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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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Baby it's cold outside...

so time for some more covers.

This is the grand-daddy of the Under The Covers series - edition 1.0, and it kicks off with one of my favorite bands, The Clash.

You'll note a few question marks in the artist list - please leave a comment if you can ID these mystery artists.

Under The Covers 01a
Under The Covers 01b

Side One
The Clash – I Fought The Law
John Cale – Heartbreak Hotel
Adrian Belew – I’m Down
Sweethearts of the Rodeo - I Feel Fine
Devo – Satisfaction
Love Tractor - Party Train
63 Monroe – White Christmas
Phantom, Rocker, and Slick - Long Cool Woman
Cyndi Lauper – What’s Going On?
Art of Noise – Dragnet
Neville Brothers – Drift Away
Dave Perkins and Steve Taylor – Turn Turn Turn
The Dickies – Banana Splits Theme
Dave Edmunds – Baby I Love You
???? – Eight Miles High
Shaun Cassidy – Rebel Rebel
The Dickies – Nights In White Satin

Side Two
Kenny Vance- Heartbreak Hotel
Tommy Keene – When The Whip Comes Down
Talking Heads – Take Me To The River
Delbert McClinton - Take Me To The River
Pop-O-Pies – I Am The Walrus
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Subterranean Homesick Blues
The Residents – Satisfaction
Los Lobos – Come On, Let’s Go
Judas Priest – Johnny B. Goode
REM – Toys In The Attic
The Bobs - Little Red Riding Hood
The Coolies – Mrs. Robinson
Newcity Rockers - Black Dog (remix)
Flotsam and Jetsam – Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting
Johnny Cash - Johnny 99
Joan Jett - Roadrunner

Monday, February 23, 2009

This blog gets a lot of traffic from people searching on the Cutec 4-track recorder, as I have posted several stories about using it back in the 80's to record a lot of local bands. Often the searches are image searches. So, to help satisfy those searches, here's a picture (image) of a Cutec MR402 four-track (4-track, fourtrack) cassette recorder:

The cassette door was removed ages ago as it was jamming closed.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Professional Academy of Broadcasting

The Professional Academy of Broadcasting was (is?) a Knoxville institution for a long time - AFAIK it started up back in the early 70's and lasted at least into the 90's. Does it still exist? I can't find a website, which would seem to be a good life/death test for a current media-based business. There are a lot of references to it on Knoxville radio history websites (see sidebar).

I taught there for a semester, but the date is hazy - it would have been sometime after I finished my graduate work at UT in the Broadcasting Department, which puts it after about 87 but before 90, when I was teaching at a private school in Seymour, and it couldn't have been 88/89, when I was teaching at Farragutt High School. The 80's are a little. . .vague in spots.

I was fired after (or maybe even before the end of) that semester, for being too (paraphrased) "academic" or "rigorous" - well, what did you expect from someone who recently came out of grad school?

Anyway, today's audio special is a recruiting disc from the Professional Academy of Broadcasting, voiced primarily by the owner Russ Skinner. I'd like to think that it was produced in the actual studios of PAB, but given the equipment that was there when I was there, I'd speculate that it was done somewhere else. The disc itself is one of those plastic, floppy flexi-discs, or in this case an "Evatone Soundsheet", to give it its official name.
I like the offer to "evaluate your abilities to work in the broadcast industry" - more likely "evaluate the status of your bank balance" - does anyone think any applicant ever got turned down?

*read: excited when you get an actual paycheck that covers the rent and food.

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