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ARSCLIST  September 2014

ARSCLIST September 2014

Subject:

Re: Duke Ellington accidental stereo comparison

From:

Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Fri, 5 Sep 2014 20:05:40 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (254 lines)

Hi George:

You raised a lot of issues and points!

Two comments:

1. Paul Klipsch was part of or a big part of (depending who you ask) the reason the Bell Labs 
"Auditory Perspective" work is still well-known and discussed in audio circles. He reprinted the 
Bell Technical Journal articles (it's unclear whether he ever secured official permission, but he 
was never told to cease and desist as far as I know) and widely distributed them.

2. I disagree somewhat with your statement that accidental stereo "has no relevance. By relevance I 
mean something that will teach us something about the soundscape at the time, or recording practices 
or -- by giving greater transparency -- a deeper insight into the performance that was manifestly 
going on while recordings took place. "

On the Duke Ellington recordings, I hear more clearly how dry the studio was (heavily draped, almost 
claustrophobic), but also I hear more clearly individual brass and woodwind parts. In mono, Duke's 
arrangements are somewhat dense and his guys played in almost perfect lock-step, so it's harder to 
pick out individual parts. For instance, in the second medley, the snippet from "Black and Tan 
Fantasy" appears to have two muted trumpets, playing exactly the same thing, sitting on each end of 
the section, with the players in the middle playing different parts. I can't hear that, or the 
separation of the saxes, in mono.

On the Elgar (which I have only heard via Youtube lossy audio from unknown sources), I hear better 
the acoustic of the large recording venue, and something resembling a typical symphonic setup, at 
least in that percussion seems to be in the rear. I don't hear that much spacial detail on the mono 
78 (again only heard on Youtube). If you or another list member have un-lossy WAV files of both, I'd 
love to hear them.

All of that said, you are correct in that accidental stereo was not and should not be interpreted as 
a serious, dedicated technical attempt to use two microphones to produce a 2-channel auditory 
perspective. So it is somewhat of what you call it, a "freak show."

-- Tom Fine

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "George Brock-Nannestad" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Friday, September 05, 2014 7:29 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Duke Ellington accidental stereo comparison


> From: Patent Tactics, George Brock-Nannestad
>
>
>
>
> Hi Tom,
>
> thank you for your several well-argued posts concerning accidental stereo and
> related matters.
>
> Taking your contributions in sequence: the scan of the Sunier book on Stereo
> from 1960 (31 August) is a fine thing and helpful to those who do not want to
> take the trouble to obtain it physically. There are two references to an
> article in the NYT on March 15, 1959, which I think are the same, but they
> are somewhat contradictory. One is p. 49 (paper version), note 41, which
> refers to Section M, page 1, and the other is p. 90, note 23, which refers to
> Section N, page 10. But with so many sections and parameters, one does not
> really which one is correct, or whether the date is wrong in one instance.
>
> Sunier's book correctly identifies the early experiments by Clément Adèr
> (otherwise very well documented by Bent Hertz in AES Preprint No. 1724 from
> the centenary year 1981) and he also clarifies the binaural/stereophonic
> issue. Paul W. Klipsch did a lot of experimenting on stereo perspective
> around 1960, and obviously he confirmed a number of the points originally
> made by Bartlett Jones I mentioned in my earlier post, but he did not refer
> to him; quite possibly he did not know about him. He did, however, constantly
> refer to the BTL Auditory Perspective paper collection from 1934. And that is
> available from the Audio Engineering Society Historical Committee website.
> You know it, but possibly not all readers do.
>
> Thank you for providing the files concerning the Duke Ellington. I think your
> comments are very much to the point, and in fact could be used to argue that
> accidental stereo is an artefact that has no relevance. By relevance I mean
> something that will teach us something about the soundscape at the time, or
> recording practices or -- by giving greater transparency -- a deeper insight
> into the performance that was manifestly going on while recordings took
> place. The microphone setup was not based on any idea of what kind of stereo
> image was desired, and it formed no part of a systematic approach to stereo
> recording. It is in no way comparable to e.g. Blumlein's experiments (that I
> have on vinyl coarse-groove pressings).
>
> In fact, by signal processing to obtain a "stereo" image in two modern
> channels, the possibility of listening in to the prevalent MONO soundscapes
> is destroyed. Each of the two historical channels could have been a source to
> a historical audio perspective, which is interesting in itself, because that
> is what was commercialised at the time. I have a copy of a notebook by a
> trainee at the EMI studios in the 1930s, which shows the microphone
> placements in various recording situations and also makes it very clear that
> most orchestral recordings would use more than one microphone. Some of the
> EMI mono recordings on 78 have a wonderful depth to them, which means that
> there is a suitable admixture of reflected sound to the direct sound, and
> that the various time delays have not been tampered with to a degree that the
> ear can distinguish.
>
> Although I regard accidental stereo as a freak, I shall nevertheless buy the
> Pristine CD, but I shall listen to the tracks in MONO, channel by channel.
> But I shall be sad that the two channels have been individually tweaked in
> order to obtain a modern stereo perspective. Fake of the first order.
>
> Humankind is always attracted to freak shows, and our senses are so eager for
> input and for novelty that we blithely accept any kind of experiment, and
> given suitable publicity (hype), the output may even be commercial. Think of
> the RCA Soundstream Caruso (and John McCormack). What they obtained (for
> Caruso) was Bjoerling's voice modulated by Caruso's phrasing, a fact that is
> quite obvious from the "blind deconvolution" paper by Stockham et al. in
> 1975. That Stockham's results could also be used artistically is beyond
> question: "Any Resemblance is Purely Coincidental" by Charles Dodge (1980)
> could not have been created without it.
>
> And if we are really, really honest, did we not experience a similar thing
> "accidental and hype" in connection with First Sounds and the creation of
> sounds from phonautograms? We have never had a satisfactory technical answer
> to how the loops created by the original tracing stylus were decoded, if
> indeed they were.
>
> But getting sounds from accidental sources is great fun and is also used
> artistically direct from graphics to sound, converting the signals to fit
> into our audible range. Percy Grainger, Daphne Oram were great pioneers. We
> have all heard about the the songs of whales, of the Universe
> (radio-astronomy) and the sound of playing the temporal line on a skull by a
> pickup ("the Sound of Nature Itself"). The whole field is known as
> "sonification" and is also used analytically on large data sets.
>
> Now we come to Keith Hardwick (no -e). He took over from Arthur Griffiths and
> Bryan Crimp, and compared to them he did a lousy job. He was basically a
> record collector (had been since his Navy days), and I truly believe his
> hearing had suffered. Spectral analyses I made in the mid 1980s proved that
> he would emphasize a fairly narrow frequency range about 4500 Hz (if I
> remember correctly), and when a British colleague and I wrote a letter about
> it to the Gramophone (London), it was refused. They probably still have a
> policy that you do not bite the hand that buys advertising space. The EMI
> re-issues were renowned, not for their quality (because so few could compare
> them with the originals), but for their giving access to vault material. At
> the time I measured his work I made re-balanced versions for my own
> listening. Hardwick himself amassed a huge collection of white- (or blue-)
> label vinyl versions of the original metals, because the extras he had
> ordered pressed for re-issue work never went back to the vaults, where they
> could have saved a further run of galvanos in future projects. From time to
> time you see such vinyls on lists, but I am not saying he was the source.
>
> So, as ever searching for the "authentic" and clarity of thought, I shall now
> sink back into the oblivion from which I came.
>
> Best wishes,
>
>
> George
>
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
> From: Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: [ARSCLIST] Duke Ellington accidental stereo comparison
> Date sent: Thu, 4 Sep 2014 20:25:37 -0400
>
>
>
>> https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/55748706/Ellington%201932%20Accidental%2
>> 0Stereo.zip
>>
>> I have finally amassed (thanks to Helpful Others) full-resolution WAV files
>> of the 1985 Brad
>> Kay/Steve Lasker LP version and the 1999 RCA/BMG (Lasker providing files to
>> Seth Winner for sync and
>> restoration) version. Also included in the ZIP archive are scans of the LP
>> liner notes concerning
>> the two 1932 accidental stereo recordings.
>>
>> Opinions are likely to vary on which "sounds better" because the tonality is
>> very different and
>> different restoration and sync methods were used.
>>
>> As I said before, I believe that,  for whatever reason that the RCA/BMG
>> reissues are out of phase.
>> My reasoning -- one man's hearing impressions -- is as follows:
>>
>> 1. assuming the mic setups were as diagrammed by Kay/Lasker in the LP liner
>> notes, what should be
>> dead center is not at all in the center.
>>
>> 2. even if the Kay/Lasker mic diagram is incorrect, even if the two mics
>> were on opposite corners of
>> the room, the piano shouldn't sound like it's in two different places at
>> once, which it does on the
>> RCA reissues.
>>
>> 3. there is far too much difference information prevailent in the RCA
>> reissues. Whereas the
>> Kay/Lasker version sounds like two recording setups were made in about the
>> same place (since the
>> engineer would likely know what was a good single-mic pickup in the
>> controlled environment of the
>> recording studio, why wouldn't this be the case?), with the difference
>> information being mainly
>> "room tone" and some arrival time differences for instruments further back
>> in the room. In other
>> words, if two mics were placed relatively close together in a typical
>> highly-deadened 1930s
>> recording studio, there wouldn't be all that much "stereophony" recorded,
>> but there would be suble
>> clues about where instruments sit in the depth of the room and also what
>> reflections are coming off
>> which walls when, giving more of sense of the room size and reverberncy than
>> a "spread out" ensemble
>> such as one would get with close-micing everything and then creating a
>> mixed-out-of-the-ether
>> sound-picture (ala most 1970s big band records).
>>
>> What may have happened was that one of the recorders or microphones was
>> wired in opposite polarity
>> from the other, so if both disks were played back on the same system, one
>> side would be out of phase
>> to the other. It's also possible that the transfer Lasker brought to Winner
>> (Seth said he didn't do
>> the disk-to-digital transfers) were made at different times on different
>> playback systems that were
>> in opposite polarity. What does surprise me is that Steve Lasker didn't
>> refer to his own earlier
>> stereo LP work and use it as a reference, when the later version is clearly
>> very different
>> stereophony and indeed sounds like stereotypical (pun intended) out of phase
>> stereophony.
>>
>> Finally, it's just my personal taste, and I understand possible reasons for
>> why it wasn't done, but
>> I would have gone after that high-pitched tone that's very audible on the
>> RCA reissue. I don't care
>> if I took out the little bit of high treble present in the recordings, I
>> would have notched or
>> low-passed it. Very little of the musical energy is in frequencies where
>> that tone is and the tone
>> is really annoying to my ears. Seth told me that it's "groove chatter"
>> caused by the wax cooling
>> while the recording was being made, that it would thus be present on all
>> pressings of the recording,
>> and that it was likely aggressively notched and high-passed on the LP
>> version. He also said that the
>> transfers for the LP version may have been played back with RIAA EQ, which
>> would have rolled off the
>> top end more aggressively. How to deal with tone was in the purview of the
>> RCA reissue producer.
>> Were I the producer, I would have sacrificed the bright CD sound quality to
>> get rid of or severely
>> attenuate that tone. It's worth noting that nowadays, with modern
>> spectrum-"healing" tools, you can
>> go about it more precisely and less brute-force than could be done in
>> 1999.
>>
>> -- Tom Fine
>
> 

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