Thanks for the warning, Ron! It’s good to know what to avoid at all costs.
Audio Engineer Emeritus
The Crane School of Music
SUNY at Potsdam, NY 13676
"Great art presupposes the alert mind of the educated listener."
"A true artist doesn't want to be admired, he wants to be believed."
From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]> On Behalf Of Ron Roscoe
Sent: Friday, April 9, 2021 2:06 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [EXTERNAL] Re: [ARSCLIST] Books about the acoustic era
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Great list, thanks to all.
I have a copy of Morton, David. Sound recording: the life story of a technology. Johns Hopkins Paperbacks. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006.
I could never finish it due to the errors: here is my review of that book that can be found on Amazon:
"I have never finished reading this book! Every time I try to read it, I come across another gross error of fact! Here are some examples:
page 26: Author states that "violins recorded [acoustically] fairly well". About as far from the truth as you can get. Stringed instruments recorded very poorly, because there was no focus to the sound as with brass instruments. That's why the Stroh violin was invented. It had a diaphragm under the bridge and that drove two horns, a small one pointed at the player's ear so he could hear what he was playing, and another larger horn pointed at the recording horn.
pages 36-37: the proper material for 78 rpm records was shellac, not "lacquer". And the pumice added to the shellac did not "make up the bulk of the record". 10-inch lateral 78's did not hold 3-4.5 minutes of sound; 3 minutes is about right. 12 inch 78's held about 4.5 minutes of music.
page 40: The diameter of the standard Edison 2 minute cylinders was 2.1-2.2 inches, not 3 3/4 inches. The speed of the standard shellac lateral disc was nominally 78.26 rpm, not 80 rpm, which was the speed of the 1912 Edison Diamond Disc. [However, it is true that many early 78 rpm acoustical discs were recorded at speeds below 78 rpm.]
page 60: Author states that "at the end of the [wax recording] session it was the recordists' responsibility to listen to the recording and decide if it was good enough." Well, listening to a freshly cut wax master would have destroyed it, using the crude [heavy!] playback apparatus in use during the acoustical or early electrical processes.
page 64: Author states that by 1921 "High-quality music was now available in most areas via radio for free." Well, it certainly was free, but high quality? Not in 1921. Radio sound was distinctly inferior to phonograph sound until about 1928 when the Rice-Kellogg modern dynamic speaker was introduced. Radios were battery powered until ~1928, and they had low-power audio tubes driving efficient magnetic speakers that were not suspended at the edges and which could produce very little bass, compared to an acoustical disc or especially an Orthophonic disc record, introduced in 1925.
page 74: "The new sound technology [electrical or Orthophonic recording] of the late 1920's...." was actually in the hands of the public in 1924-25! Also, the 33 1/3 rpm speed did not have to wait until the late 1940's; RCA Victor introduced 33 1/3 rpm records [program transcriptions] in 1931. They played for about 10 minutes per 10" side but the 1930's economic depression did them in.
page 93: "Columbia also introduced a low-noise record using a central paper core laminated on each side with a mixture of plastic and very fine powdered stone." These records were shellac, not plastic, and had the same noise as other shellac 78's that were impregnated with pumice. The cardboard core may have strengthened the disc and reduced the amount of shellac used in each record, but these records were just as noisy as the non-laminated ones.
page 98: "Allied was the predecessor of the current Radio Shack." Not true. Tandy in 1970 owned Radio Shack and then acquired Allied in 1970, not in 1937. Gross error.
page 100: The original Wurlitzer Simplex jukebox could not play 24 standard 10" 78 rpm discs in 1934. The 24 disc mechanism came out in 1937, original Simplex model only held 12 discs.
Well, that's about as far as I got in this book. If there are so many errors that I do know about, I keep wondering about what else is wrong that I'm reading that I don't know about!!"
From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Sam Brylawski
Sent: Wednesday, April 07, 2021 1:11 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Books about the acoustic era
Thanks to all the contributors for this enormously useful, and growing, bibliography. To it, I suggest contemporary and collector-oriented serials that are now accessible to all in the Internet Archive. The Media History Project is a useful front-end, but its content is comparatively paltry.
Still, here you'll find complete runs of Talking Machine World and Phonogram (1890s).
Through the Internet Archive directly (archive.org), one can access and download such serials as 78 Quarterly, JEMF Quarterly, The Talking Machine Review, Victrola and 78 Journal, and The New Amberola Graphic.
In addition to serials, valuable resources include CD notes that accompany releases such as those from the Archeophone Records catalog.
On Apr 7, 2021, at 12:20 PM, Sophie Maisonneuve < [log in to unmask]> wrote:
Here are a few late additions to the publications already mentioned, some by members of this list. This bibliography, mainly focused on cultural and social history, was compiled in the early 2000’s; thus, recent and other subject-oriented references might be missing:
Guiness Book, 1984.
Edge, Ruth and Leonard Petts. The collector's guide to "His Master's Voice"
Nipper souvenirs. E.M.I. Groupe Archive Trust, 1997.
Frith, Simon. « The Making of the British record industry, 1920-1964 » In Impacts and influences, ed. James Curran, 278-290. London:Methuen, 1987.
Gronow, Pekka and Ilpo Saunio. An International History of the Recording Industry. London: Cassell, 1998.
Harvith, John and Susan E. Harvith, ed. Edison, musicians, and the phonograph. A century in retrospect. New York/Westport, CT/London:
Greenwood Press, 1987.
Katz, Mark. « Making America more musical through the phonograph, 1900-1930 » American Music 16, n° 4 (1998): 448-475.
Kenney, William Howland Recorded Music in American Life. The Phonograph and Popular Memory, 1890-1945. New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Le Mahieu, D. L. « The Gramophone : recorded music and the cultivated mind in Britain between the wars » Technology and culture 23, n° 3, juillet (1982).
Mackenzie, Compton. My record of music. London: Hutchinson, 1955.
Martland, Peter. Since records began : E.M.I., the first 100 years. London:
B.T. Batsford, 1997.
Miller, Russel and Roger Boar. The incredible music machine. London:
Milner, Greg. Perfecting Sound Forever: The Story of Recorded Music.London:
Moore, Jerrold Northrop. A voice in time : The gramophone of Fred Gaisberg, 1873-1951. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1976.
Morton, David. Sound recording: the life story of a technology. Johns Hopkins Paperbacks. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006.
Philip, Robert Early recordings and musical style : changing tastes in instrumental performances : 1900-1950. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.
Sterne, Jonathan. The Audible Past. Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction.
Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2003.
Taylor, Timothy D., Mark Katz, and Tony Grajeda, ed. Music, Sound, and Technology in America: A Documentary History of Early Phonograph, Cinema, and Radio. Durham: Duke University Press, 2012.
Thompson, Emily. « Machines, music, and the quest for fidelity:Marketing the Edison phonograph in America, 1877-1925 » Musical Quarterly 79, n° 1
PhD. History & Civilizations
Associate professor in sociology
Université de Paris - Cerlis