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Country Blues => Weenie Campbell Main Forum => Topic started by: orvillej on April 08, 2015, 10:34:02 PM

Title: American Epic PBS
Post by: orvillej on April 08, 2015, 10:34:02 PM
Anybody post about this yet? Looks pretty interesting. Here's a link to the trailer...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jcbATyomETw (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jcbATyomETw)

There was something about it in the NYT today, too, but I don't have that link.

American Epic, three-part historical documentary and The American Epic Sessions, a feature-length recording studio film will air in Fall 2015 on PBS and BBC Arena.
Official Site: http://www.americanepic.com (http://www.americanepic.com)
Like American Epic on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/americanepic (https://www.facebook.com/americanepic)
Follow @AmericanEpic on Twitter: https://twitter.com/americanepic (https://twitter.com/americanepic)
Follow @AmericanEpic on Instagram: http://instagram.com/americanepic (http://instagram.com/americanepic)

Executive produced by T Bone Burnett, Robert Redford and Jack White.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS and BBC (UK)
Post by: hms on April 09, 2015, 05:44:27 AM
That looks great, on the BBC also for those of us in the UK!
With Jack Black's involvement I would suspect the Wisconsin Chair Company gets a mention AKA Paramount Records.
I wonder how this ties in to the Paramount boxed sets, if at all?
Looking forward to this.
h
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: jpeters609 on April 09, 2015, 06:40:11 AM
Finally seeing Alan Lomax's actual footage of Honeyboy Edwards in Clarksdale, Mississippi, from the time of his Library of Congress recordings in 1942 - that is what I'm excited about. I wonder if that Sonny Boy Williamson & Robert Lockwood film from King Biscuit Time will also be included in its entirety.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Slack on April 09, 2015, 06:41:46 AM
Looks great - Jerron Paxton is one artist featured!
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: TenBrook on April 13, 2017, 08:39:50 AM
Looks like this may actually be out there for our eyes and ears soon, though the only site with info on an air date for the first episode (May 16th) is the local NYC PBS website. I'm assuming it will follow shortly or on the same days for the rest of the U.S. but my local PBS site doesn't have any info.

http://www.thirteen.org/13pressroom/press-release/american-epic/ (http://www.thirteen.org/13pressroom/press-release/american-epic/)

I also found this listing (which sadly lacks artist info though most of us can likely infer who is who) for what I assume is the Columbia box set that will be released as a companion to the documentary. Third Man Records is also set to release a vinyl box set though there's no details on that yet as far as I can tell.

https://www.sounds.nl/detail/3476293/cd/ost/american_epic:__-box_set- (https://www.sounds.nl/detail/3476293/cd/ost/american_epic:__-box_set-)
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Stuart on April 13, 2017, 09:42:55 AM
Thanks Lew. It looks like the Seattle PBS station will be following the Thirteen/WNET schedule:

https://kcts9.org/programs/american-epic
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: arlotone on May 08, 2017, 08:07:19 AM
Here's the schedule for OPB in Portland, Oregon:

http://www.opb.org/television/programs/american-epic/
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: blueshome on May 08, 2017, 03:28:29 PM
BBC4 21st May Time TBC.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: TenBrook on May 09, 2017, 07:39:50 AM
Looks like the CD box set companion to the documentary is available for pre-order on Amazon, and the listing has the full details on the tracks.

https://www.amazon.com/American-Epic-Collection-Various/dp/B0184U96LG/ref=pd_sim_14_3/135-7758487-2678661?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B0184U96LG&pd_rd_r=9DBXMRQ53V5PHVBWX6ZV&pd_rd_w=558xg&pd_rd_wg=EBtIh&psc=1&refRID=9DBXMRQ53V5PHVBWX6ZV (https://www.amazon.com/American-Epic-Collection-Various/dp/B0184U96LG/ref=pd_sim_14_3/135-7758487-2678661?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B0184U96LG&pd_rd_r=9DBXMRQ53V5PHVBWX6ZV&pd_rd_w=558xg&pd_rd_wg=EBtIh&psc=1&refRID=9DBXMRQ53V5PHVBWX6ZV)

Also Third Man records has some more info on their slated 'American Epic' releases. Looks like in addition to a blues collection and a country collection they are planning on doing LPs focusing on specific artists including Blind Willie Johnson, the Carter Family and the Memphis Jug Band. More on those can be found here (scroll to the bottom for the details and links on more info on the LPs):
https://thirdmanrecords.com/news/third-man-records-set-to-release-american-epic-recordings-on-vinyl/ (https://thirdmanrecords.com/news/third-man-records-set-to-release-american-epic-recordings-on-vinyl/)
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: outfidel on May 15, 2017, 09:30:46 AM
Here's an article in Rolling Stone:

'American Epic': Inside Jack White and Friends' Obsessive Roots-Music Doc (http://www.rollingstone.com/music/features/american-epic-inside-jack-whites-new-roots-music-doc-w482170)
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Stuart on May 15, 2017, 01:04:06 PM
Thanks for the link to the RS article, Michael.

Here (again) is the link to the CD set on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/American-Epic-Collection-Box-Set/dp/B0184U96LG/

The soundtrack CD:

https://www.amazon.com/American-Epic-Soundtrack-Various/dp/B06XTF1FGV/

The Sessions CD:

https://www.amazon.com/Music-American-Epic-Sessions-Deluxe/dp/B0725538L1/

The companion book:

https://www.amazon.com/American-Epic-First-America-Itself/dp/1501135600/

Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: TenBrook on May 16, 2017, 01:02:59 PM
Here's another write up that goes into a little more detail on the subject and approach of each episode of the series. And, of course, if you're in the US you should be able to tune in to your local PBS station to watch the first episode tonight.

http://acousticguitar.com/dont-miss-pbs-roots-music-documentary-series-american-epic/ (http://acousticguitar.com/dont-miss-pbs-roots-music-documentary-series-american-epic/)
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Chezztone on May 16, 2017, 02:05:56 PM
I saw a lengthy preview of this at a film festival last year, and I have to admit I enjoyed only the blues segments. I predict many of you will have the same reaction. I might wait for a recording of this so I can skip through the other parts! Cheers, Narrow-Focus Chezz
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Stuart on May 16, 2017, 02:21:19 PM
Thanks for the link to the AG piece, Lew.

The libraries here have the DVD on order so put in a purchase request to your local library if it doesn't show up on a search. The same goes for the CD sets.

Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: arlotone on May 16, 2017, 07:16:03 PM
You can also order a DVD of the complete series here:

http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=129408276

The fourth episode, American Epic Sessions, looks interesting. I'm not sure I need to see Elton John performing roots music, but the producers recreated a complete 1930's recording studio and I can't wait to see how that works.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: TenBrook on May 17, 2017, 08:18:12 AM
Speaking of the recording unit that was restored and used for the 'American Epic Sessions', Wired just posted an article focusing on that aspect of the documentary. Unfortunately it seems mostly to be about promoting the documentary and does that pretty poorly. There are a few details though on how the recording gear they used was restored, you can skip to the end for that.

https://www.wired.com/2017/05/american-epic-return-of-the-lathe/ (https://www.wired.com/2017/05/american-epic-return-of-the-lathe/)
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Stuart on May 17, 2017, 12:30:55 PM
Here are some links from a previous post that may be relevant:

http://www.uncut.co.uk/news/jack-white-and-t-bone-burnett-collaborating-on-music-documentary-22148

http://www.mainspringpress.com/book_rec20.html

http://www.mainspringpress.com/victorsales.html

https://78records.wordpress.com/

I've also attached: "The Impact of Radio on the Recording Industry - Stan Leibowitz"

Here's the original post--some of the links are no longer functional.

http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=8980.msg87082#msg87082

Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: TenBrook on May 17, 2017, 12:37:34 PM
Thanks Stuart, having that all in one place is helpful and I look forward to reading the pdf you attached. I've had 'Recording the 'Twenties' on my list of books to acquire and read but had to stop pursuing that list after acquiring too many other books and not reading nearly enough.

Also, for anyone unable to catch the first episode in the American Epic series last night it looks like PBS has added it to their site for streaming.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: CF on May 17, 2017, 06:53:13 PM
Here's part one, viewable at PBS online. I'm Canadian and had to use a VPN to watch it, worked great.

http://www.pbs.org/video/3000889893/
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: alyoung on May 18, 2017, 03:01:59 AM
The tracklisting for the five-CD set is here: http://www.vintagevinylnews.com/2017/04/soundtrack-to-pbs-series-american-epic.html
Many familiar faces here, but the mastering is said to be excellent.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: TenBrook on May 18, 2017, 08:53:22 AM
I was just wondering when we'd be able to preview the American Epic box set and lo and behold it popped up on youtube.

The link to the entire playlist:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oh3BGhJh0oA&list=PLrawtFf1xjBaGj1f2Sy4gaA6J7viHwLzo&index=1
 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oh3BGhJh0oA&list=PLrawtFf1xjBaGj1f2Sy4gaA6J7viHwLzo&index=1)

And here's Garfield Akers 'Cottonfield Blues, Pt. 2':
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxD5hwj4PEY (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxD5hwj4PEY)
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: lindy on May 18, 2017, 09:29:17 AM
Hmm, no credit for Joe Callicott on 'Conttonfield' ...
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: TenBrook on May 18, 2017, 09:43:55 AM
Lindy, if you go to youtube and expand the details it states "Guitar: Joe Calicott", but still, seems like including him in the artist credit might have been more appropriate.

Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: CF on May 18, 2017, 03:00:25 PM
I'm listening now on Spotify, sounds great.
I have all of these songs so many times over, even in this better sound, I'm not likely to purchase it unless at a reduced price.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Stuart on May 18, 2017, 03:09:56 PM
Thanks for the track listing, Al--and for the YouTube link, Lew.

Yeah, there are many old favorites there, but like CF says, for some of us buying what we already own just doesn't make a lot of sense and will be difficult to justify.

Hopefully, American Epic--the TV show, book and CD releases--will bring awareness of American roots music to a wider audience and add a few more converts to the fold.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: outfidel on May 19, 2017, 09:59:26 AM
I normally don't care much for modern interpretations of old folk/blues songs -- I'd prefer to listen to the original. But in episode 1 of American Epic, I though the hip-hopified version of "On the Road Again" by Nas with Jack White was pretty cool.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qIj5rFxeHFo
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: CF on May 19, 2017, 06:09:16 PM
I agree, Outfidel. I was surprised how well it worked
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Stuart on May 21, 2017, 11:12:56 AM
I got the book from the library yesterday and have been flipping through it. There are a lot of great photos and excerpts from interviews with the musicians, etc. I'd definitely recommend that you take a look.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: outfidel on May 23, 2017, 10:37:18 AM
John Tefteller says (on Facebook) that the Mississippi John Hurt segment (in episode 3) includes never-before-seen footage from Newport Folk Festival
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: TenBrook on May 24, 2017, 09:04:18 AM
I enjoyed the 1st episode of American Epic but last night's was even better. Mainly, I think, because they dove deeply into some musicians I knew of but knew almost nothing about, including Elder J.E. Burch and Dick Justice. I especially loved the revelation that Dizzy Gillespie used to sit in the back and listen to the sanctified singing of Elder Burch's church and claimed it impacted his own music. Listening to "My Heart Keeps Singing" I never would have imagined the influence of the man (and women) who recorded it stretched so far forward and far out.

Anyone who missed the 2nd episode can catch it here (in the US at least, I believe the BBC is also posting the episodes for those in the UK and hopefully other countries as well).
http://www.pbs.org/video/3001151407/ (http://www.pbs.org/video/3001151407/)

And anyone interested in reading more about Dizzy's thoughts on Elder Burch and sanctified singing can read excerpts from his autobiography here:
https://books.google.com/books?id=ACApPO-A3OYC&pg=PA31&dq=dizzy+gillespie+elder+burch&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi8ztjD9IjUAhUEopQKHffYDS0Q6AEIKDAA#v=onepage&q=dizzy%20gillespie%20elder%20burch&f=false (https://books.google.com/books?id=ACApPO-A3OYC&pg=PA31&dq=dizzy+gillespie+elder+burch&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi8ztjD9IjUAhUEopQKHffYDS0Q6AEIKDAA#v=onepage&q=dizzy%20gillespie%20elder%20burch&f=false)
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: CF on May 24, 2017, 09:44:11 AM
I'm finding this series a disappointment so far. It feels very random & unfocused, like the producers found a few scraps of ephemera like some photos & film footage and then cobbled this together around those finds. 
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: TenBrook on May 24, 2017, 09:57:51 AM
CF,
I agree though reading interviews with the filmmakers it seems that that was their intent, i.e. they didn't set out to make a cohesive documentary on the history of '20s and '30s non-popular recordings but rather a documentary of their personal journey to discover more about a few artists they were particularly interested in, a journey that led them to discover photos and footage and to conduct interviews with those still living that had connections to the musicians, they then used all of that as the basis for the documentary. That said, I agree a more sweeping and cohesive documentary would be nice, but I'll still take what they were able to give.

Lew
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Stuart on May 24, 2017, 10:05:15 AM
I enjoyed last night's episode as well. I thought that it was interesting how they delved into Elder Burch and his influence. And who can hate seeing Charley Patton in prime time?

CF: I understand your point and why you find it disappointing, but while many of us would put together a quite different and greatly expanded series about American roots music, etc., given the time and resources, I'm choosing to look at American Epic for what it does, and not for what it doesn't do. I think that by limiting the focus to a few people, they avoid the "mile wide, inch deep" approach. (I'd prefer a thousand miles wide and a thousand miles deep, but one can't do that in three hours). Anyway, I'm enjoying both watching them present information about things that I didn't know, along with the human element (relatives and descendants), as well as things that I already know about. But that's just my approach and opinion and you are certainly equally entitled to your own.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: jpeters609 on May 24, 2017, 10:29:55 AM
The highlight for me was the Alan Lomax footage of Honeyboy Edwards from 1942 (and in color, too). They did a nice job of dubbing his L.O.C. recording of "Army Blues" over the clip. It synced up nicely -- it looks like that was indeed the song he was singing when the silent film was shot.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Slack on May 24, 2017, 12:08:43 PM
I agree Jeff, the Honeyboy mashup was great!!
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: btasoundsradio on May 24, 2017, 02:29:41 PM
It was very cool seeing Charlie's descendants, but I wish they would've tied the story together better such as how the Cannon's were actually related to him along with more about his life and some of his story. I was glad they showed his huge impact on the birth of the blues into rock n roll and played some of his songs etc. Sound quality was amazing, as was the flood footage.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: outfidel on May 24, 2017, 03:23:14 PM
I really like the series -- I only wish there was more of it! Ken Burns devoted 19 hours to jazz -- 3 1/2 hours for American roots music just isn't enough for me.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: islandgal on May 24, 2017, 04:14:09 PM
I agree. It would be great to see more, but I am enjoying it for what it does have and learning about people I hadn't heard of like Elder Burch.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: oddenda on May 24, 2017, 11:13:50 PM
islandgal -

          That's the intelligent and useful way to approach something like this. Accept it for what it is. Good on ya', as they say here in Oz.

peter b

Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Gilgamesh on May 26, 2017, 05:08:07 AM
I believe this project started out as Bernard MacMahon trying to find out what ever happened to the musicians on Harry Smith's "Anthology." I remember someone talking about that in 2005. The "Anthology" was mentioned during Episode 2, but I guess this original idea was abandoned as being too esoteric for PBS. But if you noticed that a lot of the people/songs (not all) featured in American Epic are "Anthology" artists, it isn't coincidental.

It shows that this project has been gestating for a long time. I imagine Bernard and his crew compiled tons of footage; a shame that it had to be condensed to only three hours.

I enjoyed the Elder Burch material, though Dizzy Gillespie's modern jazz intruded strangely upon a bunch of acoustic blues, gospel and country. But it shows how everything was connected.

The David Edwards 1942 footage was amazing.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Lastfirstface on May 26, 2017, 06:52:48 AM
I watched the second episode last night and I also kept thinking "this had to originally be focused around the Anthology." Almost all the people they focus on were on the AAFM. It seems to have a long, drawn-out production history based on the fact that it includes a lot of things seemingly filmed a decade ago, and I'm curious to know if PBS revived an earlier Anthology-focused documentary attempt and shifted the focus.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: TenBrook on May 26, 2017, 08:07:57 AM
Thanks for the insights Gilgamesh, it is interesting that this project has taken so long to complete, it's hard to imagine staying focused on a project for so long, but I'm glad they did. I haven't read anything about the 'Anthology of American Folk Music' inspiration for the film, though I too noticed that most of the artists featured in Episodes 1 and 2 also appeared on the Anthology and of course the box set heavily features not only artists from the Anthology but often the same songs. Though honestly I think anyone making a documentary on 1920s and 30s old time, blues, cajun etc would be hard pressed to not have a huge overlap with the Anthology. It's also worth noting that the 3rd episode features Lydia Mendoza and Hopi Indian Dancers who sadly don't appear on the Anthology.

Lastfirstface, I don't get the feeling that PBS had much to do with the actual content of the documentary. It appears to have started as a passion project of Bernard McMahon who later brought in others and then likely partnered with PBS and the BBC. That said, a documentary focused solely on the Anthology would be wonderful.

Here's a little more on one of the initial sparks for 'American Epic':

"In 2006, the filmmaker Bernard MacMahon travelled to Cumbria to interview three musicians performing at the Mayport Bitter And Blues Festival. At the time, Honeyboy Edwards, Homesick James and Robert Lockwood Jnr were all in their nineties. Although he admits now that he had no specific project in mind, MacMahon instinctively knew he had to document the memories of 'the three oldest surviving blues men'." More here: http://www.uncut.co.uk/blog/americas-greatest-untold-story-100075 (http://www.uncut.co.uk/blog/americas-greatest-untold-story-100075)

Also, here's a link to an mp3 of an interview with Bernard McMahon, the audio isn't the greatest and it starts out a little slow but there's some nice insights into how driven McMahon was to find the ephemera and behind the scenes stories of the musicians who recorded in the '20s and '30s and how the early recordings were made.

https://www.analogplanet.com/images/0517BMcMahon.MP3 (https://www.analogplanet.com/images/0517BMcMahon.MP3)
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: TenBrook on May 26, 2017, 09:12:36 AM
A couple of interesting take aways from listening to the above mentioned interview with McMahon:
1) Some of the songs used in the box set were pressed to vinyl from the original metal plates and then transferred in order to include in the box set.
2) They spent a long time hunting down the best copies of the records that couldn't be repressed from the original plates. And in doing so they found that EMI in England has a trove of pristine copies of every Victor record pressed from 1906 through '19-thirtysomething'.

Here's T Bone Burnett expounding on that:
"A friend of Bernard (MacMahon, the documentary director and soundtrack album compiler) was painting the Hayes archive north of London, a big warehouse north of London where the EMI tape library is. He came back to Bernard and said, ?You know, those RCA records you love, there are boxes and boxes of them in the Hayes archive.? Bernard went up there, sure enough, there were crates. It turned out that in 1906, the head of RCA ? which was the first record company in the United States ? went to England to compare notes with the head of EMI, which was the first record company in the world. And as he was leaving, he saw a Nipper, and he said, ?I love your logo ? his master?s voice. Would you mind if I put it on my records?? And the head of EMI said, ?No, I wouldn?t, as long as you send me one copy of every record you press with my logo on it.? So from 1906 to 19-thirtysomething, there was one pristine copy of every RCA 78 sent to the Hayes archive. And it?s there ? 30,000 records, pristine.?
From here: http://variety.com/2017/music/news/t-bone-burnett-american-epic-jack-white-pbs-1202429519/ (http://variety.com/2017/music/news/t-bone-burnett-american-epic-jack-white-pbs-1202429519/)
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Gilgamesh on May 26, 2017, 03:36:53 PM
I'm thunderstruck by this Hayes Archive news. If MacMahon didn't know about it, I assume that the rest of the 78 record world was unaware of it also?
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: oddenda on May 26, 2017, 07:54:33 PM
The Hayes archive has been known for some time. That's where the Jack Goudelock 78 and the last Luke Jordan came from for "The Blues Collection" #84 a few years back! I did not know it was so deep and wide, though.

pbl
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: jpeters609 on May 28, 2017, 09:28:28 AM
The Hayes archive of Victor recordings has been known about and accessed for many years. John R.T. Davies made extensive use of it, for instance, while remastering the many reissues on the Frog (UK) label.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Mr.OMuck on May 28, 2017, 11:03:20 AM
The piece where HoneyBoy is talking about contemporary Blues singers having "Different" Vocal chords than their generation did, is really fascinating. I wish that had been explored a little more deeply. Homesick Jame's assertion that its because they didn't have to yell commands at Mules is interesting but wasn't what Honeyboy was really touching on I think. I wonder what he was hearing as the most significant differences, and what he thought accounted for them. The '42 footage of him was really amazing. But I do agree with Mike that there is a bit too much of a scrap-book feel to the program overall.
This is aside from the fact that seeing the children of some of these mythic 78 entities and hearing how tough their lives were, takes a bit of the imagined gloss off of them. Ultimately better that way I guess.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Mr.OMuck on May 28, 2017, 11:21:36 AM
It also bears repeating re. the Harry Smith Anthology, that there was already a fairly robust Folk revival/topical song Union/Left movement going on in New York going back as far as the 30's and centered around, Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Josh White, Sonny and Brownie, Jean Richie, Pete Seeger and driven in large part by Alan Lomax who quite aside from the vast repertoires of the previously mentioned artists, many of whom knew the contents of the Harry Smith anthology, or variations thereof , from first hand sources, was already sitting on a very sizable archive. The songs that launched and drove the Folk revival really owed more to this group of songs than to the storied Smith Anthology, which I suspect was in large part an effort to supply the first recordings of songs already circulating, in the Folk circles he would have been involved with.
For what its worth, folklorist, musician and compiler of "The Secret Museum of Mankind" series for Schanichie, Pat Conte and I are in agreement about Lomax'x primary influence and the exaggerated importance of the Harry Smith anthology, though we are rarely in agreement about anything else.

Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: jostber on May 28, 2017, 12:51:36 PM
This is very interesting:

T Bone Burnett on PBS Documentary Series ?American Epic? | Variety

http://variety.com/2017/music/news/t-bone-burnett-american-epic-jack-white-pbs-1202429519/

Some finds have been bigger than others. Says Burnett, ?A friend of Bernard (MacMahon, the documentary director and soundtrack album compiler) was painting the Hayes archive north of London, a big warehouse north of London where the EMI tape library is. He came back to Bernard and said, ?You know, those RCA records you love, there are boxes and boxes of them in the Hayes archive.? Bernard went up there, sure enough, there were crates. It turned out that in 1906, the head of RCA ? which was the first record company in the United States ? went to England to compare notes with the head of EMI, which was the first record company in the world. And as he was leaving, he saw a Nipper, and he said, ?I love your logo ? his master?s voice. Would you mind if I put it on my records?? And the head of EMI said, ?No, I wouldn?t, as long as you send me one copy of every record you press with my logo on it.? So from 1906 to 19-thirtysomething, there was one pristine copy of every RCA 78 sent to the Hayes archive. And it?s there ? 30,000 records, pristine.?

Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: jostber on May 28, 2017, 01:14:05 PM
From Financial Times:

'American Epic?: Jack White on a journey through recording history

https://www.ft.com/content/892b50ba-400d-11e7-82b6-896b95f30f58
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: waxwing on May 28, 2017, 02:53:20 PM
The piece where HoneyBoy is talking about contemporary Blues singers having "Different" Vocal chords than their generation did, is really fascinating. I wish that had been explored a little more deeply. Homesick Jame's assertion that its because they didn't have to yell commands at Mules is interesting but wasn't what Honeyboy was really touching on I think. I wonder what he was hearing as the most significant differences, and what he thought accounted for them. The '42 footage of him was really amazing. But I do agree with Mike that there is a bit too much of a scrap-book feel to the program overall.
This is aside from the fact that seeing the children of some of these mythic 78 entities and hearing how tough their lives were, takes a bit of the imagined gloss off of them. Ultimately better that way I guess.

I think what they are both really talking about was the use of the microphone for live performance. In order to project as much as possible in the din of a juke joint or dance hall, pre microphone era performers experimented with the use of their vocal apparatus in ways that took them well outside of their habitual vocal realm. It's not just volume, but timbre and range that help a voice cut through. Once the PA came along this was no longer necessary, and singers could remain comfortably within their habitual voice and still be heard. At the same time that African Americans were leaving the plantations and moving to the cities there were also large technical advances being made. The effects of both, on performers' capabilities and sensibilities, are complex.

Wax
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: TenBrook on May 30, 2017, 09:53:28 AM
OMuck,
More on the Alan Lomax and others influence versus the Anthology: I came across the below awhile back and found it interesting as I had not previously heard any mention of how Harry Smith discovered specific artists and finding that he was turned on to the Carter Family by way of Alan Lomax was quite a revelation:

From Wikipedia: "Smith also told Cohen that in selecting his material he relied heavily on the Library of Congress's mimeographed "List of American Folk Songs on Commercial Records", a monograph compiled by Alan Lomax in 1940 with the assistance of Pete Seeger, that Lomax and Seeger had sent out to folk song scholars (and which could also be purchased directly from the Library for 25 cents). Cohen asked Smith: "Where did you first hear of the Carter Family??

Smith: I would think from that mimeographed list that the Library of Congress issued around 1937 [sic], "American Folksongs on Commercially Available Records" [sic]. Shortly after that, two Carter Family recordings, "Worried Man Blues" and "East Virginia Blues" were reissued on the album Smoky Mountain Ballads. That album would come to stores that wouldn?t ordinarily have Carter Family records." More here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Everett_Smith (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Everett_Smith)

You can grab a pdf of the "List of American Folk Songs on Commercial Records" (and read more about its history) here:
https://roothogordie.wordpress.com/2012/09/24/alan-lomaxs-list-of-american-folk-songs-on-commercial-records/ (https://roothogordie.wordpress.com/2012/09/24/alan-lomaxs-list-of-american-folk-songs-on-commercial-records/)
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: banjochris on May 30, 2017, 10:44:53 AM
The piece where HoneyBoy is talking about contemporary Blues singers having "Different" Vocal chords than their generation did, is really fascinating. I wish that had been explored a little more deeply. Homesick Jame's assertion that its because they didn't have to yell commands at Mules is interesting but wasn't what Honeyboy was really touching on I think. I wonder what he was hearing as the most significant differences, and what he thought accounted for them. The '42 footage of him was really amazing. But I do agree with Mike that there is a bit too much of a scrap-book feel to the program overall.
This is aside from the fact that seeing the children of some of these mythic 78 entities and hearing how tough their lives were, takes a bit of the imagined gloss off of them. Ultimately better that way I guess.

I think what they are both really talking about was the use of the microphone for live performance. In order to project as much as possible in the din of a juke joint or dance hall, pre microphone era performers experimented with the use of their vocal apparatus in ways that took them well outside of their habitual vocal realm. It's not just volume, but timbre and range that help a voice cut through. Once the PA came along this was no longer necessary, and singers could remain comfortably within their habitual voice and still be heard. At the same time that African Americans were leaving the plantations and moving to the cities there were also large technical advances being made. The effects of both, on performers' capabilities and sensibilities, are complex.

Wax

That's a very interesting point, but I got the impression that they were just being polite to a white interviewer and meant that most modern white blues performers couldn't sing the blues very well.
Chris
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Slack on May 30, 2017, 12:14:30 PM
That's the way I took it too Chris.  And the mules part, I interpreted as 'practice makes perfect' eg, singing/field hollers in the fields all day allows you to hone skills and is part of the difference.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: outfidel on May 30, 2017, 12:36:11 PM
Mississippi John Hurt featured in tonight's episode -- including "new" color footage!

https://youtu.be/73TD9oZjgLM

...playing "Louis Collins" the way John Miller teaches it  8)
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: TenBrook on May 30, 2017, 01:52:31 PM
Just came across an interview with Jack White conducted by Bernard McMahon, it starts out discussing music of the '20s and '30s in general and then moves into a discussion of the process of recording with the Western Electric recording system for the 4th part of the American Epic series featuring current artists. There's some nice photos of the set up and interesting insight into what it was like trying to record the way it was done in the '20s and '30s.

I somehow was able to access the article through a google search but as Slack notes the article requires a subscription, which I do not have, and I now can't access the link that I once accessed. Still maybe searching for "american epic" results in the past week on google and then clicking on the ft (Financial Times) link will let you in.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Slack on May 30, 2017, 01:56:02 PM
Looks like you have to be a subscriber.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: TenBrook on May 30, 2017, 02:10:21 PM
Thanks Slack, I was able to view it by clicking the link after doing a google search for "american epic" results in the past week but now trying to hit the same link gives me the subscription site, so not sure what's up with that. I just updated my original post (which is now effectively a useless post, as I'm assuming none of us subscribe to Financial Times).
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Stuart on May 30, 2017, 04:47:15 PM
Here's the Google Search URL for "Financial Times interview with Jack White"

https://www.google.com/#q=financial+times+interview+with+jack+white

The first link I get is (I put in double spaces so the link is not embedded):

https:  //  www.  ft.  com/  content/  892b50ba-400d-11e7-82b6-896b95f30f58

Click on the first link (or the one you get that matches the URL for the ft.com link above through the Google Results page (And NOT Directly). It took me to the FT interview page. The digital sites that require a subscription and normally block access will sometimes let in a redirect through Google, Bing, etc. Try it and see what happens. I got there using both Firefox and Chrome.

If you get the subscription page, try clearing your browser's cache, history, etc. to see if that helps.

Edited to add: Using Firefox, I tried it again a while later, but got the "Subscribe" page. I then cleared Today's History, including the cache, and was able to get back into the site via the Google results link.

You can also try using a proxy site or at your library if it subscribes to the Financial Times digital edition.

Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: waxwing on May 30, 2017, 10:16:20 PM
The piece where HoneyBoy is talking about contemporary Blues singers having "Different" Vocal chords than their generation did, is really fascinating. I wish that had been explored a little more deeply. Homesick Jame's assertion that its because they didn't have to yell commands at Mules is interesting but wasn't what Honeyboy was really touching on I think. I wonder what he was hearing as the most significant differences, and what he thought accounted for them. The '42 footage of him was really amazing. But I do agree with Mike that there is a bit too much of a scrap-book feel to the program overall.
This is aside from the fact that seeing the children of some of these mythic 78 entities and hearing how tough their lives were, takes a bit of the imagined gloss off of them. Ultimately better that way I guess.

I think what they are both really talking about was the use of the microphone for live performance. In order to project as much as possible in the din of a juke joint or dance hall, pre microphone era performers experimented with the use of their vocal apparatus in ways that took them well outside of their habitual vocal realm. It's not just volume, but timbre and range that help a voice cut through. Once the PA came along this was no longer necessary, and singers could remain comfortably within their habitual voice and still be heard. At the same time that African Americans were leaving the plantations and moving to the cities there were also large technical advances being made. The effects of both, on performers' capabilities and sensibilities, are complex.

Wax

That's a very interesting point, but I got the impression that they were just being polite to a white interviewer and meant that most modern white blues performers couldn't sing the blues very well.
Chris
You're right, Chris. I went back and watched it again and Honeyboy says at one point, "There's a few white boys can sing good. Just a few of 'em, now." So it begs the question of whether they were talking about white electric blues players, who shared the field with black players pretty evenly, or white country blues players, who totally dominated the field then. I met both Honeyboy and Robert Lockwood right around that time. Honeyboy up at PT, a country blues enclave for those who haven't been, and Robert Jr. back stage at the SF Blues Fest, pretty much pure electric (he was playing the blue electric 12 string with an electric bass player). Maybe both?

Wax
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: CF on May 31, 2017, 07:54:16 AM
Part III was fantastic, best of the bunch. Wait til you see the MS Hurt footage
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Stuart on May 31, 2017, 08:48:59 AM
Ain't that the truth. The Mississippi John Hurt part starts at about the 55:00 minute mark:

http://www.pbs.org/video/3001259325/


Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Forgetful Jones on June 01, 2017, 01:02:17 PM
I agree. Best of the 3 episodes. I was fascinated by all of the different sections. Hawaiian lap guitar section was fantastic! And I thoroughly enjoyed the part about Lidya Mendoza. I had never heard her music before, but today I can't stop listening to Mal Hombre.

There were several John Hurt clips that were totally new to me. The performances were all gems, but I got a kick out of the one interview clip of him backstage of the folk festival while Dylan can be heard performing in the background. Really neat.

I only wish there were 3 more episodes to come.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Stuart on June 01, 2017, 01:27:09 PM
I'm interested in what they will be doing re: their "Education and Archives" project:

http://www.americanepic.com/education-and-archive

Hopefully, they will have both the financial resources and people with the level of expertise that will allow this to be an ongoing, quality project.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Forgetful Jones on June 01, 2017, 07:04:40 PM
Stuart- Thanks for the heads up on the "Education and Archives" project. I'm gonna have to keep an eye on this.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Gilgamesh on June 03, 2017, 10:29:59 AM
I just received the 5 CD soundtrack with a 94 page book. The book is 8.25 inches (21 cm.) hardcover square bound on high quality glossy paper. Most of the photos are familiar ones, and the Son House photo is a rediscovery one, not the previously unknown one from the Paramount period used in the film. A nice package but, like the series, aimed at newbies, not veterans of this material. There is significant overlap with the Harry Smith Anthology in artist selection and, in some cases, song selection also. For example, of the large amount of material recorded by Bascom Lamar Lunsford, they chose "I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground." But they generally tried to use other songs, for example "Blues in the Bottle" by Prince Albert Hunt replacing the Anthology selection "Wake Up, Jacob." Excellent sound quality, but probably not enough new material to attract veterans of old time music at the price ($50.00).
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Stuart on June 03, 2017, 12:45:11 PM
Thank you for the hands-on review, Gilamesh. One of our local libraries has it on order, so hopefully I'll be able to eyeball it in the flesh before long.

I'm sure that the price will come down somewhat once the newness wears off. And my guess is that in a year or two it will be part of the perks offered during the PBS pledge drives.

Like you say, $50 isn't exactly small change for music that many of us already own or is available on YouTube, etc. However, if it means supporting PBS, at some point I might be tempted.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: CF on June 04, 2017, 06:38:42 AM
Hello Gilgamesh, are you saying the 1929 photo of Son House with parasol & friend is not in the book? I heard it was a full page print?!

There are only so many 78s by certain artists that already sound pretty good. American Epic probably made sure they took the already good sounding 78s & mastered them to make em sound even greater.
I agree, I have everything on this set, & in good sound from other sources so only a great sale will have me buying
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Stuart on June 04, 2017, 08:54:32 AM
CF: I believe Gilamesh was referring to the book that comes with the 5 CD set, not the "Companion Book" to the series in which the "Son House With Girlfriend" photo appears on page 118 as a full page photo. (I have it right here.)
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: CF on June 04, 2017, 09:01:08 AM
Good to hear Stuart, I will want the book, eventually, for that lovely photo.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Gilgamesh on June 04, 2017, 09:28:12 AM
Hello Gilgamesh, are you saying the 1929 photo of Son House with parasol & friend is not in the book? I heard it was a full page print?!

There are two books: one that comes with the CD box set, which is 94 pages, and the separate book entitled American Epic: The First Time America Heard Itself by Bernard MacMahon et al., which is 288 pages with illustrations, including the early Son House photo that has never been published until now.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: CF on June 05, 2017, 12:14:15 PM
Thanks G!
Could you tell me if there is a recording date listed for Son House's performance of My Black Mama on Disc 4? Thanks
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Stuart on June 05, 2017, 12:46:36 PM
I don't have the CD set, but the songs on the American Epic YouTube channel sound like the May 28, 1930 recordings.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: jpeters609 on June 05, 2017, 01:25:26 PM
I don't have the CD set, but the songs on the American Epic YouTube channel sound like the May 28, 1930 recordings.

I suspect CF is wondering whether the American Epic materials address the question, raised by Alex van der Tuuk, regarding the accuracy of the May 28 date. It seems that many of the Paramount recording dates from around this time are debatable. Alex van der Tuuk writes, in part, regarding the Son House sessions:

"Son House?s test of 'Walking Blues' has the information 9/2 #2 written on the label, this indicating a late August 1930 session date, as was already strongly suggested by House?s 'Dry Spell Blues,' which was based on the drought of that year."

More of his research on this can be found here:  http://www.mainspringpress.com/nyrl-L.html
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: CF on June 05, 2017, 03:06:11 PM
Thanks Stuart & JPeters . . . yes, I was wondering if they were on board with Van Der Tuuk's revised dating. Thanks so much for the link JP, I've been wanting to find out more about it & haven't seen this yet. Coincidentally, I've been reading van der Tuuk's "Rise & Fall" all day, cheers
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Gilgamesh on June 05, 2017, 04:24:10 PM
The CD book indeed says May 28, 1930, for "My Black Mama."
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: alyoung on June 06, 2017, 03:09:44 AM
Alex van der Tuuk and Guido van Rijn have done impressive work on dating Paramount sessions; it's all in a series of books published by Guido's Agram imprint (see the Agram website -- http://www.agramblues.nl/newyorkrecordinglaboratories.htm). The explanations they give for arriving at dates show the amount of research involved. No serious collector shld be without (casual listeners might find it all a bit esoteric).

PS: Declaration of interest -- I did do editing work on the volumes, but I have no personal interest in spruiking them -- I just think they're excellent. Good repros of many Paramount advertisements are a bonus. 
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: arlotone on June 08, 2017, 12:09:35 AM
I watched the fourth episode, American Epic Sessions, tonight and was impressed. What an achievement to rebuild that system and run two weeks of recording sessions with it.

I thought the performances were great, too. In fact, I take back what I said about Elton John earlier -- it was cool watching him write and arrange a new song on the spot. Jerron Paxton's song was particularly enjoyable. My only disappointment was the version of "Stealin'" with no harmonica, kazoo or jug. I guess it's inevitable to be disappointed by the part that's closest to my heart. On the flip side, seeing a bit of real jug playing on "On the Road Again" was an nice surprise.

I'm looking forward to watching the whole series again when I have the time. It's great to see such quality production lavished on these little corners of the music world.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Stuart on June 09, 2017, 09:33:00 AM
I agree. I watched the fourth episode online yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed it. Watching Jack White commandeer the sewing machine in a neighborhood upholstery shop to stitch the belt that holds the weight back together was worth the price of admission.

One thing that I'd like to see is a detailed treatment of the Western Electric recording lathe from both an EE and ME POV. While some will make the case that it's the music that counts and that we should look at the recording technology as a given that effectively functioned as fully formed (like the musical instruments of the day), I, for one, am curious about the technology required to design and build such an important contraption (or is ?gadget? more appropriate?). I saw that Nicholas Bergh has given presentations at AES meetings, etc., but seeing something in print or online would be fascinating. It might also be the basis for a NOVA episode, etc. The importance of the development of recording technology cannot be understated, IMHO.

https://www.endpointaudio.com/
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: TenBrook on June 09, 2017, 09:39:00 AM
Stuart,
I agree, a documentary or any type of in depth information on the development of the 1920s recording technology would be great. One thing I took away from the mp3 interview with Bernard McMahon I posted earlier was his mentioning how secretive the early recording companies were with their recording gear, in some cases taking steps to not allow the full set up to be visible in photographs. One wonders if that makes it more difficult for someone now to reach back into history to try to put together the story of how the technology developed.

Lew
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Stuart on June 09, 2017, 10:20:09 AM
Hi Lew:

Safeguarding trade secrets and keeping IP close to the vest back in the day isn't going to make research in this area easy, as you say. And as technology advances, it's standard operating procedure "to leave the past behind," so other than what's in the Patent Office's records, it's possible that very little or nothing exists that will shed light on other recording equipment from the teens, twenties and thirties.  But one lathe has been restored, so it could be the basis for a program or book. One thing that I caught in the program was the Western Electric name plate with the patent numbers listed on it. I'm old enough to remember when that was pretty much the standard for electronics and appliances that contained proprietary technology. --Nameplates on the outside and/or labels on the inside.

I believe Nicholas Bergh (but it might have been someone else) at some point referred to AT&T as "The Idea Factory." There's a book by that name written by John Gertner. It's focus is Bell Labs and IIRC, doesn't cover recording technology, but it's quite good and worth reading if you're interested in that kind of thing. Here are a couple of links:

https://www.amazon.com/Idea-Factory-Great-American-Innovation/dp/0143122797

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/08/books/review/the-idea-factory-by-jon-gertner.html
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Gilgamesh on June 09, 2017, 06:21:21 PM
Are they going to keep the Western Electric recording gear intact? I imagine a lot of today's blues or old-time music enthusiasts would love to record on it.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Stuart on June 09, 2017, 07:21:36 PM
I'd have to go back and watch the series again to be sure, but I think Nicholas Bergh restored the Western Electric recording equipment independently of the American Epic project. If you scroll down a bit you'll see a photo of the restored equipment in one of the photos:

https://www.endpointaudio.com/philosophy/

Here's another interesting page from the site:

https://www.endpointaudio.com/blog/gotta-keep-your-wax-flat

I'd suggest sending Endpoint Audio an e-mail with your questions, but I'm sure that they've received quite a few since the series aired. Nevertheless, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Where the equipment will reside--or whether it will travel--(after all, it was/is portable), is something you might ask if you decide to write.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: DerZauberer on June 12, 2017, 04:38:27 AM
One thing I did not quite get - the audio quality of the recordings sounded quite brilliant when they were played back during the "sessions" piece. Of course, this is to be expected since this is neither the metal master that would have been cast from the recorded disc, nor is it the Paramount Records "we use a bit of shellac and whatever gunk we find" pressing.

But - anyone know if the "original" 1920s discs would have sounded so clear and bright? Because - even the transfers from metal masters that we get are nowhere near as good as what I think the fresh recordings sounded like (plus at one point I was scared when they played them back with a cheapo turntable - aren't these discs soft and easy to damage, even with a normal stylus)...?

Mysteries over mysteries.

Great show (and cool how they hide all the cameras and numerous other microphones ;))
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Stuart on June 12, 2017, 11:01:48 AM
I really don't know. Again, Nicholas Bergh is the person to ask.

The Western Electric recording equipment was the same, but I believe that the recording medium (then vs. now) was different. I don't know how that would factor into any comparisons.

My guess is that if the recording medium was the same--and the playback equipment was the same, the results would sound the same. But what do I know?

Also, cf. the Savory collection:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/17/arts/music/17jazz.html
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: TenBrook on June 12, 2017, 12:43:54 PM
I haven't watched the 'Sessions' episode yet but watching the below clip of Willie and Merle (at 1 min 11 seconds) it looks like they are using the recording gear to cut straight to a vinyl master which I'm assuming is nearly as stable as an LP for playback purposes and also gets rid of the wax to metal master to pressed shellac component of actual 1920s and 30s recordings. That could explain why the playback seems/is so much better. Of course having not watched the 'Sessions' maybe they explain all this and I'm making assumptions...apologies if that's the case.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bo08_FHT1jM (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bo08_FHT1jM)
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Kokomo O on June 12, 2017, 12:58:29 PM
Seems pretty clear that they're cutting a wax, or whatever material, master. But that's not what we're hearing when we see the video you posted, or the ones in the show--that's the soundtrack to the video, which is going to be relatively broadband compared with a 78rpm master off of 1930s technology sound recording equipment.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: TenBrook on June 12, 2017, 01:45:10 PM
Kokomo,
It seems the sound (in some of the videos at least) is actually coming "directly from the discs they were recorded to, with no editing or enhancements." That's the statement that accompanies the below clip anyway (14 seconds in). I don't know if they stuck to that throughout the 'Sessions' episode or not. Also for comparison's sake I'm posting the recording of Willie and Merle from the soundtrack, which I would assume is definitely taken directly from the disc it was recorded to.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFHbfApw9kk&t=49s (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFHbfApw9kk&t=49s)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPoVUbaRX6U (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPoVUbaRX6U)

Lew
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: DerZauberer on June 14, 2017, 03:39:36 AM
The website clearly states that "All the musical performances in this film are live. The audio you hear is taken directly from the discs they were recorded to, with no editing or enhancements" -- which led me to think "wow, I wonder if the original wax masters would have sounded that great".

So who has the contacts to drag those key people from that project in here? ;)
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: TenBrook on June 15, 2017, 09:12:30 AM
So, I turned to the age old oracle of google and found a blog where a guy, whose credentials I don't know (though he sure sounds like he knows his stuff), expounds on his thoughts on the material on which the American Epic Sessions recordings were made. I thought it might help shed some light on why the playback of these records seems clearer than the playback of actual 78s from the '20s and '30s (he even touches on that same thought in the last quote below).

Said blogpost is here: http://moviemagg.blogspot.com/2017/06/the-american-epic-sessions-lo-max-films.html (http://moviemagg.blogspot.com/2017/06/the-american-epic-sessions-lo-max-films.html)

And here are some relevant quotes:
"There was only one way in which I could tell they ?cheated,? and that was though they still referred to the master discs on which they recorded as ?waxes,? instead (judging from the visual evidence of the machine in operation in the show) they used lacquer masters."

"Lacquer masters could be played back immediately after the recording was made, and the giveaways that the technical crew on The American Epic Sessions were using lacquer instead of wax are: 1) the black color of the master discs (the wax discs used before lacquer were usually either tan or light brown, the natural colors of beeswax); 2) the absence of the warming oven needed in studios using wax to keep the master blanks soft enough to make good records (many 78 rpm discs have a high-frequency whine that starts about midway through the record and gets louder as it progresses: this is what happened when a wax master sat too long at room temperature and cooled too much before it was used); 3) the absence of a technician wielding a soft-bristled brush and holding it over the cutting lathe to sweep off the wax removed from the master disc as it was inscribed (with lacquer, the cutting stylus merely etched a groove into the master disc without removing any material from it)"

"What?s more, MacMahon and White insisted that, while they had the studio miked separately to catch between-songs chatter and false starts, what you hear when the musicians are actually playing comes from the masters being cut on that old machine ? which, if true, is quite remarkable evidence that the recording machines of the late 1920?s were capable of capturing far more sounds than the playback machines of the time could reproduce. By using lacquer masters, pressing on vinyl instead of the noisier shellac-and-clay mix used to make 78?s, and playing the vinyl 78?s on modern equipment, they were able to showcase that old recorder at its very best; compared to modern recordings the sound is a bit congested and doesn?t have a full frequency range, but it?s also honest, noise-free and quite a bit better than even the best-sounding reissues of actual 1929 recordings. "

There's also the below from IMDB (which may very well have been contributed by the above blog writer):
"The producers of this show said they sought to recreate the recording art as it stood in 1929, but in one respect they "cheated." Instead of recording on wax masters, they used lacquer masters, which were introduced into recording in the mid-1930's. Lacquer had three advantages over wax: it sounded better, it was more durable and the masters could be played back immediately. A wax master had to go through elaborate metallurgical processing before it could be made into a playable records, and artists in the wax-master days couldn't hear their recordings until about three weeks after they were made, when the record companies sent them test pressings." That's found here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6140044/trivia?tab=gf&ref_=tt_trv_gf (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6140044/trivia?tab=gf&ref_=tt_trv_gf)
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Slack on June 15, 2017, 09:22:14 AM
Fascinating.  What a geek bonanza the whole project was.  Thanks for posting the link.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Stuart on June 15, 2017, 02:25:01 PM
Thank you, Lew. The author has a point that they didn't faithfully recreate the finished product 100%. However, given the intermediate steps involved to go from wax to a "shellac" 78, it might not have been practical, given the number of artists in the sessions and possible time constraints. (But what do I know??) I'd have to go back and watch it again, but I think that the focus was on the recording equipment (sans the wax) and not the overall process.

But that doesn't mean that it's not something that couldn't taken up in the future. Again, Nicholas Bergh would be the person to ask.

In my search for sources for info I ran across the following that may be of interest to some:

http://www.shellac.org/about.html

http://www.shellac.org/

Many of their info pages are from:

https://www.amazon.com/Saturday-Review-Recorded-Music-Reproduction/dp/B0014TAQP0
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: waxwing on June 15, 2017, 06:50:02 PM
I remember posting a video about making shellac records back during the "Robert Johnson was sped up 20%" arguments and it began and ended with an Ellington recording session (I think). Couldn't find that one, but here are a couple that make it pretty clear why no geek is likely to recreate the process:

http://youtu.be/Pn1r2-t59gA

http://youtu.be/2zL53iEHf_0

Wax
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: waxwing on June 15, 2017, 06:57:48 PM
Actually I didn't think they were hiding the lacquer discs, I recognized them and understood it was the only way to play back recordings, but it's true they didn't mention the difference. One of the things that I have always heard was a more limiting aspect was the capabilities of the microphones used. They mentioned the EQ range of one mic, but didn't discuss this aspect much, either. I thought the recordings truely were from the equipment (and they did show a bellows that removed the "chip" which you can see being drawn off more as a ribbon) because I thought the waist high placement was over balanced in favor of the instruments, and the issues they seemed to be having with Beck's vocals made me feel that the subtleties of microphone placement had been lost.

Wax.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Stuart on June 15, 2017, 08:26:28 PM
I remember you posting it, Wax. I believe it was this one:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJ0Vn7ul42s


I tried to find some info on shellac record formulations, but didn't find anything specific. I did learn that right after WWII shellac stocks were so poor in the U.S. that the records pressed only lasted about 100 plays on a commercial jukebox (owing to the pressure of the stylus) and had to replaced weekly because they wore out quickly.

Also ran across the following:

https://www.nedcc.org/audio-preservation/irene-blog/2014/08/12/delaminating/

https://www.nedcc.org/audio-preservation/irene

http://www.conservation-wiki.com/wiki/Records_or_Disks

http://cen.acs.org/articles/94/i24/Groovy-chemistry-materials-science-behind.html
Title: Re: American Epic PBS"
Post by: DerZauberer on June 16, 2017, 02:49:41 AM
The power of the forum (plus google). Thanks for all that info, that was great! I would say that this is a point they could have mentioned - in effect, they did not recreate a 1920s recording set-up, but rather a 1930s set-up then. While great for the sound quality and accessibility of the recorded material, us scratchy-Patton-listeners would have appreciated the information.

HOWEVER, with this relatively good and modern sounding "old" equipment now being available, wouldn't it be great if this set-up became a fad in the sense of "you're not a real band / musician until you've recorded your one-cut-direct-to-disc-song with its 'live' feel"? Well, you're allowed to dream...

Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: TenBrook on June 16, 2017, 08:02:23 AM
Stuart and Wax,
Thanks for the insights and links and videos. All good stuff. I agree it would have been really impractical (and very difficult, as Wax points out) to actually record to wax and then plate it and press it. And I think just the feat of restoring and learning the ins and outs of the recording rig was accomplishment enough. In thinking of other explanations for difference in sound quality I started wondering whether Nicholas Bergh is approaching the recordings with more interest, enthusiasm, and desire to get the best sound than some of the recording engineers from the '20s and '30s may have. I'm sure someone in one of the books mentioned earlier may have tracked one of those engineers down to get their insight but so far in my readings I've mainly only come across interviews with the likes of Ralph Peer and other people like him who were more in charge of talent and song choice, etc than getting the best sound. Since recording was still fairly early at the time it's hard to know if the 'audio-phile' types had appeared yet or whether the guys behind the dials just saw it as another job, albeit an atypical one.

As for formulas for wax, there's a great book called 'Talking Wax or the Story of the Phonograph' from 1945 that is, thankfully, available as a pdf here:
http://www.gracyk.com/talkingWax.html (http://www.gracyk.com/talkingWax.html), the site hosting it has other interesting links and articles, etc on the same subject.

On page 14 the author discusses the contents and formulas for the wax used in recordings:
"Later on in the recording art, wax masters were used. The formulas were made up of such
substances as stearate acid, hard paraffin, resin, beeswax, aluminum oleate, synthetic waxes, shellac
wax, carnauba, montan, aluminum stearate and vaseline. Some of the lesser used waxes were
Candelilla wax, Cape Berry wax, Cochin China wax, Chinese wax or insect wax.

The following formula is a typical example used for a wax blank: Carnauba 36%, Beeswax
12%, Aluminum oleate 27%, Sodium stearate 25%. All the ingredients are melted together in the order
given and maintained at 120 degrees centigrade for half an hour, with constant stirring."

And DerZauberer, I agree, I'd love to hear more recordings on that set up. I admittedly still haven't watched the full Sessions episode (where I indeed can hear more recordings on that set up), but it's on my weekend list, and I'm wondering if they mention what Bergh's plans are for the future. I'm sure he's got other projects and such so presumably he won't be setting up a permanent studio anytime soon.

Lew
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Chezztone on June 28, 2017, 04:11:40 PM
Anyone have a trick for watching the episodes free online, or other suggestion for how to see them? I didn't watch them when they were first broadcast, assuming they'd be rebroadcast and/or available online. But my local PBS station's website (Oregon Public Broadcasting) says you can watch it online only if you contribute $60 or more to the station! Thanks.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Stuart on June 28, 2017, 04:29:33 PM
I just checked and it's the same with the Seattle station, KCTS. --For the first three as of this writing. The episodes were available for free viewing on line the week after they were broadcast, but no more.  Now it's, "If you ain't got the do-re-mi..."

Edited to add: Episode 4 is still available:

http://www.pbs.org/video/3001575276/

I don't know of a workaround or if there is any proxy server that will allow you to hack in and watch on-line. But check the local library system. Both King County and Seattle Public Library have the DVD on order. If your local library doesn't have it--or have it on the way--then submit a purchase request. It's PBS and mainstream, so they should get a few copies. That's what we pay our taxes for.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: harry on June 29, 2017, 05:07:52 AM
Anyone have a trick for watching the episodes free online, or other suggestion for how to see them? I didn't watch them when they were first broadcast, assuming they'd be rebroadcast and/or available online. But my local PBS station's website (Oregon Public Broadcasting) says you can watch it online only if you contribute $60 or more to the station! Thanks.

You can download all the episodes for free at the torrent tracker RARBG. In HD quality and even with english subtitles.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Chezztone on June 30, 2017, 12:18:14 AM
Well whatdya know...my library has the CD and book on order. I reserved both. Thanks, Stuart!
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: hms on July 01, 2017, 07:29:20 AM
This may be of interest, Phil Doleman recording to wax disc, the later part of the video you hear the cylinder being replayed.
Big Bad Bill is sweet William now, played on Uke.

http://phildoleman.co.uk/2014/10/recording-on-wax-cylinder/

H
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: BlindSockeyeSalmon on July 07, 2017, 09:24:05 PM
The tracklisting for the five-CD set is here: http://www.vintagevinylnews.com/2017/04/soundtrack-to-pbs-series-american-epic.html
Many familiar faces here, but the mastering is said to be excellent.

I'm used to hearing about how great some remastered release is, but this one is a true revelation. As others have said I know nearly all of these recordings very well, but I've never heard them like this before.

Well worth checking out for anyone who has not done so already. I can only hope that more of this music will undergo whatever treatment they performed on these tracks.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Stuart on July 10, 2017, 05:06:49 PM
I haven't heard the CD set, but if the YouTube tracks are any indication, the remastering is more than first rate. I assume that Nicholas Bergh was the one who did it.

Someone asked if the vintage Western Electric recording equipment was going to continue to be used. One of my reservations would be about the vacuum tubes. I don't know what specific tubes were used in the WE equipment, but if there are no replacements or equivalents available, then one is dependent on the used vintage market. However, Nick Bergh is an expert and I trust he knows what he's doing.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: DerZauberer on July 17, 2017, 03:41:23 AM
Quick Storytime Interlude:

The best thing - for me personally - to come out of the recordings is NAS with his rendition of "On The Road Again". This track has been the entryway for me talking "old" music to a couple of 20-year-olds and exposing them to some old-time favourites of mine.

Two separate occasions, but they both went very similar... So I'm talking to musically inclined "youngsters" about what they like and what I like, and as usual there are a few hits (anything Americana, alt-country, rock, soul, etc.) plus many misses (most chart stuff, most hip-hop stuff, most dance stuff). I mention my love for raw scratchy recordings of old 78s from the 1920s, and get anything between a polite "that's cool" or a blank stare, basically meaning "no idea what he's talking about".

Being the elder statesman, I'm allowed to rant on a little bit, I quickly bring up the fact that NAS did a version, pull it up on my phone, let them watch, talk a little about the lyrics and the fact that he's using the original lyrics from way back when, then NAS confirms it in his little interview piece, etc etc. - and BOOM, next I have a 20-year-old actually listening to the Memphis Jug Band Original and asking if there's "more like this". I chat a little about Jack White and his love for Son House etc., mention how many great artists still borrow from these sources today, but pretty much leave it at that. OK, I do have to show off "They're Red Hot" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers (Blood Sugar Sex Magic album...) versus the Robert Johnson version, but I make a point not to overdo it and start lecturing. The seed is planted, let's see if it grows.

So - Thanks to American Epic letting NAS introduce the Memphis Jug Band to today's 20 year olds. :-)
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Kokomo O on July 17, 2017, 08:34:12 AM
Yeah, you never know how seeds will get planted. My 17-year-old's English teacher from last school year turned out to be a lover of old time country and rural blues music, as well as some more modern variants. I found this out because one day my son walked into my study/guitar room and said "Ever hear of a guy named Mississippi John Hurt?" Of course, I said nothing, picked up the guitar that was in standard and played Louis Collins. He then asked about Reverend Peyton and South Memphis String Band, and naturally I already had music by both in my library, plus more by members of the latter. Then it was "How about the Carter Family?" It's good to stay a few steps ahead of the young 'uns.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: StoogeKebab on July 18, 2017, 07:27:16 AM
It's good to stay a few steps ahead of the young 'uns.

As a young 'un, there's a smug part of me that enjoys outdoing the older people knowledge wise (then again, my 27 year old Blues Fan music teacher is still older to me :P ) who condescend to me, expecting me to know little about what I'm talking about, but there's a bigger part of me that's supremely grateful for anyone who is a few (or in the case of many on this site, more than a few) 'steps ahead', who has new stuff, stories, insight etc. - seems to me to be the best way to learn about and explore the genre and the people involved in it. A passionately written email, letter or 70 cents per minute international phone call from the late Bob West, or an anecdote shared by someone here on this site was/is sure as hell more interesting than a purely academic or shallow editorial article (just thought I'd clarify that I'm not grouping all academic writing or editorial writing, or even the majority of it under this category) written by someone who's a few steps removed from everything, not trying to put forward any new ideas. I suppose in those cases it's just the nature of writing for a mass market.

Seeing the personal stories about significant figures or even people's own lives in American Epic (my imported Blu Ray having just arrived last week, thank you Australian TV networks for how up to date I am) and in particular the way Dick Spottswood spoke about Mississippi John Hurt was incredible.

Not appreciating Allons ? Lafayette being stuck in my head now though. I've always found the best way to get rid of an ear worm is to learn it, but the language has made it somewhat difficult with this one...

In reference to DerZauberer's point about NAS, I'm definitely bringing that up when I get back to school next week, I'm curious now to see the response.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Stuart on July 19, 2017, 10:01:55 AM
Hi StoogeKebab:

In today's world there is so much more available and accessible than there was when I was coming up in the 1960s. My advice is to take full advantage of it. Try to absorb as much as possible while you have the time to do it.

As for older people appearing to be patronizing or condescending, it's probably due to erroneous assumptions on the part of certain individuals--they're older and therefore have been at it longer and have had more time to acquire the knowledge base and/or skill set. Just let it go, unless of course it's an attitude thing, in which case they deserve to be put in their place. Serves them right. They asked for it.

I wouldn't spend a lot of time trying to outdo them "knowledge-wise." Gaining encyclopedic knowledge is the easy part. Getting the "understanding-wise" part down ain't so easy.

The Mississippi John Hurt part of the American Epic series was great, IMHO. I never met Mississippi John, but I bet I could live ten lifetimes and never approach what he had "understanding wise."

Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Stuart on July 19, 2017, 12:16:39 PM
Not appreciating Allons ? Lafayette being stuck in my head now though. I've always found the best way to get rid of an ear worm is to learn it, but the language has made it somewhat difficult with this one...

You could just imitate what you hear. So what? if you don't understand it. There will be time in the future to learn if you want. In the past, films were sometimes shot in languages foreign to the actors--they spoke the dialog in a foreign language they didn't know, with coaching of course. The films were then marketed to audiences in non-English speaking countries. It was done pre-dubbing and pre-subtitles. It's still done in films when a character is portrayed as knowing a foreign language.

There are resources for Cajun French on the web. Here are a few I ran across during some superficial browsing:

http://www.lsu.edu/hss/french/undergraduate_program/cajun_french/what_is_cajun.php

https://sites.google.com/site/louisianafrench/

http://www.cajunradio.org/language.html

LSU is a ways away, but who knows? Maybe you'll have the opportunity to visit Louisiana in the future.

And don't ignore the triangle:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103090094

I was blown away when I first heard Joseph Falcon's "Arcadian One-Step" on the AAFM back in the 1960s. It's still one of my all time favorites (and BTW, I still don't understand it):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3Nb-jDPzo4

http://theanthologyofamericanfolkmusic.blogspot.com/2010/03/arcadian-one-step-joseph-falcon.html

Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Hwy80 on August 27, 2017, 06:49:12 PM
I've been listening to the 5CD box of these 100 tracks today.  The set is first rate and imo the main thing about this project.  The series episodes were hit or miss and not nearly as valuable as the excellently remastered original recordings.

I read through this entire thread - great discussion.

Regards,
~ David
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: BlindSockeyeSalmon on August 27, 2017, 07:17:20 PM
Agree 100%. The restorations are masterful. The rest of the project is far less significant to me. Would love to hear them to with Uncle Bunt Stephens's "Candy Girl" what they did with "Sail Away Ladies". The extant transfers are good but as perhaps the greatest fiddle recording ever it would be deserving of this extra treatment.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Stuart on August 27, 2017, 08:51:16 PM
I'm listening to Disc 4, track 14--Sleepy John's "Someday Baby" as I write this. Excellent remastering all around. I think the PBS series/video and the book help drive the CD/book set sales which in turn helps pay for the remastering. So if they continue along these lines, it will be (remastered) music to my ears. There's no such thing as bad publicity, IMHO--hit or miss as it may be.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: DerZauberer on August 30, 2017, 05:15:14 AM
I absolutely LOVE those recordings. This is the quality level I'd really like to see for many of my favourite artists's complete discographies (all of Bukka White, Blind Willie Johnson, House/Patton/etc. to start with)!

However, a sweet little TV documentary is so much easier access for the casual viewer/listener, catchy sound samples of many songs plus images and real people versus still-scratchy old records. Plus, again, I think the number of "current" artists showing up for the session has an impact on "current" music lovers that we should not underestimate.

I had an e-Mail exchange with John Tefteller a while before, asking him to elaborate on what was done to the records for his then-latest calendar CD... all he would reveal was that it was very labour intensive and the results are great/phenomenal/etc. - now, quite a lot of time later, I have to say he's absolutely right. All-around great project I would still say.

I would even go as far as saying that the CD set could be the new "Anthology of Folk Music", but maybe that's taking it too far... but hey, only time will tell.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: Chezztone on September 22, 2017, 10:14:46 AM
OK, I finally watched some more of the series (got the DVDs from the library). Certainly there is a lot to enjoy. I do recommend watching. I'll probably watch it all again sometime. But I have a couple big criticisms:
1. Still, as usual for these kinds of projects, way too much emphasis on the "forerunner" theory. I.e., these artists are great because they influenced later pop stars. "Gee, without Charley Patton there would have been no Howlin Wolf, no Rolling Stones, maybe even no White Stripes?!"
2. The filmmakers' effort to find and interview family members or others directly connected to the original artists, instead of just relying on pop stars' comments, was a great idea. Besides the excellent sound restoration, it's pretty much what sets this project apart from other similar documentaries. However, just because you're descended from someone doesn't mean you are an expert on the person's music or even the person's life! The filmmakers don't seem to get that. The descendants say she did this, she thought that, etc., but most of it is family folklore, not actual history or insight.
Title: Re: American Epic PBS
Post by: DerZauberer on September 25, 2017, 04:49:22 AM
1) I see that as well, but would put it down to some degree of mass market appeal. I mean, the Stones are in their 70s, the White Stripes long defunct, so how do you relate any of this to a young(er) TV audience without these references? I think it's easier to take the road of marking the influence the music has until today than just pointing out the beauty of the music itself. One is an undeniable fact, the other is personal sentiment. So I don't mind this at all. And to be fair - without this music's influence on the Folk and Rock scene, how much would we know about it today?
2) 100% agree. Nice touch, some nice memories (where possible), but a couple of generations away there's not much "real" connection left (apart from the few that focus on their forebear's legacy or are engaged in some form of Blues history project).
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