It sounds like a great project. Not to place too fine a point on it, but Alan didn't always record at 78rpm! I'm not sure if Presto was first to introduce the 33 1/3 rpm setting for portable equipment, but Alan made use of it from early on when he was recording longer songs, interviews, stories. Initially, there was only a 12" model to work with, but as soon the Library got a 16" machine, virtually all recordings were done on it at 33 1/3 rpm, which allowed for 15 minutes of continuous recording on a side. The Woody Guthrie, Muddy Waters and other sessions from the early 40s were done at 33 1/3 rpm.

Good luck! I hope you find many musical riches.

Matthew Barton
Library of Congress/Packard Campus for Audiovisual Conservation.

-----Original Message-----
From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Alex Steyermark
Sent: Monday, February 13, 2012 10:22 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] The 78 Project web series

Thank you, Don, for the heads up on the Hugh Tracy recordings, we had not heard them but now we are completely fascinated by them.

We also love the later Lomax recordings.  Perhaps one of our favorite recordings of all-time are his 1959 recordings of Mississippi Fred McDowell, both for technical and artistic reasons.  We were actually very fortunate to hold the original master tape in our hands when we were visiting the Alan Lomax Archives at the Library of Congress last month.  Todd Harvey, curator of the archive, gave us an extraordinary tour of the vaults.  Needless to say, it was the most exciting day of our lives.

The 78 Project |
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Breakthrough musicians on a journey to connect with the haunting recordings of the past...

On Feb 12, 2012, at 4:06 PM, Don Cox wrote:

> On 11/02/2012, Alex Steyermark wrote:
>> Thank you for your encouragement! We are always amazed that our 70+ 
>> year-old Prestos work as well as they do. We have three, although 
>> we've had to combine parts from two of them into one very good 
>> machine. Which means we have two well-matched machines, and the third 
>> which we are fixing up to get as good as the others. Each recording 
>> is still a bit of a fraught process, and a huge sigh of relief is 
>> felt in the room when we finish cutting a record. On the other hand, 
>> that is a vital part of the experience, and we're always impressed 
>> with the intensity of focus that the artists put into the 
>> performance. They become very aware that there is no opportunity for 
>> punching in or any kind of mix fixes. It makes for a truthful 
>> performance, something that the artists themselves seem to find very 
>> moving when they hear their records played back for them. And our 
>> Prestos, portable as they are, certainly make for a good workout when we lug them around!
> A good mono mic can work very well, but Lomax's later recordings with 
> a pair of ribbon mics are in my opinion even better.
> Have you heard any of the mono recordings made in Africa by Hugh Tracy?
> He hand-held his mic so that he could bring it nearer to whichever 
> musician he wanted to emphasize at different points in the song. It 
> shouldn't work but it does.
> The CD reissues are on the SWP records label
> Regards
> --
> Don Cox
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