Hello George:

I thank you for your comments. You made a key point that I totally agree with and bears repeating:

You said either kind of transfer is "legit" --

"provding you say what you are doing and do not claim that it is the TRUE sound of the recording. It 
is not, it is ONE of the ways that you can use it."


You went on to say:

"And if you are doing a preservation transfer, it is useless to aim for this kind of acoustical 
transfer, because it cannot ever be used for anything but demonstrating how that machine sounded 
with that record on that day. "

And then went on to give some good reasons why this is true.

But I think the hostility by some on this list is over acoustic transfers made for COMMERCIAL 
products, not archival preservation items.

Also, your point about wanting to hear close to the original "scream-a-thon" performance as a method 
of evaluating singing is absolutely a good idea for an academic study, or a study to consider and 
document the recording methods or production choices of the Experts (engineers) back in the day. But 
again, I think if you're looking at how the majority of people might want to hear these old relics, 
they'd probably like some mitigation done for the un-musical sound used for an imperfect recording 
method back in the studio. I might be wrong, though!

-- Tom Fine

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "George Brock-Nannestad" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, November 17, 2009 5:36 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Edison, etc


Tom Fine yesterday wrote some well-considered comments, and I would like to
address them:

>Hi Will:
>Thanks for this reference (

>Chapter 12 is indeed very interesting reading. The late Peter
>Copeland raised a lot of important issues.
>What I came away with was, ALL transfers of acoustic recordings
>are imperfect. And even if you did devise a way to undo all the
>distortions of the recording processes, youīd end up with a faithful
>record of people screaming and playing overly loud in unnatural
>balance in small rooms, so the sound would be un-musical and un-
>pleasing. So itīs all "season to taste" if the transfer is to be enjoyed
>by the listeners.

----- I do like the description you give of the sound in the acoustic
recording studio--you have grasped the very fundamentals. But it is a worst-
case scenario from which we may learn how to work more gently on less
distorted recordings--the majority. But even in the worst case my taste
differs. I want to hear live NATURAL people performing professionally albeit
unnaturally rather than a big fat blob (with tentacles=resonances) to smooth
everything out. The sound of both instruments and voices is unpleasant to my
ears when played straight from an acoustic recording, even if the overall
volume appears balanced. And by now I know what to do about it.

Those professonal performers who were able to adjust to obtain a satisfactory
end result were performing ("screaming") like that, because recording is a
feed-back process. It is a balance of technology and ideology. The technology
is only one part that may be deficient when you judge the end result (apply
the ideology), and since the record producer could not change his technology
(it takes from 1925-1931, the advent of Blumlein's very linear recording
system), he could change the way people produce sounds. Playback destroyed
the master, so you had to wait until processed test records were available.
Marvellous. It reminds me of the feeble beginnings of voice and speech
recognition by computers. During my first acoustics conference (in 1969, I
think it was) Gunnar Fant (those who care know who it is) said that perhaps
people ought to learn to imitate the speech of the computers of that day, in
order to improve recognition. Both recognition and recording technology have
evolved. And reproduction technology.

It is for this reason that I find immense joy in being able to get back to a
proper piano sound in Wilhelm Backhaus' acoustic recording of Perpetuum
Mobile (which is much more interesting than Friedheim's, although Columbia
had a better acoustic recording technology) or to work further on Grieg and
Pugno now that Marston and his collaborators have removed the noise and the
machine-based flutter. I can now get to work on getting a real piano back.
But if I had an acoustic reproduction on an original phonograph interposed my
task would be impossible, because I would be faced with having to try to take
care of both the historical equipment, and the ambience as well.

----- a final remark about behaving unnaturally: Joseph Schmidt had a
marvellous electrical gramophone operatic career but absolutely no stage
presence due to his very small stature. It would have been unnatural to put
him on the stage. Georg Kulenkampff was reported (in Telefunken's "Die
Ernte", a commented catalogue in the late 1930s) to twist and turn in front
of the microphone to make the microphone capture the best sound from his
violin. This is something he would never do in the concert hall, mainly
because it would not be amplified (and it probably looked ridiculous).
Precisely the same behaviour has been reported to me by an eyewitness
concerning Aksel Schiotz, the Danish Lieder tenor in the 78 rpm period.

>So I come back to this -- I canīt see why people would vehemently
>oppose acoustic transfers, nor how acoustic transfers would be any
>less "legit" than electronic transfers, especially if the end product is
>meant to be enjoyed as recorded music rather than some sort of
>technical documentation.

----- it is perfectly legit, provided you say what you are doing and do not
claim that it is the TRUE sound of the recording. It is not, it is ONE of the
ways that you can use it. And if you are doing a preservation transfer, it is
useless to aim for this kind of acoustical transfer, because it cannot ever
be used for anything but demonstrating how that machine sounded with that
record on that day.

A linear/straight or similar transfer made on calibrated equipment can be
used for ANY purpose you might imagine, from distorting it into 1910 to
getting back to "screaming" NATURAL voices. And it is indeed those voices you
need if you want to evaluate their performance, rather than the performance
of the technician who put them up to it. So, this kind of transfer is what
you need to build on when you preserve for the future.

>This is kind of the in the same league as to
>why there are mastering engineers when the product is intended to >be
commercially successful and enjoyable -- "season to taste" is
>important even after a precise modern recording and mixing.
>The only really big advantange I can see for electronic transfers of
>acoustic recordings -- and it is a big advantage -- is that modern
>electronic playback equipment is very gentle on old media. Indeed
>such methods as scanning grooved material and "playing" with a
>laser seem to be nearly non-destructive.

----- I think the advantages are cumulative.

>But, for common (non-rare)
>media, if someone is producing a music-recording product to be
>enjoyed by fans and collectors, I think he/she should use whatever
>process yields the right "season to taste" for his/her target audience.

----- you have a point if you were considering the audience that is only
moderately interested but who likes a bit of oldish sound. And using
historical equipment to make CDs and purport that this is what it should
sound like is much, much cheaper than working with resonances and anti-
resonances. Even buying a restored gramophone/phonograph, to play everything
through when re-mastering it is much, much cheaper than spending hours of
experienced time on an acoustic signal. So, whatever the profit there is, it
is higher. Yummy!

Kind regards,


----- Original Message -----
From: "Prentice, Will" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Monday, November 16, 2009 8:59 AM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Edison, etc., reply to Tom Fine

George referred to Peter Copelandīs writing on this subject. Chapter
12 of his manual covers acoustic recording and many of the issues
discussed here in some detail: