I had a live-sound mixing job this past weekend. The system that was hired was quite nice which made the job pretty easy. Thanks to hypercardiod microphones, graphic EQs, and stage monitors, feedback is not really a problem with concert sound these days; instead we tend to wrestle with volume levels, stage volume in particular. Above are two early high-tech methods of dealing with sound-reinforcement issues. The audio instruments model 301 time delay is a tape-echo machine which was intended not as a creative effect but instead to time-align speakers in a multiple-speaker system. As far as i can recall, this concept was made popular by the Grateful Dead in their massive arena systems of the 70s and later, and is now a defacto part of most large sound installations. Below that unit is the AI model 400 feedback supressor. Rather than employing frequency filters or dynamic control, the model 400 is one of an early category of feedback supressor (ALTEC made a similar product and I imagine there are others as well) that reduces system-wide feedback by shifting the entire frequency spectrum by some small amount, 1 or 2 hertz I imagine. The result? What goes ‘IN’ to the system is never the same as what goes ‘OUT’ of the system, so any ‘feedback’ is never linear and therefore a stated 6 to 12 db of additional gain becomes available. This is a fascinating concept that never went very far for some obvious reasons. You might never notice a shift of 2 hz on a violin part or a human voice, but bass guitar or organ? That could easily result in a 25% sharpening or flatting of the note. Bad news. I don’t know exactly what lead to the discontinuation of these sorts of devices, but I imagine that it may have been at least partially due to improvements in filter design that allowed inexpensive graphic EQs and fully-adjustable parametric EQs in the 1970s. I am very curious to know what feedback DID sound like when one of these frequency shifters is used: is it a long gliss up or down the pitch range to the maximum frequency response of the system? Anyone have experience with this?
Above: the very rare Gretsch Fury Amp circa 1966. This is actually a fairly unique amplifier. There is one on eBay right now that’s about to sell and it has two output transformers: whether this is a 2-way system or perhaps an dry/effects split operation or panning tremolo I cannot tell. Can anyone provide a schematic for this unit? It does not seem to be currently available on the ‘net.
Above: The Harmony Silhouette guitar circa 1966. I passed on an unplayed, flawless example of this thing for $175 last year and wow do i regret it. While not a great instrument in most senses, in the right hands these Harmonys have a zing-y percussive tone that cannot be imitated. The instrument’s personality comes across even in the iphone-audience-recording that’s i’ve inserted below. Great Lennon-meets-Hendrix playing here. Also btw check out how Annie Clark (or her FOH guy,,,) flips on the vox ADT effect for the choruses. Great performance all around.
Last weekend I stopped by 305 Knowlton, a gallery/artist-studio-building nearby my studio Gold Coast Recorders; there was a flea-market/craft-fair event happening at 305. My friend J and I bought some records from MT (who is in all likelihood the first person I ever bought a used record from, some twenty-plus years ago…): I picked up Obscured By Clouds, Booker T and The MG’s ‘Uptight’ soundtrack, and a Ma Rainey Comp. I asked J if he wanted to take a ride to see some local history, and within a minute we pulled up next to this impressive but nondescript building. “What’s this?” asked J. My response: ‘those old records in your lap – they were most likely created using machines designed and built in this very building.’
This is the Walter Street address once occupied by the Scully Recording Instruments Corporation (h.f. SRIC). As far as I can tell, SRIC dominated the US vinyl lathe market for most of the 20th century. Not much has been documented about the history of this important company, but we can conjecture a few reasons why they may have sprouted in this unlikely spot. East Bridgeport was developed and built by PT Barnum (yup, the Circus-impresario) largely to support the mid-19th century sewing machine industry, especially the works of Elias Howe. Howe’s tale is a long and complex one, but his company was responsible for drawing a huge number of skilled mechanical craftsmen (or Mechanics, as they were then known) to East Bridgeport in the mid 19th century. This in turn led to the reputation of Bridgeport as one of the machine-making capitals of the world.
The parking-lot shown above is situated at 480 Bunnell, which is indicated as the late-60’s address of the SRIC. I’ve had various audio-related enterprises based in East Bridgeport for seven years now; in addition to GCR, my modest audio-electronics shop is located just a few minutes from Bunnell street on Connecticut ave; my old recording studio was also once based in that space. I don’t know why it never occurred to me until now to investigate the previous neighborhood connections. Bridgeport has several other notable audio-historical connections which I will be documenting soon, starting with Columbia Records. Stay tuned…
Products covered, with text, specs, and photos, include: Gibson Super 400 CESN, L-5 CESN, ES-5 Switchmaster, Byrdland, ES-175, ES-175 DN, ES-350T, ES-125, ES-295, and ES-240 hollow-body electric guitars, Gibson GA-90, GA-77, GA-55 V, GA-70, GA-40 ‘Les Paul,’ GA-30, GA-20, GA-6, GA-9, and Gibsonette amplifiers; Gibson Les Paul Custom, Les Paul, Les Paul special, Les Paul Junior, and ES-225 electric guitars; Gibson J-160 E acoustic/electric, EM-150 electric mandolin, Gibson Electric Bass; Ultratone, Century, BR-6, Console Grande, Consolette, Electraharp, and Multiharp steel guitars, plus more.
This very rare catalog is something special for fans of the electric guitar. We see a number of trends developing – the solidbody electric guitar, ‘true vibrato’ circuits in amplifiers, high-wattage amps… and a few notably absent: humbucking pickups and amplifier reverb. These were right around the bend though… Download and enjoy.
Gibson’s 1956 ES-225T, the first of their many semi-hollow body guitars, the most iconic of which is the ES-335. I borrowed a friend’s ES-225T for a few weeks in high school and I still have very fond memories of it… great guitars, very expensive today.
The 1956 Gibson ES-140, their short-scale offering of the era. An artist whom I regularly work with at Gold Coast Recorders often brings one of these to sessions, and it is a seriously fun sitting-on-the-couch guitar with a seriously noisy single-coil pickup.
The 1956 Gibson Les Paul. We have a clone of one of these (based on a 1972 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe) at Gold Coast Recorders and it sounds great. 1956 was an important year in the development of the Les Paul as it marked the appearance of the tune-a-matic bridge: it was now possible to intonate your guitar quickly and accurately, AND also customize the string feel and sustain characteristic by setting the stud to get the break angle that you want.
Above: From DOWNBEAT magazine 1966: Bassist Ben Tucker discusses his home hi-fi system. Tucker played with a real who’s-who of the mid 20th century jazz world. I really like this idea of profiling the hi-fi systems of studio-savvy musicians; seems like a potentially good way of cutting through the audiophile obsessiveness, the marketing hype, and the bargain-hunting mentality that seems to inform a lot of sound-system purchases. Musicians tend to know what things are supposed to sound like and tend to respond intuitively to the emotional aspects of music reproduction, and they also tend to be on real-world budgets. Seems like a good sort of individual to take home audio advice from. Tucker used an Electrovoice 1177 receiver, AR3 speakers, Koss Pr-4 headphones, a Stanton Longhair cartridge, and a SONY 500 tape recorder.
Are any current publications/sites running similar features today on contemporary musicians?
T. Fine: “Bert Whyte was an early Magnecorder dealer located on Long Island NY. He was also an early enthusiast for making 2-channel staggered-head binaural recordings. Whyte was a friend of Bob Fine, the engineer responsible for the Mercury Living Presence single-mic mono recordings in the early 1950’s. Fine and David Hall (Mercury’s recording director at the time) let Whyte tag along on several recording trips to Chicago and Minneapolis, where Whyte made experimental 2-mic binaural recordings for his own personal use and to demonstrate the abilities of the Magnecorder. This photo shows White and his binaural rig in the front of Bob Fine’s recording truck. In the foreground at left is a portion of one of the two Fairchild full-track mono recorders used to make the Mercury recordings. Photo date is likely 1952 or 1953.
Bert Whyte went on to write an influential record-review column for Radio & TV News, later Electronics magazine. He was also a founder of Everest Records, where he oversaw engineering and recording of the well-regarded Everest classical records. After Everest went out of business, Whyte returned to journalism, writing for Audio Magazine from the 1960’s until Audio ceased publication. Whyte also continued to engineer and produce records over the years. Probably his best-known later recordings were the direct-to-disc records made for Crystal Clear Records in the late 70’s. At the Crystal Clear D2D recording of Virgil Fox, a parallel recording was made using the prototype Soundstream digital recorder. Those recordings were later released on CD, titled “The Digital Fox.” Whyte was an early enthusiast of digital recording, praising the Sony PCM-F1 recorder in the pages of Audio Magazine. He ran PCM-F1 backups of his direct-to-disc recordings in London, also for Crystal Clear Records.”
Do certain acoustic phenomena create universal psychological effects?
Does rhythm hold primacy in the hierarchy of musical elements owing to the ever-present heartbeat, with us since months before we are even born?
Do we have genetically programmed responses to such things as the doppler effect (captured via the Leslie speaker), surely a useful phenomenon for hunting animals to pay notice?
Are there other musical devices that could possibly be based in instinctual animal behavior?