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ARSCLIST  May 2015

ARSCLIST May 2015

Subject:

Re: A-440, was speaking of pitch

From:

Dennis Rooney <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Sun, 3 May 2015 13:13:42 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (503 lines)

Multiple horns were in use sporadically from the late nineteenth century,
as attested to by photographic evidence.

Abbey Road Studios were opened about 1931, if memory serves, and were
"state-of-the-art" before that term became a fatuous banality.

Knowledge of recording practices cannot be wrung from reading alone.
Listening is imperative. A trained set of ears can ferret out more than
mere reading. That training comes only from listening and one cannot begin
too early.

I'm happy to learn of Steve's efforts and look forward to his exposition of
the topic next year.

DDR

On Sun, May 3, 2015 at 12:21 PM, Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>
wrote:

> Hi Steve:
>
> I am correct in remembering reading somewhere that HMV developed a
> multi-horn recording system for large orchestras? If I remember what I read
> correctly, there were 3 or 4 horns that came together into a single pipe
> that fed the recording membrane. I forgot if Abbey Road was built in the
> late acoustic era or was always an electric facility, or where this
> multi-horn system was built. I don't recall reading anything about Victor
> in the US doing multi-horn recordings, nor Edison.
>
> -- Tom Fine
>
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Steven Smolian" <[log in to unmask]>
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Sunday, May 03, 2015 12:10 PM
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] A-440, was speaking of pitch
>
>
>  I've been working on this at the acoustical recording end.  The pieces are
>> finally coming together and I expect to give a presentation at ARSC in
>> 2016.
>> Rather than go into the hardware,  I'm analyzing the improved (or not)
>> results by year based on a number of criteria.  Stay tuned to this horn.
>>
>> Steve Smolian
>>
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
>> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Brandon Michael Fess
>> Sent: Sunday, May 03, 2015 11:50 AM
>> To: [log in to unmask]
>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] A-440, was speaking of pitch
>>
>> Thank you,  gentlemen. While I'm just starting my professional career in
>> audio preservation, this project may be on the back burner for a while.
>> That
>> said, I'm seriously interested in seeing if I can't begin gathering
>> material
>> for an eventual history. I've considered doing the same sort of work on
>> live
>> sound production for several years, so they might turn into
>> joint/complementary productions.
>>
>> 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 John Haley <[log in to unmask]>
>> Sent: Saturday, May 2, 2015 12:55 PM
>> To: [log in to unmask]
>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] A-440, was speaking of pitch
>>
>> HI, Brandon,
>>
>> Keep in mind that the ARSC Journal happily publishes articles exploring
>> topics involving recordings, especially historical recordings.
>>
>> Best,
>> John Haley
>>
>> On Sat, May 2, 2015 at 11:21 AM, Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>
>> wrote:
>>
>>  Hi Brandon:
>>>
>>> If you undertake research, ping me off-list and I'll share what I know
>>> and point you to what I've found online. This is definitely a topic
>>> deserving of some macro-view writing -- how orchestral music has been
>>> recorded over the eras.
>>>
>>> -- Tom Fine
>>>
>>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Brandon Michael Fess"
>>> <[log in to unmask]>
>>> To: <[log in to unmask]>
>>> Sent: Saturday, May 02, 2015 10:52 AM
>>>
>>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] A-440, was speaking of pitch
>>>
>>>
>>>  Tom,
>>>
>>>>
>>>> Thanks for the brief introduction. I have some recording experience
>>>> myself, but as graduate assistant at Belfer for the past 2 years, my
>>>> interest in historic recording in every sense of that phrase) has
>>>> really been piqued. I'll have to investigate the suggestions you
>>>> make. Thanks for pointing me towards good starting points.
>>>>
>>>> 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 Tom Fine <
>>>> [log in to unmask]>
>>>> Sent: Friday, May 1, 2015 9:23 AM
>>>> To: [log in to unmask]
>>>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] A-440, was speaking of pitch
>>>>
>>>> Hi Brandon:
>>>>
>>>> It's a topic that could use a good summary, written in plain English
>>>> (but scholarly in the sense of having plenty of references and
>>>> footnotes). Going back to the acoustic era, there were different
>>>> methods used in different places. You could start by reading the
>>>> Sooey brothers' memoires, online at the David Sarnoff Library's
>>>> website. Also should read books and memoires by early EMI people and
>>>> other Berliner associates. In the electronic recording era, it's
>>>> worth paying attention to methods used by EMI/HMV, Columbia, RCA
>>>> Victor and other major producers of orchestra recordings in the 78
>>>> era. My interest has mainly been in the tape era, specifically about
>>>> 1950 into the 1970s. I also have interest in the early digital era,
>>>> but haven't focused on what if any changes were made in such things
>>>> as how sessions ran and microphone techniques (and there were
>>>> changes, simply for the fact that early digital rigs didn't offer as
>>>> much multi-track/remix options as people at Columbia, RCA and EMI
>>>> were used to by the late 70s).
>>>>
>>>> In more recent years, the big change has been the shrinking budgets
>>>> and marketplace for orchestral classical recording, which has forced
>>>> mostly live recording in the US.
>>>> The typical recording is
>>>> primarily live performances with a "patch up" session held after a
>>>> performance. Low-budget labels like Naxos mine overseas broadcast
>>>> orchestras (sometimes just releasing broadcast recordings) and
>>>> 3rd-tier US ensembles either without unionized musicians or with
>>>> cheap/flexible contracts, to make low-budget recordings, usually with
>>>> quantity trumping quality.
>>>>
>>>> -- Tom Fine
>>>>
>>>> ----- Original Message -----
>>>> From: "Brandon Michael Fess" <[log in to unmask]>
>>>> To: <[log in to unmask]>
>>>> Sent: Friday, May 01, 2015 8:49 AM
>>>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] A-440, was speaking of pitch
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>  I've known Deb Fox for years; I was an early supporter of Pegasus
>>>> Early
>>>>
>>>>> Music when they were just
>>>>> starting out. The Hochstein concert was my only option for seeing
>>>>> the concert, as I work in Rochester on weekends.
>>>>>
>>>>> Thanks for all the interesting info on early orchestral recording.
>>>>> It's rather fascinating for me, as someone surrounded by thousands
>>>>> of such records at Belfer, to have that information as part of my
>>>>> understanding. Are there any other written works on the history of
>>>>> orchestral recording practice that you know of? If not, I can sense
>>>>> an opportunity for some scholarly work of my own...
>>>>>
>>>>> 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 Tom Fine
>>>>> <[log in to unmask]>
>>>>> Sent: Thursday, April 30, 2015 9:05 PM
>>>>> To: [log in to unmask]
>>>>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] A-440, was speaking of pitch
>>>>>
>>>>> Carl, thanks again for referring us to that article. It makes for
>>>>> interesting reading.
>>>>>
>>>>> If I do my presentation on the evolution of classical recording in
>>>>> the US again, I'll definitely use some info from it.
>>>>>
>>>>> Those mic diagrams illustrate some of the reasons that classical
>>>>> recordings from that era don't sound very good to my ears. There are
>>>>> too many mics with too many arrival times. Even with post-session
>>>>> mixing from the multi-tracks, there is no way to prevent the problem
>>>>> of collapsing stereo image when the orchestra gets going full-tilt.
>>>>> The sound becomes muddy and the image collapses because there are
>>>>> too many sounds arriving at too many different times to too many
>>>>> mics.
>>>>> Perhaps today, you could transfer those multi-track tapes to a
>>>>> Protools rig and mess with time-alignment during the loud passages,
>>>>> to clarify the stereophony.
>>>>> These techniques evolved
>>>>> because producers and engineers wanted to ever greater "inner detail"
>>>>> clarity during soft
>>>>> passages.
>>>>>
>>>>> Carson Taylor used fewer mics than the Columbia and RCA guys, and he
>>>>> generally mixed the orchestra to 2-channel at the sessions. But he
>>>>> got some strange frequency combing by using those coincident stereo
>>>>> mics at different distances from the orchestra. On some sessions,
>>>>> he'd put an AKG stereo mic about just behind the strings and a
>>>>> Neumann stereo mic above and behind the conductor, out in the hall.
>>>>> The problem is, if the brass gets going, it makes a very
>>>>> strange-sounding balance between primary sounds and reverb because
>>>>> both are hitting the stereo mics at different times. But, with the
>>>>> other mics Taylor used, he was building on the classic Lewis Layton
>>>>> RCA Living Stereo approach of filling in the quieter sections and
>>>>> mixing the mics low relative to the front array. This worked very
>>>>> well for Layton into the early 60s, but he kept adding mics and the
>>>>> sound got muddier, as detailed in Mike Gray's history of recording
>>>>> Reiner/Chicago original published in The Absolute Sound.
>>>>>
>>>>> -- Tom Fine
>>>>>
>>>>> ----- Original Message -----
>>>>> From: "Carl Pultz" <[log in to unmask]>
>>>>> To: <[log in to unmask]>
>>>>> Sent: Wednesday, April 29, 2015 7:19 AM
>>>>> 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
>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>
>>>>>>
>>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>
>>


-- 
1006 Langer Way
Delray Beach, FL 33483
212.874.9626

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