Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by DMortensen, Oct 21, 2014.
Seems like it's relevant to me. I'd hoped there would be discussion about the gizmos.
I don't think so...Capitol NY was meant to sound like Capitol LA, not Columbia anywhere.
First, welcome to the thread!
Did you have any interaction with the East Coast Columbia and especially with 30th St? If so, please feel free to post your recollections. If you have any pictures, that would be better yet.
Regarding your post, what were the 4 tracks used for in the chamber delay? I could see one or two, but why 4?
This will be the penultimate post from the Al Q collection that he must have sent me in April of last year, specifically about 30th St.
This, from the November 29, 1980 issue of Record World shows NY NARAS chapter President (and multi-Grammy winning CBS engineer) Ray Moore leading the fight to preserve 30th St, which had already been sold. The opponent in the fight, CBS, had no interest in doing anything other than what it was doing, so it was a one-sided fight.
Just as ownership at the beginning of the studio was a confusing hodgepodge of conflicting reports, so, too, was its ownership at the end of its life.
If the studio had already been sold by November 1980, who owned it until June of 1981, when the Bill of Sale was officially filed showing it was sold by CBS directly to a guy/company? One would think it was owned by CBS that whole time, but not if it was sold in November 1980. Confusing.
(I guess they could have sold it in November with an effective date of June the next year; do companies do real estate deals like that?)
One more tomorrow from this Al Q file.
Sad that it was not also offered to people who might have preserved it, such as the person noted who made a bid. Who knows if someone might have possibly even beat what the actual buyer paid CBS for it.
Though it may not have be the de facto "best studio", 30th Street was certainly at least tied for it with a small handful of studios around the world.
Final one from Al Q for this series, and it's more interesting than I originally thought.
This is from the October 1981 issue of Recording Engineer/Producer , page 88, which was my all-time favorite audio magazine. I'm afraid it's kind of pixilated and doesn't have enough detail (blowouts but not as much pixillation on the link), but the caption says it's from "the now defunct CBS 30th Street Studio", showing Don Puluse at the controls of the linear fader console in the heat of action, with the equipment racks to the right of the console rather than behind the engineer. Cool, huh? And you can just barely see the intersection of rear hallway door and machine room entrance, which for me because of the angles and spacing is an identifier of that particular location in the world which stayed the same for the duration of the control room's life, AFAIK.
A page or two ago I referenced a photo of the control room from this time period that showed the same layout, but it was taken from the far corner of the room and showed that the console and outboard racks were on the kind of raised floor like you see in computer rooms, which makes sense since there must have been a lot of wiring going back and forth between console and racks. It must have always been like that, but the pictures we see are taken too close to the console to see that feature.
If you follow the link to the magazine, you'll see that the picture from 30th St a year or more earlier than the article has nothing to do with the article except that it shows a King Biscuit Flower Hour session in progress, but it is not the session that the article describes. Nevertheless, it is an interesting look at a production machine that churned out some pretty cool radio shows, and describes the machinery in some detail, including a close look at Dave Hewitt's remote truck. I got to go through that truck and have a brief tour by Dave when it was near Seattle in the early days of the movie soundtrack recording sessions at Bastyr University, which is in a former Catholic seminary with a wonderful sounding chapel that is used for lots of those sessions. Both Dave and his truck were quite impressive and it's fun to remember that.
What was so cool about RE/P was that it had routinely had articles of equivalent depth and breadth to this one. In fact, immediately following this one is another good one about the Greene/Crowe mobile truck, which I remember reading since they were doing all the award shows at the time. And David Scheirman, who is currently President of the AES, had a column in RE/P about PA system stuff which NOBODY talked about (the PA system stuff, not David's articles ), and he wrote full articles about it, too. (He had maybe moved on by 1981, since he had no articles or column in this issue? I don't recall his timing, but read a lot of great stories by him.)
I saved all my copies and still have them, the only audio magazines I've not put in recycling.
It's great that the American Radio History website has so much audio history available for us.
I'm not recalling anything specific from 30th Street offhand, but I know there are some photos of Hollywood and Studio B at 49 E 52nd Street where you can clearly see the flooring you describe.
To be clear, I'm talking about a raised area with the gear on it, not that kind of removable flooring. All you can see IIRC is the step up, not the panels that can be removed in 2' x 2' sections or whatever. I think my wording was misleading in that specific.
You would have to think that they made it so it could be worked on, though.
Small world Dan, Al was a local keyboard player, he played with a lot of my friends. He worked with Bob Irwin at Sundazed Records and Bob hooked him up with Sony and Al became a musicologist over the years spending much time down in the iron cave retrieving old recordings for Bob and Sony to release.
Really small world. We should really have had Al come over to Fletchers place when you were there.
RE/P was my favorite as well. I regret getting rid of mine. I only held onto a couple of them that I still have. Most informative magazine ever.
Yes, I wish he could have been there. He did get an invitation, along with everyone else on my 30th St list, which has been inactive since for reasons. I have another post I want to do today, and was planning to get to those reasons after.
Al has been extremely helpful, and has my appreciation.
His Flickr page has a few pictures of him back in the day playing keys.
These Al Q pics have taken us quickly through the entire arc of the studio's life, from pre-opening to post-closing. Today we'll hear the only eyewitness account that I've found of its very last days.
At the conclusion of my talk last October at the AES Convention, one of the people who came up afterward to express their appreciation (which was quite humbling and is another story that I intend to discuss soon) and to share thoughts was James Farber, who said then that he had seen the studio building being torn down.
!!!????!!!!, was pretty much my reply.
The whole presentation experience, including the part at Fletcher's place that Larry mentions above, was pretty overwhelming, and to have James tell me that right after was the cherry on top of the WTF pile*.
When I got home I wrote him to ask if he could write it down, and if I could quote him by name, and he said yes. I've been waiting for the right time to share his story, and this seems like as good as any:
"Here’s what I remember about the demolition. I lived at 29th/Lexington from 1979-1985. During that time, I was one of the original staff engineers at Power Station Studios. I was a jazz fan, and former piano/Rhodes player in my college days, and was well aware that many of my favorite recordings had been done at Columbia 30th Street, right around the corner from where I lived. I knew little about the legendary room, and even less about the amazing Columbia engineers, who were not credited on the original releases. I walked past the Church and admired it from the outside many times. My plan, at the time, was to knock on the door one day and introduce myself as a Power Station engineer and jazz fan, and ask (beg) for a studio tour. I figured I had time to carry out this plan. Then one day (this must have been sometime in 1981) while walking south on 3rd Ave toward my apartment, I glanced east on 30th Street, as I always did when passing that intersection, and saw a big wrecking ball on a crane just outside the studio. I stopped in my tracks and did a double take. Then, as I walked closer, I saw that the top of the Church had been reduced to rubble. In my mind, I actually think I saw the wrecking ball in action, swinging into the building (but this part of the memory is somewhat fuzzy, and I’m not completely sure if invented that detail over time). I did know for certain that I was witnessing the end of 30th Street Studio. I was in shock, since I had no warning that this was planned. I instantly realized that I would never see the inside of the famed studio as I had dreamed, and that no more magic recordings would come out of that room, and I wondered how anyone could have let this happen. I was so upset, that I couldn’t stay and watch. I then went home and phoned some of my fellow Power Station engineers to tell them of the tragedy which I had just witnessed. I did not photograph the event, but the image still haunts me to this day, and is particularly fresh with the coincidence of these 2 recent events: 1) your AES presentation, and 2) that Avatar (formerly Power Station) had been saved from a similar fate. I wonder if the destruction of 30th Street would have been allowed to happen today, and I believe that the answer is no.
(posted exactly as sent)
Reading this again after not doing so since it was sent gives the same feeling of loss, shock, and sadness that it did when he first told me.
I had sent him a link to this thread back then, and he said he went through it all and enjoyed it a lot.
James, if you're reading this thread again, thank you for this final picture of that great studio.
As I've mentioned before, the working situation in the glorious studio was just work for a lot of people, and they had the same issues with bosses and co-workers that we have today - good and bad- , and there were a lot of unhappy personal times in that glorious studio which are still pretty close to the surface amongst some of those who were there. I choose to focus on the good parts of the building's life and try to do that with its death as well. I am interested in the facts of its demise but prefer to concentrate on the good parts of its life.
*meaning that I am unused to being a presenter of somewhat intellectual material rather than a medium through which it goes to reach the audience, and was both loving and being stunned by the preparation and public presentation of this material that I've enjoyed so much compiling, refining, and sharing here and other places, all of which is a semi-private activity. The appreciation that I've received has been wonderful and stunning, both. Hearing that story was a further stun.
Taking a bit of a sidestep, this is a bit of Columbia history that I got from Michael Gray. It is the product of an interview he did with Howard Scott, and is a handwritten (I believe by Howard) list of Masterworks people from the time Howard was there. Earlier in the thread we tried to decipher a list of projects that Howard had written that either he or Fred had recorded, and this looks about the same as that but a little easier to read.
Here is a transcription by me:
Goddard Lieberson.....Recording Director
1944 (or -5)
Goddard Lieberson......Director to V.P.
Charles O’Connell........Recording Director
Paul Tyler Turner.........Assistant Director
Greta Rauch.................A&R Representative
Richard Gilbert............Recording Director
(Goddard Lieberson became Executive V.P.)
Howard Scott................Recording Director
Howard Scott................Senior Director
Tom Shepard................Director.....(e: Thomas Z. Shepard)
John McClure...............West Coast Director
Tom Frost........................“ “ “
(I left in 1961)
Florette Zuelke for Dave (e: Oppenheim)
Dodie Lefeure (e: or Lefevre) for Howard (e: Scott)
Carita Richardson, staff
(e: = Edits by Dan)
(Dots added by me to preserve columns. The rest is pretty much like the handwritten copy.)
The job titles are confusing, because I would think that the title "Director" would be one or two people at a time, but this list has many simultaneous Directors and no Producers. Anybody know anything about this?
And from Schuyler's books I know that he only accepted being Head of Masterworks if John McClure was sharing the title and work, and this list doesn't reflect that. Regardless, it gives us a framework to know who was who over a span of time, and mentions the support staff which is important to keep the machine running.
I'm posting this now because of something that happened day before yesterday.
I've mentioned before about enjoying reading a few books by Schuyler Chapin, and perhaps that I think I had met him when my sister worked for the NYC Mayor's Office and I visited her at work. I remember her introducing me around, and specifically to someone named Schuyler who in my vague memory looked like Mr. Chapin, who I recently learned did, in fact, work for the Mayor's Office some time after he stopped being the head of the Metropolitan Opera, which was some time after he left Columbia. That whole sequence of his is a fascinating story, and he tells it well in his books. I definitely remember my sister telling me when we left that he was a very nice man, a description she did not use for a lot of other people in her office.
Anyway, getting involved in this 30th St project and learning about his being head of Masterworks made me remember that meeting and believe it was him but not positive about it. My sister had a stroke almost 3 years ago, and passed away over a year ago, so I couldn't ask her.
This last weekend my wife, kids and I were going through the last box of my sister's belongings (another long story), and in the pile was the program from A Celebration of the Life of Schuyler Garrison Chapin, on Wednesday March 11, 2009 at All Souls Unitarian Church in NYC.
She went to the memorial service and unquestionably knew him, and now I'm sure I met him and shook his hand.
It’s unclear what distinction there is, if any, between “Director” and “Recording Director”, but I was under the impression that “Recording Director” was simply what we call a producer today.
Who is Head of A&R or equivalent in that case?
The impression I had, which is more inference than anything, is that there was:
Head of Masterworks (label chief);
Producer for each session
Maybe an assistant.
I'll send a note to Steve Epstein to see if he can clarify.
Edit: Just sent it.
Steve wrote back and is still remarkably busy, but will look here when he can and respond.
Post #1863 described a party at 30th St. to welcome 3 then-new albums, below in order of expected impact, from largest to smallest:
Rock and Other Four Letter Words, by J Marks and Shipen Lebzelter;
In C, by Terry Riley; and last and expected least
Switched on Bach, by then-Walter Carlos.
As noted in the post, time has a way of flipping expectations upside-down, which is exactly what happened with these albums.
There was also a paperback book to amplify the predicted biggest impact, also called Rock and Other Four Letter Words, with text by J Marks and many wonderful pictures by Linda Eastman. My copy came yesterday, and I just got through looking through it. The only things relevant to this thread are one and possibly two pictures of Simon and Garfunkel possibly in Studio A where all you can see is them, some movable baffles, and the floor boards running parallel as they do in 30th St and also in Studio A. (I think we believe the floorboards are the same in both, right?)
Other than that, it's the mix of typefaces that you expect from that period and a lot of great pictures of bands and people that you've heard of and many you haven't, as well as important sounding quotes from many significant musicians. It's funny how The Peanut Butter Conspiracy is treated almost equally to The Buffalo Springfield, and how people were throwing things at the wall to see what would stick and it was all the same until it either stuck or fell off.
I found it for a very reasonable price on Abebooks, which is now my go-to source for used books. It's a network of independent booksellers that is searchable on this one website.
There are other books that I've read recently that have a closer but still tangential relationship to 30th St; should I describe them? They are about people who were in 30th St but their 30th St experiences did not make it into the books.
Is there Columbia related information, Dan?
Only in the sense of how the artists (Stravinsky in one, Horowitz in another) worked with the label to come up with material and what it was like working with them. I've learned a lot about Stravinsky, his wives and family, way of working, performances, etc., but not much about recording sessions other than that his wife would almost always accompany him, although the Plaut pictures do not show her.
I guess that answers the question for this thread, huh?
Can I brag that I thought of Addey right away? Not because I'm so smart but because he has had such a long, distinguished career since moving to the U.S.
Malcolm is also a gentleman, besides a great engineer. I got to meet him at a "Recording the Beatles" event at the Ed Sullivan Theater years ago. Though I can't recall the details at the moment of what I and the persons with me spoke with him about, he left a very fine impression.
With all due respect to MMM, after thinking (while away working the last few days) about this question along with my above answer for a while, I've decided that "relevance to Columbia" is not the only reason I'm interested in the studio and not the only things I'm interested in sharing.
I've said before that recreating the life of the studio in all its parts and details is fundamental to my interest, and the people who worked there in all their various functions is a LOT of why it's interesting to me. Fleshing them out so they are more than names or works is important to me, so I'm going to get into that a bit.
But not today. Colette Laico is coming over in a while and we're going to watch some movies I found starring Vera Zorina, who was Goddard's wife from 1946 until his death in 1977. She was previously divorced from George Balanchine, the extraordinary choreographer, and was a ballerina of wide renown and led an extraordinary life before she met Goddard. I'll post some pictures of her later where she's recording in 30th St with Fred Plaut's wife Rose.
Colette really enjoyed the movies. I had intended to show one that I found to buy ("I Was An Adventuress" -- how's that for a title?), but in reading Zorina's autobiography finally got to the part where she talked about the movies she was in, and the sequence is something like:
--Two ballets in the non-story film "The Goldwyn Follies", which is a collection of unrelated vignettes. The one we watched was the Water Nymph Ballet
designed and choreographed with a free hand by George Balanchine and filmed by Gregg Toland;
--"On Your Toes", a film version of the Broadway play by Rodgers and Hart. Apparently the film version is minus all or almost all of the R&H music
----part 1 On Your Toes 1939 Hollywood movie BROADWAY MUSICAL 1 part
----part 2 On Your Toes 1939 Hollywood movie BROADWAY MUSICAL 2 part
(There, now you've seen all we saw on Saturday, minus Colette's great laughter.)
--"I Was An Adventuress", with Erich Von Stroheim and Peter Lorre (haven't watched it yet);
--"Louisiana Purchase", with Bob Hope;
and some others. Her Wikipedia profile
In all of those she was billed as "Zorina", and had somewhat of the same impact that Garbo had had earlier in terms of being the impossibly beautiful and mysterious European Sensation. She was all over the papers and magazines since everything about her was made fascinating by the Hollywood PR machine.
I had heard this story before but didn't connect with who it was about, but she was the one who was picked by the studio to be opposite Gary Cooper in "For Whom The Bell Tolls", a part which was hit out of the park by Ingrid Bergman.
The Wikipedia and common version ("When she lost the role of Maria in For Whom the Bell Tolls after only two weeks shooting...") doesn't begin to tell the story as she described it in her autobiography.
The author of the story, Ernest Hemingway, and the director of the film, Sam Wood, wanted Ingrid Bergman, but the studio wanted Zorina. It was announced in a big way that she was hired, a big deal was made of cutting her shoulder-length hair for the part to a two-inch crop, and she and the rest of the cast and crew went out to the desert for the shooting. For two weeks, she sat in her trailer and did no scenes at all, while the rest of the cast and crew were shooting bits that she was not in. Then one day she had one two-minute scene, and then sat some more, waiting.
At the end of three weeks she was sent back to Hollywood (some distance away from the remote California and Nevada locations) for some "teeth work", where one of her perfectly good canine teeth was filed down, then she was told that the Director, Cooper, and someone else (Hemingway? not sure about that) delivered an ultimatum to the studio that if Bergman didn't replace Zorina NOW they would quit en masse and the studio would have to start over and waste 3 weeks shooting plus more production time replacing the quitters.
It was clear that that was the plan all along, to get enough film done that it would be a financial disaster to not give them what they wanted, so the studio did.
But the public perception was that Zorina was found wanting and replaced because she couldn't do the job. So she was left shorn and humiliated. That was in 1943.
To get this partially back on the track of this thread, she was married to George Balanchine from 1938-46. She met Goddard in 1944 when she and George were drifting apart but still together. They divorced in early 1946 and she married Goddard a month and a half later, and she stopped making films at the end of her Goldwyn contract in 1947, which she didn't enjoy anyway, and mostly stopped dancing, but continued acting in the theater.
Here's what she says about their meeting: "Coming home one day to the Beverly Wilshire hotel, I stopped at the desk for my key. Leaning on the desk, and obviously checking in, was a young man who said hello to me. I recognized him but could not think of his name. Gottfried? Gotthardt? What was it? While we exchanged the usual inane questions --'What are you doing here?' 'How long are you staying?'-- I suddenly realized where and when we had met. It had been three months earlier in New York at a tea given by Efrem Kurtz, the former Ballet Russe (e: her former dance employer) conductor. We had sat apart and had chatted almost exclusively with each other. I had seen him once more at the Russian Tea Room, when George and I had dined there, and I remembered that he had constantly turned around and made funny remarks, which I thought was rather rude to his own dinner companions. As this was ticking through my brain, his name came to me: Goddard Lieberson, director of classical music at Columbia Records. It appeared that he was in Los Angeles on a recording job and would only be staying for a few days. 'Could we meet?' I told him I was starting a new picture and had to go downtown tomorrow to Magnon's to see a dress designer. He jumped in and said he too had to go downtown, could he go with me? Our rapid exchange came to an end with the promise of a shared ride the next day."
(Leaving out a funny paragraph about Vera, her mother, and Goddard driving downtown the next day.)
"Goddard was witty and charming. He was tall, good-looking, and very funny, and when he turned on the full force of his personality , he was fairly irresistible. Even my mother could not make a discouraging remark about his hands (e: like she did for earlier beaus) because they were beautiful. When we met at the pool, I noticed that he also had beautiful feet. I was becoming very observant-- very alert, the way you do when an extraordinary person has entered your life. Goddard left after a few days, and we did not see each other again until I returned to New York in late autumn. What is one to say about that? We were deeply involved in our marriages and neither of us was ready or willing to jeopardize the lives of those we loved."
I wish I could quote the whole book. I really loved it. Her descriptions of her early life in Germany and Norway are poetically written and you can see pictures through her words.
If you are interested, it's for sale on Amazon at fairly high prices; I got it for a ridiculously reasonable price at the book site I referenced a few posts above.
I'll write a tiny bit more about Vera Zorina tomorrow and a few pictures after that before moving on.
One other notable thing about a very notable person:
When Vera Zorina (stage name)/Eva Brigitta Hartwig (original name) was little, she and her mother never tired of playing hide and seek. From the book: "When I 'disappeared', my mother was endlessly patient, plaintively calling, 'But where has she gone? I can't find her. Maybe she has gone to the elephants?' I can't remember why I might have gone to the elephants; perhaps it was considered the remotest place imaginable."
That passage jumped out at me because in a Stravinsky bio that I had recently read, it talked about how the adult dancer Zorina was riding an elephant in showgirl costume at a performance of the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus as the elephants danced to Stravinsky's Circus Polka for a Young Elephant, which was composed on commission by that circus company and choreographed for elephants and showgirls by Balanchine.
The bio made it sound like she traveled with the circus, or perhaps I misunderstood, but the reality from her autobiography is she did it once for a War Bonds benefit at Madison Square Garden in NYC, with no rehearsal, and as a solo with Modoc the elephant who books have been written about. The music for the solo was Invitation to the Dance, by Carl Maria von Weber, which ballet lovers know as Spectre de la Rose, apparently.
She says in her book: "When we entered the three-ring circus to roaring applause, it was one of those great moments in life. In that vast arena, we were alone in a blinding spotlight. I felt the incredible grandeur of riding on that noble beast, who knew exactly what to do and needed no directions from me. She walked majestically to the deafening fanfare of the band,, past the first ring, and entered the large middle ring. She knelt down and gently let me off. The band then began to play (e: the von Weber music) and Modoc started her 'dance'."
The only pictures I could find of her and Modoc are on the Getty website, but here is a Russian documentary in Russian about the Circus Polka and apparently some background on Stravinsky and Balanchine, who were both Russian
At 0:43 there some cool old footage of New York City, and the circus dance part starts around 4:14.
Here is also some in depth discussion about the origins, presentation, and demise of the circus polka.
Zorina was in 30th St and I think the old control room to do narration for a recording of Stravinsky's Persephone, in black dress and pearls, but I haven't researched that yet or found dates or reasons for why she was the narrator. That picture is also on the Getty site, which I'm extremely hesitant to quote.
As you can tell, I'm using this project as an excuse to learn about a lot of things that I don't know anything about. Sorry if it's not interesting to you, it's fascinating to me.
Here are a couple of pictures from the Plaut Collection at Yale of Vera Zorina, Rose (Kanter) Plaut (who recorded as Rose Dercourt), and (I'm pretty sure) Robert Craft in 30th St.
No idea when this is or what project it is, but if Craft is there it might be a Stravinsky project. Vera was the narrator for a number of them, including Persephone. Or, since Vera appears to be pointing something out to Rose, maybe she's acting as Producer and not talent. Her AllMusic credits say that in the 1970's she was a producer for Columbia Records under the name Brigitta Lieberson, but I would think this is before that since Fred left CBS in 1972. But who knows?
It looks like they're overdubbing to playback from the speaker between Craft and Rose; why wouldn't there be a ton of bleed into the mic?
And it also looks like Vera/Brigitta has her own mic, but no music stand with text. So that's mysterious.
We know that Rose and Fred were close to Francis Poulenc; while looking for anything that would place her with Zorina and Craft, I found a Google Books excerpt from a book called "Song on Record", edited by Alan Blyth, although I can't tell who wrote this article about Poulenc's music. However, the relevant part is:
"Poulenc never recorded with favorite female interpreters Suzanne Balguerie and Madeleine grey (sic). But he did one make a record with an unfavourable artist, a singer called Rose Dercourt. This recording (Turnabout TV 4489) must be avoided-- for it is only the strong-hearted who can listen to Poulenc playing away patiently while some of his finest songs are massacred a few feet away. It is a mystery why this ghastly record was ever contemplated, let aloane (sic) recorded and released."
Ouch for Rose. That's a thorny review.
Separate names with a comma.