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