From: Patent Tactics, George Brock-Nannestad
on 1 December Jaqueline von Arb introduced the annual Advent Calendar from
the Norwegian Institute of Recorded Sound (NIRS) on several lists, on
ARSCLIST as shown below, and the website has been accessed.
One of the lists is MUS-PERF-REC, dedicated to the documentation of
performance by means of recordings and it was created out of the CHARM
project that ran from 2005-2010 based at Royal Holloway and King's College.
It mainly involves researchers who are engaged in the professional use of
recordings. Many of these have moved on to matters more related to
performance as such, and for this another list has been created, PERF-STUD-
On 12 December on MUS-PERF-REC a criticism of the offerings of NIRS was
voiced, and I consider that it might also be of interest to ARSCLIST readers.
It tallies well with some of the discussions that have taken place here. No
response has been forthcoming from Norway on the MUS-PERF-REC list, and no
changes to the soundtracks have been noted, and for fairness I would have
preferred to include such items in the present posting. However, the text
relating to 2 December was cropped on 15 December, and all reference to the
Grenadier Guards have been removed. Google's cache still has it, however.
My co-authors and I have reflected that our dour and academic approach to web
presentations of historical content pales completely compared to the original
P.S. Just a few words on the authors of the posting:
- Peter Craven is one of the acousticians/mathematicians who developed
- Peter Adamson is a specialist on Berliner records and reproduction of
coarse groove records
- I am notorious on this list and need no introduction
"From: Peter Craven <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [MUS-PERF-REC] 2011 Musical Advent Calendar (Norwegian Institute
of Recorded Sound)
Date sent: Mon, 12 Dec 2011 00:12:16 +0000
Dear list members,
We refer to Jacqueline von Arb's recent posting concerning the
musical Advent Calendar provided by the Norwegian Institute of
Recorded Sound for the fourth year running.
A delightful idea certainly, and the presentation on the website is
most attractive, but we have been disappointed by both the technical
quality of the transfers and the accuracy of the discographical
Anyone can make a mistake, and the fact that Caruso was already dead
by the alleged date (1924) of the first recording offered this year:
has already been pointed in two comments posted by listeners. We also
note that the lyrics were not "trad." but were composed by J. Bertrand.
The second offering is even stranger in this regard:
Band of the H.B. Grenadier Guards ? It doesn't sound like it.
On further investigation we have determined that it wasn't recorded in
1926 either - it is a a 1948 recording of the Danish/Swedish singer
Frans Andersson singing in Danish with the Copenhagen Chamber Choir,
harp, strings, and organ (arranged and conducted by Arne Bertelsen) on
the Felix label: Felix P9. We also note that a Columbia record would
not have been published by His Masterīs Voice in 1926, as they were
not merged into EMI until 1931.
Turning now to technical quality, the undersigned are not frightened
of a bit of crackle, and consider that the ear generally does a better
job of separating crackle from music than do most electronic devices.
So we are not complaining about that. Nor are we complaining about
the stereo presentation - although this is unusual, it is arguably an
advantage to have crackle emerging separately from one's two
loudspeakers, while the music is heard as emanating from a point
However, what we hear on some of these transfers is strange indeed.
From the first note of the orchestral introduction onwards, Day 1's
Caruso offering has severe burbles, sounding similar to those that
sometimes occur with misapplied, or over-applied, crackle reduction.
But no, the crackle is there too. We assume that the problem may be
caused by an MP3 encoder that is reacting badly to certain
characteristics of the non-smooth background noise. It is also
possible that a poor choice of stylus size has contributed to the
generally unsteady result. List members may find it interesting to
compare this with the transcription on the National Jukebox:
We also note that the Caruso transfer has been made at 78.26 rpm..
Although there are sources stating that most records were recorded at
speeds between 78 and 80 rpm from 1910 onwards, we believe this to be
incorrect in the case of Victor, and that 76rpm would be correct in
this case. Please see the postscript for further details.
The difference between 76rpm and 78.26rpm equates to a speed change
of 3% or a pitch change of half a semitone, which is hardly
insignificant. (Unfortunately, the National Jukebox also seems to be
unaware of the published evidence on this matter - their Caruso
transfer is at 78.42 rpm.)
Day 3 brings us a very uncharacteristic-sounding Gigli again with some
burbling. The individual crackles are set on an over-smooth sounding
record surface again suggesting that something has been lost in an MP3
encoding process. And so it goes on.
Overall, we do warmly applaud this initiative, which is both pleasing
and potentially instructive. However, our present concern is partly
that today misconceptions abound regarding 78rpm records, not only
among the general public but also on the part of broadcasters and
journalists. It is becoming received opinion that recordings made
before the LP era were terrible and can be rescued only by modern
digital wizardry. We do not hold that view, but fear that the
transcriptions presented here may serve to fuel it.
We hope that for the Norwegian Institute may be able to enlist some
more technical expertise, and maybe also some more discographical
expertise, in preparing the Advent Calendar for 2012, to which we are
looking forward very much.
Postscript re speeds
Recording speeds are discussed for example in:
Brock-Nannestad, G., "The Objective Basis for the Production of
High Quality Transfers from Pre-1925 Sound Recordings",
Audio Engineering Society Preprint No. 4610,
103rd Convention 1997 September 26-29, New York.
which quotes (on page 9) a letter dated 13th July 1910 from
Mr. Haddon of Victor to the Gramophone Company in England:
"We are about to dispense with the figures 76 on our standard dial
speed regulator, substituting in place thereof figures 78,
notwithstanding that the general speed at which our records are
recorded is 76."
The same paper quotes further contemporary references to the use of
76rpm for recording (but not playback) at Victor. Further evidence
known to us suggests that 76rpm for recording remained Victor policy
from 1910 until at least the end of acoustical recording in 1925,
and we are not aware of contemporaneous sources that would suggest
From: Jacqueline von Arb <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [ARSCLIST] 2011 Musical Advent Calendar (Norwegian Institute of Recorded Sound)
Date sent: Thu, 1 Dec 2011 11:15:55 +0000
> Dear AV colleagues,
> The Norwegian Institute of Recorded Sound (NIRS) follows up the great
> feedback we got over the last few years for our musical Advent Calendar with
> more old, old... old recordings! After all, it has now become a
> Today's contribution:
> Every day until Christmas Day, we will present a vintage recording, with its
> original historical noises, where legendary singers and musicians from the
> first half of the 20th Century interpret Christmas music.
> New sound clip(s) and text will be published every day on our
> website<http://www.recordedsound.no/english/exhibitions/christmas11/>! and
> you can also listen to the last two year's music!
> Do you wish to receive a daily reminder with the day's link(s)? - just
> answer this email!<mailto:[log in to unmask]>
> and/or you can also sign up as 'attending' on the Facebook
> (NB: if you have received daily's before, you will automatically receive
> this year's as well - no need to sign up again)
> Musically yours,
> the archivists at the Norwegian Institute of Recorded Sound
> Jacqueline von Arb and Tim Rishton
> ------Useful links---------
> NIRS Website in English:
> NIRS on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/recordedsound
> Advent calendar Facebook event: