Thursday, April 26, 2007

Reactions to the Record, 3

A few odd ends, then I'll get to serious blogging about the various sessions.
  • Jerry McBride is the Head Librarian of the Stanford Music Library and Archive of Recorded Sound. During his session on the history of recording, he played a 78 using a steel needle, then again using a cactus spine. The effect was astonishing: a 90% reduction in surface noise. It's also true that the sound was more muffled than with the steel needle. This solved, for me, the mystery of why the Nimbus Prima Voce 78 transfers are so quiet: they use cactus spines for needles. I am not advocating that people buy Prima Voce transfers, which are problematic in other ways, but it was good to find out why they are so damn quiet.

  • I was talking about this with a couple of record collectors after the symposium ended. One of them mentioned the notorious Studio 8H, from which so many Toscanini concerts were broadcast. It is famously dry on record, to the detriment of Toscanini's orchestral sound. One of the collectors told me he has a 1932 Philco radio that he wired to take input from non-radio sources. He says that played through the Philco, the Toscanini concert recordings are anything but dry.

  • I was waiting, just WAITING, for some wag to make a Joyce Hatto joke. I was even prepared to BE that wag. But Nicholas Cook, from CHARM, was a presenter, and he is one of the scholars who outed Hatto, so I think there was no way anyone was going to joke about her. He has, I'm sure, heard enough Hatto jokes to last him a lifetime.

    I got in a good one anyway. When George Barth, one of the organizers, was loading a piano roll onto a reproducing piano, the hydraulics, er, air compressor was operating, and some random pitches got played in random durations. There was some snickering from the assembled multitudes, to which I responded "What, you haven't heard the Webern piano rolls?"

1 comment:

Michael Walsh said...

Nice zinger!

It never occurred to me to think about the radios receiving those old Toscanini performances. You'd have thought someone else would have and re-engineered them for modern playback equipment.