Friday, February 27, 2009


As with almost any new technology, when stereo recording first reached the general public in the 1950's people found gimmicky ways to use it. Today's selection is a prime example of "Stereo Action" from the oeuvre of percussionist Dick Schory, formerly with the Chicago Symphony.

From the liner notes:
Comments on the Recording Session: About 1900, in Chicago, the more powerful members of society got together and cajoled each other into raising the necessary funds for a building to house the Chicago Symphony. They could not know then that Chicago’s Orchestra Hall would become one of this country’s few perfect recording halls. RCA Victor takes full advantage of what the Hall offers in recording Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony and the wild sounds of Dick Schory.
With the first electronic recordings, sensitive equipment and near-perfect microphones (specifically with the magnetic tape recorder and LP record) the recording engineer began to develop an awareness of what he termed "room sounds." These are a blend of the direct sounds from performers, and the reverberant sound energy in the Hall (sounds reflected from surrounding walls which return to the microphone within specific time lapses). Of course, the engineer still couldn’t get the feeling of spatial dimension on the monophonic recording, because no matter how perfect the engineering work was the ear wasn’t fooled. When stereophonic sound replaced the existing monophonic sound with first one, then other simultaneous hi-fi recording channels, the illusion of dimension was accomplished. The human hearing system then could enjoy the illusion of depth dimension and acoustical reality. This is not intended to imply that two or three-channel stereophonic sound played back in your own home is better than the concert’s live sound; it only suggests, ever so slightly, that to the writer stereophonic sound is more enjoyable.

There aren’t any hard and fast rules about which stereo recording you should prefer. They range in content from the two-channel monophonic sound with ultimate separation and "Ping Pong" to the more natural sound, which spreads the instruments between speakers and gives the illusion of depth from behind each speaker, as if it were to spread across the wall. This depth dimension is offered by the exceptional acoustics of Orchestra Hall and sets Schory’s recordings apart from other current "Spectacular Sound" albums. In all of his previous recordings—Music for Bang, Baa-room and Harp (LPM/LSP-1866), Percussion! (From Melody to Madness)—Music to Break Any Mood (LPM/LSP-2125) and Wild Percussion and Horns A’Plenty (LPM/LSP-2289)—Schory has taken full advantage of this important acoustical element.

STEREO ACTION is a conscious and deliberate effort to set music in motion by actually moving the sound of various instruments from one speaker to the other, and at times suspending it in the space between. It can smoothly float or excitingly sweep a solo instrument or group of instruments across the room before you. This pioneering adventure of "music in motion" is the result of extensive experiments and technical developments by a corps of RCA Victor personnel.
Musical motion is first conceived by the composer or arranger. He must score every note of his music with Stereo Action in mind, as if it was the musical voice of an instrument. An elaborate system of charting each and every instrument for proper stereo placement guides the scoring itself. A companion series of schematic diagrams for the physical placement of instruments and microphones are developed for each selection.

The stage of Orchestra Hall, which comfortably accommodates the full Chicago Symphony Orchestra, is a jam-packed maze of two truckloads of brass and percussion instruments, 23 musicians, microphones and other recording gear. Conductor Dick Schory is perched high on his podium in full command of the musical activities. Deep down under the stage, producer Marty Gold works wonders in coordinating musicians, sound men, engineers, stagehands and people running for coffee.

Engineer Bob Simpson is seated at the controls of his specially built twelve position three-channel mixing console. A new passive phantom mixer designed by Joe Wells offers an additional channel providing four more microphone inputs for the new feats of Stereo Action. Two Ampex 300-3 three-channel tape recorders manned by technician Ronnie Steele are set in operation to faithfully preserve the musical scores. Three-channel Altec audio monitoring equipment guides the control room activities.

In order for Bob Simpson to have full facility of the fine room sound of Orchestra Hall, Telefunken U74m’s condenser microphones—and one U49—are placed high out over the tenth row with 360 degree pattern set. The rhythm section is tightly placed in center stage and covered by three RCA 77DX ribbon mikes. The section feeding the center channel and the phantom circuit uses one or more Telefunken KM56 condenser mikes, depending on instrumentation. The lead guitar, in various positions for different selections, is close miked with an RCA 77DX ribbon. The various percussion instruments are covered by additional Telefunken KM56’s, with rhythm drums covered by a Telefunken 201. The harp was covered by a Telefunken KM54, because of its effective pickup pattern. In all, a multiple mike setup employing 16 mikes is used.

Now, the only way to demonstrate how all this complicated array of talent and technical devices produces a recording you want to hear is to listen. This recording is a superior accomplishment of musical composition and engineering skill, all for the purpose of giving you entertainment through "the sound your eyes can follow."
Robert Oaks Jordan

Dick Schory: Runnin’ Wild, RCA Victor LSA-2306
Recorded in Orchestra Hall, Chicago. Produced by Marty Gold
Recording Engineer: Bob Simpson. Mastering: Richard B Gardner. Released in March 1961.

Side One: Brass Jockeys, Me and My Shadow, Portrait in Jazz, Mama’s Gone, Goodbye, But Not for Me, Love for Sale
Side Two: Runnin’ Wild, Lazy Bones, Down Home Rag, Greensleeves, Bully, Thou Swell

Note: this will be a special "treat" for those of you listening on headphones/earbuds or with inner ear problems. It made me stumble and stagger when walking around listening to it.

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Blogger TheCzarsOf45 said...

Wide Stereo separation fun at it's very best. One of the best and most sought after by Exotica and Easy collectors of the whole Stereo Action lineup. And has 2 city block wide stereo separation. The music is good and fun. The arrangements are interesting. If you can find a copy, seek out the Ray Martin LP in the series, it is really fine.

10:51 PM  

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