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Author Topic: American Epic PBS  (Read 7064 times)

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Offline Slack

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Re: American Epic PBS
« Reply #90 on: June 15, 2017, 09:22:14 AM »
Fascinating.  What a geek bonanza the whole project was.  Thanks for posting the link.

Offline Stuart

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Re: American Epic PBS
« Reply #91 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

Offline waxwing

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Re: American Epic PBS
« Reply #92 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:





Wax
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
https://www.facebook.com/WaxwingJohn

Offline waxwing

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Re: American Epic PBS
« Reply #93 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.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
https://www.facebook.com/WaxwingJohn

Offline Stuart

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Re: American Epic PBS
« Reply #94 on: June 15, 2017, 08:26:28 PM »
I remember you posting it, Wax. I believe it was this one:




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
« Last Edit: June 15, 2017, 08:55:06 PM by Stuart »

Offline DerZauberer

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Re: American Epic PBS"
« Reply #95 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...

"The blues is not a plaything like some people think they are." - Son House

Offline TenBrook

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Re: American Epic PBS
« Reply #96 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, 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
« Last Edit: June 16, 2017, 08:08:55 AM by TenBrook »

Offline Chezztone

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Re: American Epic PBS
« Reply #97 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.

Offline Stuart

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Re: American Epic PBS
« Reply #98 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.
« Last Edit: June 28, 2017, 04:50:46 PM by Stuart »

Offline harry

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Re: American Epic PBS
« Reply #99 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.

Offline Chezztone

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Re: American Epic PBS
« Reply #100 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!

Offline hms

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Re: American Epic PBS
« Reply #101 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
« Last Edit: July 11, 2017, 04:05:48 AM by hms »

Offline BlindSockeyeSalmon

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Re: American Epic PBS
« Reply #102 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.
http://sugarinthegourd.com
Old-Time, All the Time

Offline Stuart

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Re: American Epic PBS
« Reply #103 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.

Offline DerZauberer

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Re: American Epic PBS
« Reply #104 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. :-)
"The blues is not a plaything like some people think they are." - Son House

 


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