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ARSCLIST  June 2012

ARSCLIST June 2012

Subject:

Re: Mercury Living Presence

From:

Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Sun, 3 Jun 2012 22:29:40 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (127 lines)

Hi Randy:

There were definitely some CDs yet to be made when Vivendi/Universal terminated the project by not 
renewing my mother's contract at the end of 1999. The classical music business was in a bad slump at 
that point, so this wasn't some malicious thing or disagreement, it was "just business," in 
Godfather terms. In any case, there were definitely a few remaining stereo items for which master 
tapes were accounted for. No more 35mm, anything else that was originally released in 35mm and not 
so on CD, the films were lost sometime between the early 60's and 1990. In a few cases (most notably 
the Byron Janis Prokofiev/Rachmaninoff from Moscow), 3-channel masters were never found but 2-tracks 
made at the time of the LP cutting were found and used. Keep in mind that the Mercury tapes were 
stored for a time in NY, then warehoused in Chicago, then shipped to Holland, where they shufled 
around, and then many were shipped back here to Iron Mountain's storage facility, some by way of 
Japan. Some were mis-labelled, some got wet along the way, all kinds of things, typical of 
megaglomeration of a bunch of companies. A good portion of the budget for the project was spent 
researching and tracking down first-generation tapes. In several cases, edited 3-track masters 
weren't found, but Harold Lawrence had kept his edit notes so he could re-edit the "B" machine's 
reels, which had survived all the moving around.

More interesting to me is the mono catalog. I would love to see a bunch of that material reissued. 
There are modern techniques that can clean up problems on some early tapes and I think if a 
dedicated program of high-quality transfers of the full-tracks were begun, it just as soon encompass 
all the good stuff. I'd like to see all the mono Hanson back in print, plus items like Dorati's mono 
"Rite of Spring" and Copland 3rd, and the Respighi "Church Windows." I'd also like to see the mono 
"1812" back in print, for historical purposes, because it was the best-selling classical record from 
the beginning of the LP era into the 1960's. There are a few Kubelik albums that didn't get released 
because they have very problematic tapes but I think modern technology could solve the problems if 
the budget were there. And even though only Dolby-ized dub tapes from the Golden Imports exist for 
the Fennell Gabrieli album, I'd like to see that back in print. Also, just because it was a neat 
album, "The Music of the Bells," recorded at the same time the Riverside Cathedral bells were used 
for the stereo "1812." That album is more a sonic document of bells above busy Manhattan circa 1959 
than a classical-music album, but the bells are played very well. I think there was talk at the time 
the "1812"/"Wellington's" CD was being made of doing a 2CD set that also included the mono "1812" 
and "Music of the Bells," but the budget was used up re-synchronizing and re-mixing the weapons and 
SFX, this time with Wellington's Victory perfectly in beat with the score.

There are also a few interesting late 60's Mercury albums made after Harold Lawrence departed. The 
last sessions with the San Antonio Symphony netted interesting material, plus Hilde Somer made two 
interesting Scriabin solo-piano records, which I think should be packaged with some sort of DVD 
production similar to the light show she used to put on, per Scriabin's own notes and sketches. 
Evelyn Crochet also made at least one interesting solo-piano record, it was released on Philips.

I doubt any of this material will get a proper reissue because there's just not a business model for 
it anymore. Again, it's "just business," no underlying malice.

-- Tom Fine

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Randy Lane" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Sunday, June 03, 2012 9:01 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Mercury Living Presence


> How much classical material (expressed as a persentage) would you estimate
> (Tom) was NOT digitized under the direction of WCF? Is that material, due
> the required equipment, like "lost" forever now?
>
> On Sun, Jun 3, 2012 at 5:22 PM, Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>wrote:
>
>> Carl, you are correct that it was B&W 808's with big amps, I think by Mark
>> Levinson, maybe Cello brand? That system got LOUD, like full orchestra in
>> your face loud. The studio had a nice stereo spread and reliable soundstage
>> and frequency response, so the 3-2 mix could be done with reliability and
>> repeatability. I've described the audio chain before, so I'll just say it
>> was very direct and there was no DSP stuff after conversion.
>>
>> The playback equipment and digital technology used in Germany were
>> different. I think the SACD's sound like the same tapes played back on a
>> different machine, not a huge difference in sound (so if you're hearing
>> one, check your CD player regarding playback of the original CDs) but more
>> "solid-statey" compared to playback on an Ampex 300. The first two issues
>> have "un-Mercury" 3-2 mixes (the 2-channel SACD layer), not enough center
>> channel in the mix. The last two batches sounded better (more like the
>> original CDs) in all respects, but I still prefer the CDs because they are
>> real-deal Mercury.
>>
>> -- Tom Fine
>>
>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Carl Pultz" <[log in to unmask]>
>> To: <[log in to unmask]>
>> Sent: Sunday, June 03, 2012 8:00 PM
>>
>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Mercury Living Presence
>>
>>
>>  At Edison NJ, they had B&W 808s and, iirc, B&W amps and a Cello Audio
>>> Pallet
>>> used as a line amp/switcher - not too shabby.
>>>
>>> -----Original Message-----
>>> From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
>>> [mailto:[log in to unmask]**GOV <[log in to unmask]>] On
>>> Behalf Of Clark Johnsen
>>> Sent: Sunday, June 03, 2012 1:07 PM
>>> To: [log in to unmask]
>>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Mercury Living Presence
>>>
>>> On Sat, Jun 2, 2012 at 11:21 PM, DAVID BURNHAM <[log in to unmask]>
>>> wrote:
>>>
>>>   Why would they not have heard these differences when they issued the
>>>>
>>> CDs?
>>>
>>>>
>>>>  Two possible answers: 1) Recording studio audio systems generally s*ck.
>>> 2)
>>> Wishful thinking.
>>>
>>> I recall that back in the late Seventies Victor Campos asserted that he
>>> had
>>> found a cartridge that made LPs sound "just like the master tapes" (of
>>> which he owned numerous good copies). That cartridge? A mid-priced Audio
>>> Technica. Yes.
>>>
>>> A couple years later he had a Sonus Blue... much better!
>>>
>>> clark
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>> Dave b
>>>>
>>>>
>>>
> 

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