTS, then the sources are different.  What
cancels is what is the same in both channel, such as when you take out a
solo voice from a record to leave the instrumental backing, like in the
Thompson Vocal Eliminator that lounge performers and beauty talent
contestants use to cheat on a backing track for their performances. 
(Every year I had Miss Morehead State University contestants flocking to
my studio to doctor their recordings.  I didn't mind.)  

To make a long rant short, if indeed there are recordings that had
simultaneous masters made from alternate mic sources, they deserve to be
released -- either released to the public as commercial releases or
released from the vaults to be studied by researchers or licensed by 3rd
party companies like Cala or the Stokowski Society.  And I totally share
with Dave his comments which I continue with the reposting.

Mike Biel  [log in to unmask]


> While I may not have been convinced at first by the "Ride of the Valkyries,"
> when I played it on my radio show the phones lit up, with all sorts
> of people asking about it; I had questions about it in email as well
> from listeners. They found the stereo fully convincing even with that
> performance, and I guess it doesn't hurt that the reading itself is
> a loud barn-burner of the highest order.

> One object of recording in stereo is to widen the sonic picture from
> left to right; really excellent acoustical recordings capture some
> sense of back to front, whereas most monophonic recordings made with
> a microphone present a front and center perspective only, or a single
> mix of several microphones. While not wanting to put words into Mr.
> Gray's mouth, he seems to imply that the discontinuation of research
> into the paired Columbia masters is no great loss, as the technology
> itself is merely a "fantasy." I think it was a terrible decision for
> Sony/BMG to walk away from studying the possibilities that their
> vault has offered them; I know that 1940 recording of Stravinsky's
> "Rite of Spring" well and would love to have heard it with an expanded
> sense of the room, even if it is not "stereo" in the sense that we
> mean with Blumlein on down -- perhaps a new term is in order,
> rather than a wholesale rejection of the idea? I felt that the
> Stokowski AAYO Mendelssohn Scherzo had a shade more of a stereo picture
> than I've heard on old Period LPs which were stereo recordings,
> imported from France, but badly overmodulated and with a very flat,
> shrill base sound.    David "Uncle Dave" Lewis

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