From: Patent Tactics, George Brock-Nannestad

Hi Tom,

thank you for your several well-argued posts concerning accidental stereo and 
related matters.

Taking your contributions in sequence: the scan of the Sunier book on Stereo 
from 1960 (31 August) is a fine thing and helpful to those who do not want to 
take the trouble to obtain it physically. There are two references to an 
article in the NYT on March 15, 1959, which I think are the same, but they 
are somewhat contradictory. One is p. 49 (paper version), note 41, which 
refers to Section M, page 1, and the other is p. 90, note 23, which refers to 
Section N, page 10. But with so many sections and parameters, one does not 
really which one is correct, or whether the date is wrong in one instance.

Sunier's book correctly identifies the early experiments by Clément Adèr 
(otherwise very well documented by Bent Hertz in AES Preprint No. 1724 from 
the centenary year 1981) and he also clarifies the binaural/stereophonic 
issue. Paul W. Klipsch did a lot of experimenting on stereo perspective 
around 1960, and obviously he confirmed a number of the points originally 
made by Bartlett Jones I mentioned in my earlier post, but he did not refer 
to him; quite possibly he did not know about him. He did, however, constantly 
refer to the BTL Auditory Perspective paper collection from 1934. And that is 
available from the Audio Engineering Society Historical Committee website. 
You know it, but possibly not all readers do.

Thank you for providing the files concerning the Duke Ellington. I think your 
comments are very much to the point, and in fact could be used to argue that 
accidental stereo is an artefact that has no relevance. By relevance I mean 
something that will teach us something about the soundscape at the time, or 
recording practices or -- by giving greater transparency -- a deeper insight 
into the performance that was manifestly going on while recordings took 
place. The microphone setup was not based on any idea of what kind of stereo 
image was desired, and it formed no part of a systematic approach to stereo 
recording. It is in no way comparable to e.g. Blumlein's experiments (that I 
have on vinyl coarse-groove pressings).

In fact, by signal processing to obtain a "stereo" image in two modern 
channels, the possibility of listening in to the prevalent MONO soundscapes  
is destroyed. Each of the two historical channels could have been a source to 
a historical audio perspective, which is interesting in itself, because that 
is what was commercialised at the time. I have a copy of a notebook by a 
trainee at the EMI studios in the 1930s, which shows the microphone 
placements in various recording situations and also makes it very clear that 
most orchestral recordings would use more than one microphone. Some of the 
EMI mono recordings on 78 have a wonderful depth to them, which means that 
there is a suitable admixture of reflected sound to the direct sound, and 
that the various time delays have not been tampered with to a degree that the 
ear can distinguish.

Although I regard accidental stereo as a freak, I shall nevertheless buy the 
Pristine CD, but I shall listen to the tracks in MONO, channel by channel. 
But I shall be sad that the two channels have been individually tweaked in 
order to obtain a modern stereo perspective. Fake of the first order.

Humankind is always attracted to freak shows, and our senses are so eager for 
input and for novelty that we blithely accept any kind of experiment, and 
given suitable publicity (hype), the output may even be commercial. Think of 
the RCA Soundstream Caruso (and John McCormack). What they obtained (for 
Caruso) was Bjoerling's voice modulated by Caruso's phrasing, a fact that is 
quite obvious from the "blind deconvolution" paper by Stockham et al. in 
1975. That Stockham's results could also be used artistically is beyond 
question: "Any Resemblance is Purely Coincidental" by Charles Dodge (1980) 
could not have been created without it.

And if we are really, really honest, did we not experience a similar thing 
"accidental and hype" in connection with First Sounds and the creation of 
sounds from phonautograms? We have never had a satisfactory technical answer 
to how the loops created by the original tracing stylus were decoded, if 
indeed they were. 

But getting sounds from accidental sources is great fun and is also used 
artistically direct from graphics to sound, converting the signals to fit 
into our audible range. Percy Grainger, Daphne Oram were great pioneers. We 
have all heard about the the songs of whales, of the Universe 
(radio-astronomy) and the sound of playing the temporal line on a skull by a 
pickup ("the Sound of Nature Itself"). The whole field is known as 
"sonification" and is also used analytically on large data sets.

Now we come to Keith Hardwick (no -e). He took over from Arthur Griffiths and 
Bryan Crimp, and compared to them he did a lousy job. He was basically a 
record collector (had been since his Navy days), and I truly believe his 
hearing had suffered. Spectral analyses I made in the mid 1980s proved that 
he would emphasize a fairly narrow frequency range about 4500 Hz (if I 
remember correctly), and when a British colleague and I wrote a letter about 
it to the Gramophone (London), it was refused. They probably still have a 
policy that you do not bite the hand that buys advertising space. The EMI 
re-issues were renowned, not for their quality (because so few could compare 
them with the originals), but for their giving access to vault material. At 
the time I measured his work I made re-balanced versions for my own 
listening. Hardwick himself amassed a huge collection of white- (or blue-) 
label vinyl versions of the original metals, because the extras he had 
ordered pressed for re-issue work never went back to the vaults, where they 
could have saved a further run of galvanos in future projects. From time to 
time you see such vinyls on lists, but I am not saying he was the source.

So, as ever searching for the "authentic" and clarity of thought, I shall now 
sink back into the oblivion from which I came.

Best wishes,


From:	Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>
To:	[log in to unmask] 
Subject:	[ARSCLIST] Duke Ellington accidental stereo comparison
Date sent:	Thu, 4 Sep 2014 20:25:37 -0400

> I have finally amassed (thanks to Helpful Others) full-resolution WAV files
> of the 1985 Brad 
> Kay/Steve Lasker LP version and the 1999 RCA/BMG (Lasker providing files to
> Seth Winner for sync and 
> restoration) version. Also included in the ZIP archive are scans of the LP
> liner notes concerning 
> the two 1932 accidental stereo recordings.
> Opinions are likely to vary on which "sounds better" because the tonality is
> very different and 
> different restoration and sync methods were used.
> As I said before, I believe that,  for whatever reason that the RCA/BMG
> reissues are out of phase. 
> My reasoning -- one man's hearing impressions -- is as follows:
> 1. assuming the mic setups were as diagrammed by Kay/Lasker in the LP liner
> notes, what should be 
> dead center is not at all in the center.
> 2. even if the Kay/Lasker mic diagram is incorrect, even if the two mics
> were on opposite corners of 
> the room, the piano shouldn't sound like it's in two different places at
> once, which it does on the 
> RCA reissues.
> 3. there is far too much difference information prevailent in the RCA
> reissues. Whereas the 
> Kay/Lasker version sounds like two recording setups were made in about the
> same place (since the 
> engineer would likely know what was a good single-mic pickup in the
> controlled environment of the 
> recording studio, why wouldn't this be the case?), with the difference
> information being mainly 
> "room tone" and some arrival time differences for instruments further back
> in the room. In other 
> words, if two mics were placed relatively close together in a typical
> highly-deadened 1930s 
> recording studio, there wouldn't be all that much "stereophony" recorded,
> but there would be suble 
> clues about where instruments sit in the depth of the room and also what
> reflections are coming off 
> which walls when, giving more of sense of the room size and reverberncy than
> a "spread out" ensemble 
> such as one would get with close-micing everything and then creating a
> mixed-out-of-the-ether 
> sound-picture (ala most 1970s big band records).
> What may have happened was that one of the recorders or microphones was
> wired in opposite polarity 
> from the other, so if both disks were played back on the same system, one
> side would be out of phase 
> to the other. It's also possible that the transfer Lasker brought to Winner
> (Seth said he didn't do 
> the disk-to-digital transfers) were made at different times on different
> playback systems that were 
> in opposite polarity. What does surprise me is that Steve Lasker didn't
> refer to his own earlier 
> stereo LP work and use it as a reference, when the later version is clearly
> very different 
> stereophony and indeed sounds like stereotypical (pun intended) out of phase
> stereophony.
> Finally, it's just my personal taste, and I understand possible reasons for
> why it wasn't done, but 
> I would have gone after that high-pitched tone that's very audible on the
> RCA reissue. I don't care 
> if I took out the little bit of high treble present in the recordings, I
> would have notched or 
> low-passed it. Very little of the musical energy is in frequencies where
> that tone is and the tone 
> is really annoying to my ears. Seth told me that it's "groove chatter"
> caused by the wax cooling 
> while the recording was being made, that it would thus be present on all
> pressings of the recording, 
> and that it was likely aggressively notched and high-passed on the LP
> version. He also said that the 
> transfers for the LP version may have been played back with RIAA EQ, which
> would have rolled off the 
> top end more aggressively. How to deal with tone was in the purview of the
> RCA reissue producer. 
> Were I the producer, I would have sacrificed the bright CD sound quality to
> get rid of or severely 
> attenuate that tone. It's worth noting that nowadays, with modern
> spectrum-"healing" tools, you can 
> go about it more precisely and less brute-force than could be done in
> 1999.
> -- Tom Fine