Peter Bartok seemed less concerned about hum than many mastering guys. There's also hum in Caedmon
LPs that he cut. If I recall correctly, he had a custom-built lathe, at least in the mono era. He
also had a neato tape-editing setup, built out of Ampex tape recorder parts but instead of a metal
top-plate, he built it into a wooden door that was then put on sawhorses and used as an editing
table. He had room for his edit notes and had a very comfortable splicing setup.If you like the
Caedmon records, thank Peter Bartok as much as the two ladies. The "girls" (as the late David Sarser
called them) were right out of college and no experience making recordings. They met Dylan Thomas in
a bar. Peter Bartok was their recordist, editor and disk-cutter for quite a while after they
By the way, there's plenty of hum to be found on 1950s and 60s LPs, mostly coming from cutting
lathes. I don't know exactly why grounding was such a problem at the lathes, but you hear it on some
Van Gelder cuts, some A&R cuts (Woody Herman 1964 on Philips, for example), and some Bell Sound
cuts. Also Capitol. You can tell if it was cutter hum as opposed to baked-in hum on the tapes if it
persists between cuts.
Regarding the Folkways LPs vs Smithsonian Folkways reissues, I agree with Steve about sound
quality -- the Smithsonian reissues always sound better to my ears. However, the packaging on the
Folkways LPs is neato, so when I find them in the dollar bins in good shape, I'll buy them for the
packaging, especially the mimeographed and highly detailed liner notes (the font being only slightly
bigger than the unreadably small version reprinted in CD booklets).
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "Steve Smolian" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Saturday, September 06, 2014 5:31 AM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Asch vs Lomax- was Duke Ellington accidental stereo comparison
> Lomax learned to use his disc cutter but had little background in electronics whereas Moe had
> considerable technical training. If memory serves, he chad training in electronics and had a
> radio repair shop at one time. Lomax.s "capturing the moment" may have been a result of having a
> limited number of blanks and budgetary restrictions.
> When I worked with Moe on a few projects, he cut at Nola Studios. Many of his LPs have hum in the
> track separation bands as well as in the audio, indicating that the cutter was the source of the
> hum. The Sithsonian/Folkways issues are to be preferred if only for this reason, all other
> factors being the same.
> Steve Smolian
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Paul Stamler
> Sent: Saturday, September 06, 2014 1:34 AM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Duke Ellington accidental stereo comparison
> On 9/5/2014 8:08 PM, Tom Fine wrote:
>> The Lomax and Asch comparison is very interesting. I always had the
>> impression that Lomax was collecting sound first and music second,
>> whereas Asch was running a commercial music label. If that assumption is
>> true, then Asch would want a result that sounds like a professional
>> music recording, with a sonic reference buyers would be accustomed to,
>> even if the music itself or the artist was new to their ears. Lomax, on
>> the other hand, started out working for the government (with no need to
>> be concerned with a commerical product aesthetics) and his recordings
>> indicate a really interesting fascination with the background sounds as
>> well as the primary performances. Take the Son House recording in
>> Klack's Store. A train runs right through town, loudly passing the store
>> even rattling the recorder. Does Lomax stop and try a re-take? No. In
>> fact he didn't even ask for a second performance of that song. I have to
>> assume he thought the train passing was a part of what he was capturing,
>> not just Son House but also Klack's store and the rural Mississippi of
>> that time. The same is true of his recordings of the fife and drum band
>> and also the prisoner singing. He made recordings where we hear not just
>> the musical performances but also the environmental audio around the
>> performers. In those cases, it's fascinating.
>> Emory Cook's approach seemed more Lomax than Asch. In fact, plenty of
>> his commercially-released products were ONLY environmental audio
>> (trains, weather, a strip club, etc).
> And the famous cricket on one side of Cook's steel drum album.
> The Lomax-Asch comparison is fascinating; Tom I think you've hit the
> nail on the head. But Asch considered himself a documentarian too -- he
> said that Folkways Records was his attempt to document the twentieth
> century in sound. Hence the joke, "Why did the chicken cross the road?"
> "To record 'Sounds of an American Highway' for Folkways." And yet his
> studio recordings were carefully edited.
> Still, he made his studio recordings very simply, with few microphones
> and no apparent EQ, in a neutral room, and he reissued lots of
> folklorists' field recordings. He once told an interviewer something
> indicating that he issued those without high-frequency pre-emphasis,
> though the interview was kind of garbled and he may have just meant that
> he didn't add eztra treble boost over and above RIAA. I asked Peter
> Bartok (who cut a lot of discs for Asch) about this, and it didn't ring
> any bells with him -- he didn't remember cutting anything without
> pre-emphasis. So I may have misread the interview. But in any case, Asch
> put out very straightforward LPs.