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ARSCLIST  April 2015

ARSCLIST April 2015

Subject:

Re: A-440, was speaking of pitch

From:

Brandon Michael Fess <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Wed, 29 Apr 2015 13:07:39 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

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text/plain (169 lines)

Are you based out of Rochester? I was at the Monteverdi Vespers performance at Hochstein - what a fantastic performance. I was very appreciative of the pre-concert explanation of the pitch scheme they used. While I'm used to mean tone tuning in early music, I did not realize that A was higher than 440 at that time in Italy. Too much time spent in French Baroque and its low A, I guess.

Brandon Fess
LIS Candidate, Class of 2015
Graduate Assistant, Belfer Audio Archive

________________________________________
From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of Carl Pultz <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Wednesday, April 29, 2015 7:19 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] A-440, was speaking of pitch

Parenthetically, the 1/1972 issue of Recording Engineer/Producer contains a
very informative article on the contemporary orchestral recording practices
of the three major US producers, via interviews with Max Wilcox, John
McClure, and Carson Taylor. Taylor speaks about his rearrangement of seating
for Cleveland and his experience in Chicago.

Scans are available at http://www.americanradiohistory.com/ originally from
the collection of Doug Pomeroy.

I recently recorded performances of Monteverdi's Vespers conducted by Paul
O'Dette. Their tuning was A466, determined in part by the tuning of the
cornetti. That was mean-tone, so it's a whole different scheme and effect.

-----Original Message-----
From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Tom Fine
Sent: Tuesday, April 28, 2015 9:57 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] A-440, was speaking of pitch

Part of John Marks' research into that article included contacting the
Cleveland Orchestra's music librarian and archivist. Not surprising to those
familiar with George Szell's music and biography, he was an absolute
stickler for consistent tuning to A=440.

The bigger issue I was surprised and somewhat dismayed to learn details of
is EMI's practice of using 3rd generation dub tapes as their master of
record for almost everything recorded by Carson Taylor in the U.S. That got
me acquiring some copies of the original LPs and I was shocked to hear how
much better many of them sound, even compared to late 90s "Recordings of the
Century" remasters by Abbey Road. It goes to show that even if you have a
good playback and a good digital chain, with skilled engineering, if you
have a several-generations dub tape there's only so much fidelity you can
get out of it. Plangent would help, but it's still better to get as close to
first generation as is practical, particularly with classical music (because
the dynamics, pitch and instrument tones are so effected by the slightest
aspects of output<>input inherent to all tape dubs).

According to what I learned from talking to people with knowledge of EMI
Classics' practices (still in effect with Warner Classics), using the 3rd
generation tapes is the path of least resistence because Capitol had some
way to keep what were Angel master tapes in the US and only send out dubs
for UK pressing. Apparently in the cases when a UK crew came over here and
made recordings (standard practice after about 1980), then the master tapes
were retained in England. In those cases, if the Angel LP was cut at
Capitol, it was likely cut from a dub tape, so the UK EMI LP is likely to
sound better. Taking it back to the modern era, I still can't get a
definitive answer if the Capitol-made EMI classical recordings' tapes are in
a vault here, and if they'll ever be used to make a new series of remasters.

-- Tom Fine

----- Original Message -----
From: "Steve Smolian" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, April 28, 2015 8:51 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] A-440, was speaking of pitch


>I can't find the references at the moment, but I gave a paper at a long-ago
ARSC about this issue.
>I'm depending on memory for the dates, but it'll be pretty close.
>
> The U.S. Navy adopted A-440 in 1916. The National Bureau Standards did so
in or about 1918.
>
> I'm pretty sure that the bands of most or all U.S. Armed Service bands
that were in training and
> later participated in WW I were equipped with A-440 instruments.
>
> It is my speculation that many older instruments were given by masters to
servants or found their
> way into hock shops, which thus made such instruments available to poorer
musicians. I've not
> seen any writing about this issue during the formative jazz band years.
Those more versed in the
> reminiscences of the early layers may have encountered comments about
adjusting or not adjusting
> tunable instruments and, where impractical, living with the sound.
>
> In the early 1960s I contacted a piano tuner through Steinway, a fellow
whose responsibilities
> included the instruments used by Victor during Caruso's day. He told me
that they always tuned
> tuned to A= 440. I believe I included this somewhere in one of my
American Record Guide columns
> then as a result.
>
> Each orchestra has a collection of tuning forks, or, at least, used to,
and their period of use
> is often documented.
>
> As to older situations, read "The Story of A" by - can't recall his name.
It carefully explain s
> and documents pitch issues over the centuries when a court in Germany
hired an Italian or French
> court composer who then had instruments made for use during his tenure.
It also talks about the
> issues of different pitches for instrumental and instruments with vocal
music and organ keyboards
> that played in either of two pitches, depending on the type of service.
>
> Pitch is also affected by temperature. The way concert halls are and were
heated had a direct
> effect as well.
>
> It's really complicated and fascinating.
>
>
> Steve Smolian
>
> Original Message-----
> From: Tom Fine
> Sent: Tuesday, April 28, 2015 6:12 PM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: [ARSCLIST] speaking of pitch
>
> http://www.stereophile.com/content/fifth-element-89
>
> This is a good telling of John Marks' tortured journey on discovering a
seemingly small but very
> audible pitch error.
>
> I did some further reporting with people I know who are very familiar with
the EMI classical
> library. Apparently, the fast-pitched tape from which all digital media
have been mastered came
> from
> Capitol USA, and no one can locate the original 2-track master tape made
by Carson Taylor, from
> which the first edition USA albums were mastered.
>
> Now, after all of this consternation, it seems to me that one could do as
I did -- own the
> HDTracks
> 96/24 download and then simply apply pitch-correction software to it. I
couldn't hear any audible
> degradation after doing that and, in fact, it sounded better because it
turns out that once it's
> in
> A=440 (to which Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra strictly tuned), the
music relaxes and flows
> better, just from that very slight slow-down in tempo.
>
> My personal opinion is that John Marks' dream of remastering this
recording from the 4-channel
> Dynatrack tapes will never happen, but I do hope that Carson Taylor's
original 2-track master (ie
> a
> second-generation tape, made directly from the Dyntrack session tapes)
will be found and this
> pitch
> error then corrected in all current in-print media.
>
> -- Tom Fine
>

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