From: Patent Tactics, George Brock-Nannestad
at the 1986 ARSC Conference I quoted extensively from correspondence of the
Gramophone Co., with VTMC and internally. One letter is particularly
"We are about to dispense with the figures 76 on our standard dial speed
regulator, substituting in place thereof figures 78 notwithstanding the fact
that the general speed at which our records are recorded is 76. We find that
the best general reproduction is obtained by operating our machines at 78
revolutions per minute" (13 July 1910 Chas. Haddon to GC; courtesy EMI Music
The only certain means of measurement of the quality of a recording was its
durability on reproduction, and VTMC had found that the records lasted longer
-- and I used this as an argument that the shift in resonant frequency might
well be an important factor. You did not want to excite the wear-creating
resonances of the reproducing system by an emphasis during recording.
In a previous ARSCLIST post dated 29 April 2015 I mentioned a recent
experiment of re-enacting the acoustic recording of Beethoven's 5th Symphony
by Nikisch in 1913. This has now been written up (with several musical
examples) by the project team and may be found at:
From experience with my mail system you may have to copy and paste, but if
you are too lazy for this, just use
http://journal.sciencemuseum.ac.uk/ and click on the appropriate title at
left. I am barely web literate, so I do not know how to make tinyurls.
Steve Smolian wrote:
> There is a long answer to this that I'm not going into, as so much is
> hearsay and denial of what actually happens during the electrical recording
> However, as to acoustical recording speeds, various Victor consumer catalog
> recommend playing speeds for all their records that are at variance at those
> we know were used when the recording was made, even those close to the date
> of the catalog. Since recording and playback horn designs were not designed
> using valid mathematics until c. 1924-5 with the work toward the acoustic
> orthophonic player, I think it likely that nodes in the recording horn
> design may have been duplicated in some playback horns and playing back at a
> different speed would reduce the resonances on certain notes.
> On the other hand, it always seems to have been assumed by the manufacturers
> that the more musically literate would have a piano in their home to furnish
> a tone by which the user would set playback speed. That is why there is a
> speed control on most acoustic players. The Sarasate records include a
> tuning band . That would give proper pitch but the trade-off is that you'd
> get the resonances.
> This is still somewhat of a gray area. I plan to look into this further
> before my presentation.
> Steve Smolian
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Richard L. Hess
> Sent: Tuesday, May 05, 2015 10:27 AM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] A-440, was speaking of pitch
> Tom, I think it was briefly touched on in this thread but even if not, I
> recall hearing that there was a sense of sharp=brighter (or perhaps more
> On 2015-05-05 10:15 AM, Tom Fine wrote:
> > Richard, I agree. Even in the tape era (where we can assume some level
> > of competence vis-a-vis speed/pitch on recording and playback -- but
> > not always), there is a wide range of pitching. I don't understand why
> > the German and Austrian orchestras sometimes tuned sharp. Why? What is
> > the basis of that concept?
> > -- Tom Fine
> > ----- Original Message ----- From: "Richard L. Hess"
> > <[log in to unmask]>
> > To: <[log in to unmask]>
> > Sent: Tuesday, May 05, 2015 10:05 AM
> > Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] A-440, was speaking of pitch
> >> I agree, Steve, and so noted that in the original message, but my
> >> assumption (which could be incorrect) was that the compilers of the
> >> video might have used restored recordings which, hopefully, had been
> >> properly pitched by the restorer...I know we've been discussing that
> >> is not always the case.
> >> Even if we throw out the pre-1950 recordings to eliminate the "78"
> >> ambiguity, it is still quite startling.
> >> Cheers,
> >> Richard
> >> On 2015-05-05 9:43 AM, Steve Smolian wrote:
> >>> Many 78s were recorded at speeds above and, more often, below 78.26.
> >>> This wild card makes such comparisons questionable.
> >>> Steve Smolian
> >>> -----Original Message----- From: Richard L. Hess Sent: Tuesday, May
> >>> 05,
> >>> 2015 9:18 AM To: [log in to unmask] Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST]
> >>> A-440, was speaking of pitch Getting back on topic, my son Robert,
> >>> the music student, passed on this link to me--I don't think that I
> >>> had mentioned this thread but we had been talking about variations
> >>> in recordings (specifically in regards to Dvorak's New World
> >>> Symphony (9th now after renumbering)).
> >>> So here are the opening chords of Beethoven's Eroica (3rd) Symphony,
> >>> recorded between 1924 and 2011.
> >>> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UnhlQUBsd6g
> >>> And here is a similar compilation of a short section from
> >>> Stravinsky's Rite of Spring from 1921-2010
> >>> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2TGRtUu8xw
> >>> Yes, I know that the recording technology influences the pitch as
> >>> much as the actual playing, but, overall, I think these two are very
> >>> informative peeks into the degree of variation considered "normal."
> >>> The first Toscanini performance of the Beethoven really shows off
> >>> the dry acoustic of what I assume to be Studio 8H at 30 Rock...and
> >>> perhaps why, in 20/20 hindsight, it wasn't such a good idea, though
> >>> it seemed to make sense at the time.
> >>> As an aside, my friend the late Dr. Gerre Hancock, after bringing
> >>> the choir of Men and Boys from St. Thomas Church to ABC TV-2 studio
> >>> on W 66th Street in NYC for a holiday season appearance on "Good
> >>> Morning America" asked me why I built studios that sounded like
> >>> "pillow factories."
> >>> Get out your tuners or pitch pipes and enjoy! If you have perfect
> >>> pitch and are offended easily, please don't listen <smile>.
> >>> Cheers,
> >>> Richard
> >> --
> >> Richard L. Hess email: [log in to unmask]
> >> Aurora, Ontario, Canada 647 479 2800
> >> http://www.richardhess.com/tape/contact.htm
> >> Quality tape transfers -- even from hard-to-play tapes.
> Richard L. Hess email: [log in to unmask]
> Aurora, Ontario, Canada 647 479 2800
> Quality tape transfers -- even from hard-to-play tapes.