HI, Brandon,

Keep in mind that the ARSC Journal happily publishes articles exploring
topics involving recordings, especially historical recordings.

John Haley

On Sat, May 2, 2015 at 11:21 AM, Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>

> 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 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
>>>>> 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