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ARSCLIST  October 2013

ARSCLIST October 2013

Subject:

Re: Nellie Melba' 1st records

From:

Steven Smolian <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Wed, 23 Oct 2013 11:58:59 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (85 lines)

At this time, the Gramophone company used Victor equipment once it was
proven here in the U.S.  Both companies shared in the R&D costs that were
developed in Victor's research lab.   A copy of an invoice to the Gramophone
Company for their half is among the papers in the Eldridge Johnson Museum,
in Dover, DE.  They usually sent a recording engineer from the states to
England with the product to install it and train their English counterparts
in its use.  Same source.

The improvement in pressing material which seems to have required new
presses was not adopted by the Gramophone Company until much later.  Where
U.S. made records from about 1907 (?) were thinner and lacked the raised
rim, this was not true of records of English or continental manufacture
until much  later.  Joseph Berliner in Canada patented? a new pressing
material/mix and licensed it to Victor for 2 years with at least one 2 year
renewal; the Gramophone company did not use it.  

As far as I can tell, they also did not use the Dennison pressing machine
that Victor converted to.  Dennison was one of the few people (about 20) who
was allowed to buy stock in Victor, a closed corporation whose stocks were
not listed.  It was Johnson who would offer to sell  stock to an employee.
It was considered quite an honor in the company.   If a stockholder left the
company's employ, he had to sell his stock back to Victor at a price
determined by a formula.   (Also among the Dover papers).   I don't know if
royalties paid to Dennison were used to pay for his stock.  

I don't know if the Dennison machine was required to make the quieter
pressings that the Berliner formula  allowed.  Since both these developments
required the payment of royalties  as well as a considerable, expensive
retooling,  this may not have been felt a good business decision by the
Gramophone company.  The overall patent situation was more competitive
outside the US than within it, where Victor and Columbia enjoyed a duopoly
until 1916 or 1917.  

Papers in the EMI archives mad give dimension  and possible correction to
the above.  All this above is  from memory.  Facts and dates may differ, but
I think I've given the gist.

EMI made a video as part of a box for its' centenary.  The VHS video shows a
reconstructed acoustical recorder in the process of recording  tenor Robert
Aglana with piano accompaniment by Antonio Papano.  There are close-ups of
the equipment which are well focused and freeze-frameable.  I still have
some of these sealed sets in inventory at $ 50 plus shipping.

 Complete publication of the EMI papers would be quite a boon to research.

Steve Smolian 

-----Original Message-----
From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Michael Quinn
Sent: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 8:30 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Nellie Melba' 1st records

Hi Tom,
I'll answer your queries as best I can - 1.
The Gramophone & Typewriter Company used pretty much the same equipment as
Victor and by 1904 were well experienced recording on wax masters. The
recording lathes used weight driven clockwork motors and continued to do so
for many years. There are no photographs of Melba recording in 1904 but
there are artists impressions published in periodicals of the time - I think
the recording apparatus was behind a screen or curtain with a horn measuring
about a foot across the mouth projecting out into a large room. Going by
early photographs there must have been multiple recording horns even for the
piano accompanied sides.
2. I blundered in saying waxes - it was shells being taken to Hanover though
waxes were often sent from various places in Europe to the factory in
Hanover. With the Melba recordings being such a prestige item they did the
initial processing in England. It was a not infrequent occurrence for wax
masters to be broken in transit to the factory in the early days of European
recording.
3.The waxes would have been quite thick but I don't know what kind of metal
soap they were using to make the blanks.
4.The vinyl 78s allowing for the inevitable minor problems that come from
age and conditions of storage are very good, They have a higher surface
noise than the best later acoustic recordings but are forward and bright
sounding and of course without the wear that is often so apparent on
original G&Ts. The sense of presence is quite startling and I certainly now
believe my grandfather who said Melba's was the most carrying voice that he
ever heard in person.
I don't know what caused the noise problems that worried the company types -
perhaps to do with how hot or cold the waxes were at the time of recording.
Best Wishes
Mike Quinn

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