SH Spotlight "The Immortal Voice" 1923 silent film on how phonograph records are made.

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Steve Hoffman, Mar 21, 2016.

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  1. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    Before microphones were invented, here is a silent film showing how it was done. "Sing into a can!"

    Other than the recording technique and the material used for the actual record, the processing is the same as today. Not much has changed in a century. And yes, I understand the irony of a silent movie on making recordings, but you can see a good example of a wax disk/cutter, etc. Rare film and surprisingly accurate. Behind the scenes at the Columbia Grafonola co.

    However, just two years later, the recording industry changed over to electric recording, Victor and Columbia had the Western Electric process in 1925, the smaller companies had to wait until 1927 for microphones and related gear to be installed. That's why some recordings (like Louis Armstrong's Hot Five, etc.) recorded in 1926 are still acoustic, no rights to the electric process yet. Typical.

    Koopers, JLGB, OpenMindAudio and 42 others like this.
  2. JozefK

    JozefK Forum Resident

    Along those same lines here is a short film from 1929 showing the technology behind sound films -- "talkies". Produced for the Western Electric Company by the great Max Fleischer.

  3. The Trinity

    The Trinity Forum Resident

    Brilliant, and so true. A wonderful technology that may never die.
  4. GuildX700

    GuildX700 Forum Resident

    Cool, thanks for sharing!
  5. swandown

    swandown Under Assistant West Coast Forum Resident

    Portland, OR
    I enjoyed the special effect that showed the sound waves being transmitted. Must have been pretty advanced stuff for the era.

    I also liked the overly optimistic belief that "our children's children" will be enjoying the songs of Rosa Ponselle in 2023. Oh, if only they knew what was about to hit them!
    pez and rxcory like this.
  6. tim_neely

    tim_neely Forum Hall Of Fame

    Central VA
    It's also very cool to see footage of the great Enrico Caruso on stage. People do still listen to his recordings 100 years later.
    JohnO and rxcory like this.
  7. Chris C

    Chris C Music was my first love and it will be my last!

    Thanks Steve for sharing the film! Fascinating how they figured all of this stuff out, especially back in those early days!

    Quick question, but how many copies of a recording could be made from the "mother" disc, before it was deemed useless and if known, were the labels (Victor, Columbia, etc.) very good with the quality control of these pressings, back in the day or did they just keep using the same "mother" endlessly?
  8. Joy-of-radio

    Joy-of-radio Forum Resident

    Oh, if only we knew what was about to hit us!
    RPOZ51 likes this.
  9. crispi

    crispi Vinyl Archaeologist

    You are so right, Steve. Never realised the earlier Hot Fives sessions were acoustical. I've read that Louis's groups were electrically recorded from the get-go, but I guess it was false. And my ears always told me otherwise. Thank God they switched to electric by the time "West End Blues" came...
  10. nopedals

    nopedals Forum Resident

    Columbia SC
    My grandparents were movie viewers when that film was distributed, and I own and enjoy Rosa Ponselle recordings, and plan on doing so in 2023, so that part is prophetic.
    Dennis Metz likes this.
  11. lennonfan1

    lennonfan1 Forum Resident

    baltimore maryland
    like me!
  12. colormesinatra

    colormesinatra Forum Resident

    Malverne, NY
    This is being shown (on film) at the Orphans Film Syposium, April 6th-9th in Culpeper, Virginia. The theme is Sound.

    Ill be presenting some of my work on the 6th as well!

    Will you be there, Steve?
  13. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    Yes, Okeh (not yet owned by ARC) was acoustic until '27, they had what they called the "Tru-Tone" process (you can see it on some Okeh labels of Louis, but they had no WE gear, still acoustic. The electric Hot 5's & 7's are wonderful sounding (Struttin' With Some BBQ, Potato Head Blues, etc.) but the acoustic stuff is also great (Heebie Jeebies, Yes, I'm In The Barrel, etc.)
    crispi likes this.
  14. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    Louis Armstrong Hot Five, Okeh acoustic "Tru-Tone" process. Recorded without microphones.

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  15. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    Louis Armstrong Hot Five, Okeh Western Electric process. Recorded with one WE microphone.

  16. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    Recorded with 264 microphones. :)

    Mister Charlie and crispi like this.
  17. goer

    goer Forum Resident

    Wonderful, thank you Steve!

    I love so much about this, the time they took to explain everything thoroughly, the beautiful language and typography, and especially the feeling of everlasting beauty they create
  18. zen

    zen Forum Resident

    Beautiful video. Thanks Steve.
  19. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    When Brunswick couldn't get the WE gear in 1925, they cobbled together the Brunswick "Light Ray" recording system, similar to the above sound-on-film system. It worked well, better sound than any acoustic recording, and the fact that it didn't have much dynamic range but nice fidelity (and pleasing distortion overload, especially when recording jazz), gave a frantic urgency to their jazz releases.

    A non-Western Electric Brunswick "Light-Ray" recording from 1926.

    What a great record. The band was so loud it totally overloaded the Brunswick recording system. They put King Oliver as far back as they could.

    When Brunswick/Vocalion got their Western Electric "official" electric gear in 1927 the dynamics improved but the records lost that compressed stress of the Light-Ray system (like a vintage Van Gelder).
  20. Thanks for the new signature line. In three years . . . this'll be 100 years old . . .

    zen and Steve Hoffman like this.
  21. Walter H

    Walter H Santa's Helper

    New Hampshire, USA
    The record being pulled off the press at 11:00 has a Columbia "Exclusive Artist" label:


    Rosa Ponselle was still recording for Columbia in 1923, moving to Victor late in the year. I believe that's Romano Romani conducting for Ponselle in the studio.
  22. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    Thanks for that. Recorded without any electricity, six years before microphones were used in recording.
    Pinknik likes this.
  23. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    Yes, and yes.
  24. JohnO

    JohnO Forum Resident

    Washington, DC
    It could be cute, and possible, to sync the actual recordings of Ponselle and the instrumental to that film. The film must show either actual recordings or a run through for something actually cut minutes later. Likely, both on the same day.

    Caruso made two full length silent movies, 1918 and 1919. He sang a few of his "greatest hits" in the films, and some theaters would play his Victor recordings along with the film. Not near perfect sync but even that must have been something at the time.

    One film survives poorly, the other (The Splendid Romance, 1919) is assumed lost but a rumor says a private collector has a copy. Always rumors.

    The Caruso bits in the top video/film were taken from My Cousin of 1918, which can be viewed here:

    My Cousin - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia ยป

    The Pagliacci and audience bits of Caruso used in Steve's video post begin around 13:28.
  25. stereoguy

    stereoguy The King Of Stereo Mixing

    >>>>>>I agree with one knew in 1923 that The Monkees would one day arrive and change the music business forever. :)
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