The problem is that "we" don't have anything to do with it. It's a matter of business, simple
economics. There aren't enough "we's" interested in high-quality sound in the first place. The
business model of the owners of the master tapes has been permanently constricted, musical tastes
and cultural norms have changed, and demographics weigh against much interest in the "old white
masters" (and indeed "old white rockers" and "old white crooners") in the future.
In fairness, I think about the generation that made the "golden era" recordings, including my
parents. They were not stuck on reverence for the past. In fact, they considered the past recordings
of poor, forgettable quality, which is why they struck out to harness then-new technology to make
brand new recordings. I don't recall my parents being hung up on older performances, either. It is
probably a symptom of our times that our generations are hung up on accomplishments, both technical
and musical, of 50+ years ago. I admit being underwhelmed by just about all aspects of the "modern"
(since the 1980s) classical music scene. To my mind, the best was already done and thus recent
activity is just rehashing and dead-ending. The same can be said of jazz since at least the mid 70s.
And, for that matter, rock since the end of the punk era or at least since the end of the last metal
resurgence. Western music has failed to advance except on the more extreme fringes (some of which,
like gangsta rap/hip-hop, have caught mainstream appeal with the younger generation -- but much of
that music is cutting and pasting and thus rehashing beats, riffs and themes from decades previous).
So music in general is losing mass relevance with each succeeding generation. It's omni-present
background noise, a subliminal way to trigger consumerism or mindless "connectivity" and "social
networking." It's not something to sit down, pay close attention and tune into.
The bottom line is, all of the older recordings LOSE their value as time goes on, because they are
forgotten and/or ignored by more and more people (hence a smaller and smaller market and thus less
and less budget for reissues). I am in favor of copyright reform, but I will say that the death of
quality reissues of old material will occur when the material goes into the PD. With no
proprietorship, there is no market force compelling a quality reissue. Even if the former copyright
owner offers very generous lease terms for the master tape (which they will still own), what company
will want to spend the money for a high-quality remaster when its immediate duplication and no-cost
distribution will be perfectly legal?
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "Jamie Howarth" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 11:32 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] NYT film archiving article
> We have to stop accepting that "reality" - the sound quality differentials are not yet marked
> and distinct perhaps, but there's no reason to presume that 44/16 is anymore permanent than wax
> cutting. Someday there will be better delivery system and there will be an efficient way to do it.
> Please pardon the misspellings and occassional insane word substitution I'm on an iPhone
> On Jul 23, 2013, at 10:20 PM, Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> Hi Jamie:
>> It's unrealistic to think that most non-hit material will ever be remastered if a viable digital
>> master exists. There is no business model for it. The hits will be remastered over and over in
>> every latest-greatest technology. The "long-tail" catalog, which includes most older classical
>> recordings, will live on as 44.1/16 forever. The few items that weren't reissued the first time
>> around (remember, there was a huge boom in classical and opera reissued in the late 80s through
>> mid-90s, before there was a massive bust) get transferred in higher resolution as a matter of
>> course today, but that doesn't always guarantee a good sound quality for the end product. It
>> takes budget to provide an excellent analog playback in the first place, and budget isn't usually
>> present. That's the economic reality of today. Remember that music sales are half the peak of the
>> boom, and margins are lower on the reduced sales.
>> So saying "we simply have to go back ..." is just a pronouncement that carries little weight vs
>> business realities. I am not sure how different it is in the movie business, it may be a little
>> less tight. Hollywood always had bigger budgets and thus could afford better technology.
>> -- Tom Fine
>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Jamie Howarth" <[log in to unmask]>
>> To: <[log in to unmask]>
>> Sent: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 9:32 PM
>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] NYT film archiving article
>>> Per Tom's comment:
>>> We simply have to go back to the tapes on anything 44.1/16 period the end. Getting UMG is a
>>> chore but necessary in the long term.
>>> The Everests could have been better, nobody plays mag like we do. The best guy in LA is awesome.
>>> Best shop is Chace.
>>> Please pardon the misspellings and occassional insane word substitution I'm on an iPhone
>>> On Jul 23, 2013, at 7:40 PM, Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>>> Hi Stewart:
>>>> Thank you for the kind words.
>>>> The most likely motivator for UMG/Decca will be swift sales of the current box sets. Proof of a
>>>> continued market is the only convincing argument for classical reissues in today's business
>>>> I would like to see the rest of the material remastered for CD get back in print one more time,
>>>> and I'd like for UMG/Decca to bring out a few titles not remastered for CD, but not "all of the
>>>> rest." There is not enough market for mindless completism, but there is a market for the few
>>>> superb performances not reissued on CD. All told, I think a third, smaller box set could
>>>> emerge. One big problem is that the margins on a box set of new remasters is much lower,
>>>> especially if the remastering is done correctly. To their credit, UMG has set a high bar for
>>>> quality, and success will hinge on holding to the standard.
>>>> One thing I do believe strongly is that what gets newly reissued will have to be based on
>>>> performances rather than sound quality alone. The key determining factor will have to be, is
>>>> this a great and/or unique performance of this work, or is this a compelling work not recorded
>>>> elsewhere or rarely recorded and/or by lesser performers. I think the first criterion requires
>>>> a careful look at the Dorati, Paray and solo-performer recordings not yet reissued, and the
>>>> second criterion requires a careful look at the Hanson mono catalog. Careful culling would then
>>>> yield enough candidates to fill out a third box set, in combination with the not-yet-boxed CD
>>>> remasters. There are also some late-catalog recordings that deserve consideration.
>>>> -- Tom Fine
>>>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Stewart Gooderman" <[log in to unmask]>
>>>> To: <[log in to unmask]>
>>>> Sent: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 5:00 PM
>>>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] NYT film archiving article
>>>>> Dear Mr Fine,
>>>>> You most certainly know more about this than most: how many recordings from the entire Mercury
>>>>> Living Presence catalog have yet to see the light of Cd-day? I'm almost done wading through
>>>>> the second box set and continue to be in awe with the sheer beauty of the sound these
>>>>> recordings possess.
>>>>> Who does one contact to plead with Universal to release the rest of the original CD series and
>>>>> to remaster and release what is left, including the pre-stereo recordings?
>>>>> On Jul 23, 2013, at 11:38 AM, Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>>>>> In the case of Mercury's 35mm magnetic film masters, whatever wasn't digitized in the 1990s
>>>>>> (when all of the existing films were playable, as demonstrated by the sound quality of the
>>>>>> 1990s CD remasters) didn't EXIST anymore. It's not a matter of "things not being
>>>>>> transferred." Inept management at Polygram/Philips in the 1970s and perhaps the 1980s ordered
>>>>>> some 35mm destroyed, and other appear to have been forever lost (assumed destroyed) by the
>>>>>> contracted warehouse-storage companies. During the CD remastering project's 10-year span,
>>>>>> exhaustive and never-ending efforts were made by Polygram vault/library personnel all over
>>>>>> the world to find any and all Mercury Living Presence tapes. Under early Universal-era
>>>>>> management, all of those tapes were assembled at the vault operations of Berliner Studios in
>>>>>> Hanover Germany. That vault has since been outsourced to a unit of BMG, and I think it is at
>>>>>> a different physical location in Germany now. I do not know if every single cache to former
>>>>>> Polygram tapes in the world is now assembled in Germany, but I do think that every Mercury
>>>>>> tape or film that existed in the 1990s did end up in one place.