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ARSCLIST  November 2012

ARSCLIST November 2012

Subject:

Re: Medinah Temple/Cass Tech

From:

"Scott D. Smith" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Mon, 5 Nov 2012 13:04:53 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (317 lines)

I had the unfortunate task of doing some recordings at the Ford 
Auditorium in Detroit years back. A truly awful venue-nothing much that 
could be done to fix it either.

Cass Tech was a real gem. Who knew that a high school auditorium could 
sound this good? (Not to be at all critical of architect Albert Kahn, 
but I think that this may have had as much to do with luck as opposed to 
actual acoustical engineering). Still, I'll take it any day over many 
other spaces that supposedly had competent acoustical consultants behind 
them.

What became of Cass Tech is a travesty, and stands as a monument to the 
absolute total incompetence and lack of vision on the part of the 
Detroit Public School board. You can see what's left of it here: 
http://www.flickr.com/photos/patrickrupa/5860995225/

However, thanks to the efforts of Robert Fine and Bob Eberenz, we still 
can enjoy the superb acoustics.

(While Medinah Temple in Chicago certainly had many things going for it, 
the traffic noise could at time be a challenge. While the building still 
stands, sadly, the auditorium is long gone).
<http://www.flickr.com/photos/patrickrupa/5860995225/>
--Scott

Scott D. Smith CAS
Chicago Audio Works, Inc.

On 11/5/2012 6:57 AM, Tom Fine wrote:
> The whole issue with finding a suitable recording venue in Chicago, 
> after Orchestra Hall was ruined, shows that logistics and local 
> politics matter as much or more than acoustics and engineering 
> preferences. It's interesting that, given how acclaimed RCA's Chicago 
> recordings from the 50's and early 60's were, that the orchestra board 
> could be convinced to butcher the acoustic space so much. To some 
> classical music fans, those RCA records were the ultimate examples of 
> the recording art with an American orchestra in an American venue.
>
> Mercury had similar problems in Detroit and Minneapolis, as much 
> politics and logistics as acoustical and engineering decisions.
>
> In Detroit, the Edsel Ford Auditorium was built by and named after the 
> Ford family, which was a primary or the primary sponsor of the Detroit 
> Symphony. From the first time my father set foot in that room, he 
> hated it acoustically. In the mono days, there were tricks that could 
> deployed to make the single-mic technique work, but when stereo 
> recording started, that venue became almost impossible (although there 
> were a few stereo recordings made in the Ford auditorium in the early 
> days of stereo). Old Orchestra Hall, known as the Paradise Theatre in 
> those days, was a better space, but it was literally falling apart and 
> was not in a good part of town. However, many Mercury sessions were 
> done there, leaky roof and all. The room has a nice sound to it, 
> although my father thought it sounded smaller than it was. Then, via 
> several sources, word trickled down about the superb auditorium in 
> Cass Technical High School. It ended up being an almost ideal 
> recording venue. The auditorium was in the middle of the huge 
> building, so it was well isolated. There were good and comfortable 
> control-room facilities in the school. And the sound was superb. It's 
> unfortunate that Cass was discovered rather late in the Mercury 
> relationship with Paul Paray and Detroit. But, all or almost all of 
> the 35mm magnetic-film recordings done in Detroit were done at Cass, 
> to the benefit of the sound quality.
>
> In Minneapolis, the Northrop Auditorium was also non-ideal. It turned 
> out to be less ideal for single-mic mono than for stereo. The reason 
> was, it was so cavernous that sound got lost in the huge space. In the 
> mono days, various setups were used, mainly moving the strings out 
> onto the stage apron and, for a couple of sessions, using a tape-delay 
> reverb fed to a big Altec speaker in the rear of the auditorium so as 
> to make the room sound more live. What happened was that the sound 
> dissipated so much that the rear of the omni-directional mic barely 
> caught anything, so the recording sounded too dry. When the technique 
> changed to three spaced omnis, more reverb and room tone was captured, 
> so there was less of a problem. Switching to the Schoeps M201 mic for 
> the single-mic mono also helped a bit because it's more sensitive than 
> a Neumann U-47 and also has a different presence peak that tends to 
> pick up low-level high-frequency information better in that setup. 
> Very late in Mercury's relationship with the Minneapolis Symphony, the 
> auditorium at Edison High School, which I think was out in the 
> suburbs, was used. That room had a better sound, it was "warmer" and 
> more detailed. Like Cass, it's a pity it wasn't "discovered" earlier.
>
> A similar search for a good venue took place when Command signed the 
> Pittsburgh Symphony. My father and Enoch Light checked out the 
> orchestra's performance venue, didn't like that. They also didn't like 
> the Syria Mosque, where Capitol had made its Pittsburgh recordings. 
> They found the Soliders and Sailors Hall, which had the unique 
> property of the stage being out into the cavernous space, so the whole 
> room had similar reverberant properties. This worked well for the 
> 6-mic technique that they devised for Command Classics. The Pittsburgh 
> Symphony went on to deliver a very good Beethoven cycle, and a good 
> Brahms cycle, and some other interesting recordings. Alas, Command 
> Classics never sold well, according to later interviews with Enoch 
> Light and others. In the late 60's and early 70's, ABC/MCA kept 
> cheapening the packaging and eventually let Pickwick put out 
> supermarket-counter versions of some records. Later-era ABC re-cuts 
> and pressings are far inferior to original-issues.
>
> -- Tom Fine
>
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Carl Pultz" <[log in to unmask]>
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Sunday, November 04, 2012 10:40 PM
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Medinah Temple
>
>
>> By demonstrating my ignorance, I've learned a lot - thank you Don! 
>> Had no
>> idea the Martinon Nielsen album was from Orch Hall. I assumed nothing 
>> was
>> issued from there post renovation, until much later. They did manage 
>> to make
>> a very effective document, a cult-classic for brass players. What's
>> surprising is that the renovators could do so much damage in so 
>> little time:
>> mid-June to early October.
>>
>> I read recently that the Auditorium had been declared impossible by 
>> Theodore
>> Thomas, and that lead to the building of Orchestra Hall, a more
>> appropriately sized venue as well as better sounding. While the Hall was
>> loved by audiences and record makers, apparently it was not so hot 
>> for the
>> players. The shallow stage required the orchestra to spread out wide and
>> thin, making it hard for one side to hear the other. In his biography of
>> Fritz Reiner, Philip Hart tells the story of the CSO's first visit to
>> Boston. Symphony Hall was a revelation, the players saying that it 
>> was the
>> first time they understood what a great orchestra they had become. 
>> They just
>> had never heard each other before.
>>
>> Would be nice to have confirmation of that story. I bet the Temple was a
>> bear for the players, too, though probably in a totally different way.
>>
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
>> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Donald Tait
>> Sent: Sunday, November 04, 2012 2:51 PM
>> To: [log in to unmask]
>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Medinah Temple
>>
>>  Both the Dvorak Concerto and its discmate, his Silent Woods (Du
>> Pre/Barenboim/CSO) -- recorded November 11, 1970, Medinah Temple.
>>
>>  The first Capitol/EMI CSO session was June 25, 1969. Ozawa. Borodin:
>> Prince Igor: Polovtsian Dances; Kodaly: Dances from Galanta. Recorded in
>> Edman Chapel, Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois. Not issued, and no 
>> other
>> CSO sessions seem to have been held there. The works were done 
>> successfully
>> at the sessions of June 30 and July 1, 1969 in Medinah. The rest of the
>> Capitol/EMI sessions took place there, through Giulini's Mahler 
>> Symphony 1on
>> March 30, 1971.
>>
>>  The CSO's recording venues after the autumn of 1966 are a sad and 
>> slightly
>> complicated story, and this all reflects that. In the summer of 1966 the
>> Orchestral Association undertook what they described as an "updating" of
>> Orchestra Hall. Some things needed it, but the acoustics did not.
>> Nonetheless, the acoustics were severely damaged and the resultant 
>> sound was
>> completely dead. All resonance and reverberation were gone. As 
>> someone who
>> heard the before-and-after, it was shocking. For everyone. Additionally,
>> what had been one of the finest halls in the country for recording was
>> rendered useless for it. RCA attempted three sessions there after the
>> "renovation:" Nielsen Symphony no. 4 (October 10, 1966) and Helios 
>> Overture
>> and Massenet Thais Intermezzo (December 3, 1966, all cond. Martinon) and
>> March 8, 1967 (Schumann Piano Concerto -- Rubinstein/Giulini). The early
>> issues, before artificial reverb was added, are acoustically as dead 
>> as the
>> proverbial doornail. An almost shocking change from the formerly great
>> acoustics and resonance of the empty hall. RCA clearly felt they 
>> could no
>> longer record the CSO there and had to go elsewhere. The first 
>> attempt was
>> at the historic Auditorium Theatre on February 15, 1967 with Morton 
>> Gould.
>> All Ives: Orchestral Set no. 2; Three Places in New England; Robert 
>> Browning
>> Overture. After that RCA moved to Medinah Temple, first on April 26, 
>> 1967
>> with Jean Martinon. The rest of their sessions were held there 
>> through May
>> 16, 1968. They reverted to Orchestra Hall for the Ozawa sessions of 
>> July 1
>> and 16 and August 9 -- the last ones under the RCA contract.
>>
>>  Some of the recordings Carl cited were made in Orchestra Hall before 
>> the
>> mid-1966 acoustical disaster, not in Medinah Temple. I'll include 
>> some he
>> didn't cite as well:
>>
>>  Morton Gould, Orchestra Hall --
>>
>>  Ives: Symphony 1 -- November 6, 1965
>>  Ives: The Unanswered Question -- January 31, 1966
>>  Ives-Schuman: Variations on "America" -- ditto
>>
>>  Orchestra Hall, all on June 18, 1966:
>>
>>  Morton Gould/Benny Goodman, clarinet
>>
>>  Nielsen: Symphony no. 2
>>  Nielsen: Clarinet Concerto
>>  Fred Fischer-Gould: "Chicago, that Toddlin' Town" (Goodman)
>>
>>  The first Solti/CSO Decca sessions were held in Medinah Temple on March
>> 26, 27, and April 6, 7, 8 1970.
>>
>>  Thanks are due to Mike Gray and Steve Smolian, who obtained this
>> information and sent it to me for a CSO discography that I 
>> unfortunately had
>> to abandon preparing.
>>
>>  Don Tait
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Carl Pultz <[log in to unmask]>
>> To: ARSCLIST <[log in to unmask]>
>> Sent: Sun, Nov 4, 2012 9:29 am
>> Subject: [ARSCLIST] Medinah Temple
>>
>>
>> Oh, yeah - I didn't know about that performance. If it has too much 
>> star,
>> I'd blame the producer or artist manager rather than Mr. Taylor. I 
>> admire
>> his work. Was he a contemporary of Frank Abbey? He - they - others? - 
>> were
>> early on really into purist stereo, using various coincident and M/S 
>> pickups
>> on Stokowski projects and the Cello Galaxy album.
>>
>> I read years ago that an engineer discovered the trick for Medinah 
>> Temple of
>> micing way up in the ceiling to pick up a meaty reverberance. That 
>> must have
>> helped to blend together the many spot mics that are evident on most all
>> projects made there. IIRC, it was credited to a Decca guy working on the
>> first Solti records around 1969, and everybody else copied it. But, the
>> first crews in there were RCA, I think, and they also made it work (ie.
>> Nielsen 2&4, Ives 1, etc). The EMIs I've heard achieve a more 
>> homogeneous,
>> more distant sound, better to my taste than the others.
>>
>> The Taylor/CSO session I'd most like to hear remastered is the 
>> Lutoslawski
>> Concerto for Orchestra. That is mind-blowing. The Angel LP (S-36045 c/w
>> Janacek Sinfonietta and a nice piece by R.C. Marsh about the 
>> sessions) gives
>> a hint, but a HMV Concert Classics DMM pressing gets us closer. Worth
>> seeking out ED 29 0134 1 if that music hasn't already been put out on 
>> silver
>> drink coasters. Gathering from that evidence, the first EMI dates 
>> were in
>> 1969. What's the date on the Dvorak?
>>
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
>> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Tom Fine
>> Sent: Sunday, November 04, 2012 7:02 AM
>> To: [log in to unmask]
>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] CDJAPAN has remastered Barbirolli
>>
>> I got the DuPre Dvorak recording from HDTracks:
>> https://www.hdtracks.com/index.php?file=catalogdetail&valbum_code=HD50999705 
>>
>> 58852
>> (I bought it during one of their frequent 15% off sales)
>>
>> It sounds marginally more clear and "weighty" vs. the CD reissue from 
>> the
>> 90's. This recording was
>> done by Carson Taylor, who did many of the U.S. classical recordings for
>> EMI/Angel/Capitol in those
>> days. Taylor put a coicident stereo mic down at cello level and out 
>> in front
>> of it, so the cello is
>> very forward and on its own, to my ears. I think a cellist would love 
>> this
>> approach, but a listener
>> wanting to hear the whole musical product may prefer the cello better
>> blended with the orchestra.
>> This way, you hear the vibrating strings and wood very clearly, plus 
>> the bow
>> strokes. But that then
>> diverts your attention somewhat from what the orchestra is doing. In 
>> this
>> recording, it also sounds
>> like the cello is in a different sound-field from the rest of the 
>> orchestra,
>> because the Medinah
>> Temple is reverberant and Taylor put most of his orchestra mics at more
>> distance than the cello
>> mics. I know this because I have photos taken during the recording 
>> session.
>>
>> -- Tom Fine
>>
>>
>>
>>
>

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