Thanks for all this information, George.
The Sunier book can be downloaded as a nicely made PDF here:
Hard copies of the book range from the $35 range and up on Abebooks.
Film restoration expert and historian Robert Harris used to have his office and archive in my
building, upstairs from my office. We became friends and often talked about old-school film sound
techniques. Bob said that almost from the day electronic (optical) sound-film was invented, movie
production folks were figuring out ways to mix and blend different sound recordings. He said some of
the earliest optical-sound films had elements of dialog, music and SFX recorded at different times
and places, sync'd and mixed together into a final (mono) soundtrack. So it serves to reason that
thinking about stereophony happened almost immediately. My father did a lot of sound-for-picture
work, dating from his earliest job at Miller Sound Studio in NYC (Mr. Miller developed the
Miller-Philips mechanical/optical recording system, which allowed re-takes and editing for music
recordings in the era before magnetic tape recording spread out of Germany). He said repeatedly that
film production folks were well aware of stereophony and keen on integrating it into released
products from early on in sound films. "Fantasia" had a big effect on Hollywood sound departments
because it was successful and showed the way to future developments in surround-sound and
wide-screen "enveloping experience" cinema. At Reeves Sound Studios in the late 40's, my father
worked on the team led by Hazard "Buzz" Reeves that developed the multi-channel sound system for
Cinerama. My point is that just because the music business "discovered" and got keen on stereophony
in the mid-50s doesn't mean the ideas and concepts weren't well-developed elsewhere, much earlier.
By the way, just to cite some irony of modern times on a Sunday morning, it's interesting that the
present young generation consumes most of their movies on tiny screens with earbuds or tinny
built-in speaker sound. The Hollywood innovators who spent (and often lost) fortunes bringing
"full-emersion cinema" (widescreen, multi-channel sound) to the masses are rolling in their graves!
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "George Brock-Nannestad" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Sunday, August 31, 2014 6:34 AM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Accidental stereo (again)
> From: Patent Tactics, George Brock-Nannestad
> I rarely contribute to the list these days, but when the old myths concerning
> stereo are called upon again, it is time to step in with some historical
> The post that started this long thread (until it disappeared into
> phantom-powered ribbon mikes) was Lani Spahr's from 5 August 2014.
> However, let me state once and for all: there is no reason to believe in
> accidental stereo, unless we have an absolutely stable timebase in both
> channels, and identical at that. If you take any two mechanical recordings of
> the identical performance, even via the same mike feed, you will inevitably
> obtain spaciousness due to flutter in one or both channels, which by willing
> ears is interpreted as stereo. The general public is gullible and will
> eagerly grasp anything that is presented as unexpected, such as the
> experience by Brad Kay and Steve Lasker in 1985 concerning Duke Ellington. By
> the way, the same gullibility goes for the "phonograph effect" invented by
> Mark Katz in 1994 and "proved" by the increase in vibrato in violin
> performance after recordings came along. He had no interest in listening to
> meek protests that it was merely another, already existing performance
> tradition or "school" growing in those years. And his PhD supervisors
> obviously knew no better, but were dazzled.
> Secondly, my years of study of the acoustic recording process, including
> research in the EMI Music Archives and the Eldridge R. Johnson Archive (in
> Wyoming, not the photocopies in Dover, Delaware) have never revealed that two
> recording setups were used in acoustic recording. The quality of the
> recording was much too dependent on having precise distances from the
> performers to the horn(s). Hence, no "usually from both sides of the room".
> If anybody has a reference that shows that e.g. Columbia (whose sound is
> frequently more distant, although very clear) had the practice of doubling, I
> would be very interested to have my views changed.
> Now for some real stereo. Arthur C. Keller was a proud man, and he
> fortunately wrote a posthumously published book that is a must for all
> historians of recorded sound: "Reflections of a Stereo Pioneer", San
> Francisco Press, Inc., 1986.
> On p. 53 he starts his account of his work with stereo. He mentions stereo
> recordings made by systems as later re-invented by de Boer (Philips) and Cook
> in having an inner area and an outer area and synchronised pickups. This was
> on April 28, 1928. He says "That stereo system was not thought to be
> patentable". He does not say who said it: the in-house BTL patent department
> or the authority, the United States Patent Office.
> If Bell Labs had filed patent applications, they would have met the prior
> filed applications by W. Bartlett Jones of Chicago. He began filing
> applications on stereo recording on 13 April 1927, most aptly entitled
> "Methods and means for the ventriloquial production of sound", and his 4
> patents issued quite late, all April 19, 1932. Another Jones creating havoc
> in the history of disc recording!
> This late issuance of his patents filed 1927-29 could have been caused by
> so-called interference proceedings: the USPTO had to determine who had been
> the first to invent and first to reduce to practice of several virtually
> simultaneous applicants. The activities of Bell Labs would inevitably make
> them file patent applications, and they would inevitably clash with Jones'.
> There can be no doubt that the late 1920s experiments at BTL were in fact
> using Jones' ideas.
> I have not investigated it, but there is a good chance that the old file
> wrappers of Jones' patents are still available. Mind you, it would only be
> Jones', because at that time US patent applications were held in secrecy
> until the patents issued. Once granted, they had a life of 17 years. I cannot
> imagine that BTL did not take out licenses from Jones if they wanted to sell
> stereo records. But that was not their line of business, and experimenting
> does not require a license. However, they apparently never acknowledged
> Jones, because if they had, many myths would not have existed.
> But the first patent that I have been able to find concerning stereo disc
> recording is by Franklin M. Doolittle assigned to RCA. It was filed in 1921
> and was only granted in 1931, so again here, there may have been interference
> proceedings. He talks about "two separate versions of the same sounds, which
> versions may differ in phase relation". He used two parallel mono grooves,
> i.e. half as many grooves per inch on a side.
> Keller's first single-groove attempts used band splitting to reduce
> distortion and the result from the combined lateral-vertical pickup would
> combine to make a mono sound. No stereo here.
> Next we should mention that Keller's first single-groove stereo records were
> made by the multiplex system, in essence using a sub-carrier, much like
> Haddy's original stereo system and the much later 4-channel systems.
> It was not until 1936 that Keller and Rafuse applied for a patent for a
> stereo groove as we know it, and it was not published until 1938.
> In the meantime, Blumlein had writen his complete stereo system patent
> application in 1931, which was patented in England as GB 394,325, all 70
> claims, which were directed to most of the well-known details of stereo. It
> also issued in the US, with no more than 18 claims (a rarity for US patents),
> and although it was filed in 1932 it was only granted on September 21, 1937.
> The claims were not to details but to systems. No doubt this patent also had
> met with considerable problems, most likely filed with all 70 claims, perhaps
> interference proceedings. I am quite convinced that the BTL patent department
> knew all about this, but perhaps they had a policy of not wanting to scare
> their inventors off. Keller recounts on p. 55 that John G. Frayne had learnt
> about Blumlein from the inhouse Bell Lab patent department, and Keller heard
> it from Frayne.
> One reason that the above US patents were not cited against Blumlein's
> British patent application was that under the patent act in force, the
> application was examined, using only British patents from the last 100 years
> as prior art. A US patent would have been irrelevant at the time. And the
> relevant patents would have been too late, anyway.
> On p. 101 Keller quotes ARSC member Tom Owen, who said "The truth is that
> EMI, in order to circumvent the Westrex patent and the subsequent payment of
> royalties, embarked on a separate course of stereo reproduction under A. D.
> Blumlein, including a moving-coil cutting system, which was not under Westrex
> patents. Keller said "This was all news to me".
> Well, Tom was not correct, or Keller misinterpreted him. EMI did not try to
> circumvent any Westrex stereo patents, because there weren't any in 1931, but
> the rubber line recorder patents for mono recording. And when Blumlein
> developed this, it was still under Schoenberg at Columbia, pre-merger.
> Incidentally, Alex Kogan wrote a post to ARSCLIST on 19 March 2008 concerning
> an "Instrument of Gift of Keller Recordings" to the Library of Congress. Go
> A final remark concerns stereo recording on film. The earliest I have been
> able to find concerns sound and image on the same film, and stereo at that,
> by Augustus Rosenberg, British patent No. 23,620 from 1911. It mentions all
> the advantages that we still enjoy today.
> There are plenty of leads to follow concerning the development of stereo, and
> modern history-writing should move above the mere traditional
> Blumlein-Keller controversy. A good place to start is the book from 1960 by
> John Sunier: "The Story of Stereo: 1881-", Gernsback Library Inc., if only
> for the references provided.
> After having written the above I googled W.Bartlett. Jones, and apart from a
> couple of Polish web sites, googlebooks had one reference to a book on Frank
> Sinatra (by Granata in 2003) in which Jones is mentioned. However, the author
> conflates Jones with the accidental stereo Ellington.
> The timeline from LibCon found in the same search also mentions Jones, but is
> completely silent on BTL, which is unfair.
> Best wishes,