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Monday, August 30, 2010

Country Aerobics

That's what I found as a "padding protective material" with a record I recently bought...


1, 2 & 3... hop, hop, hop... puff, puff, puff... yiiiiaaahhh!

Oregon... BUT where is Ralph Towner?

Vasant Rai & Oregon - Spring Flowers-Autumn Song

Vasant Rai is one of the world’s most acclaimed masters of Indian music.He emerged a virtuoso on the sarod.(The sarod is a 25-string fretless lute.) In 1973, Rai became a visiting professor of music at Columbia University in New York City. He subsequently founded the Alam School of Indian Classical Music in New York, where he now teaches sarod, sitar, flute, violin, guitar, and voice. He lives in the Chelsea district of New York City, and carries on the pure classical tradition of his homeland, expressing the same universal musical spirit as his guru. But meanwhile, Vasant is exploring new directions.
“I am a musician,” he says. “I’m following the traditional ways, but I’m not orthodox to the point where I won’t do other things.” He has, in fact, appeared with electric guitarists Carlos Santana and John McLaughin (in 1974), and is perhaps best known for his remarkable series of “East-West blends” on the Vanguard label-compositions and improvisations recorded with members of the group Oregon. Vasant is currently recording and experimenting with his “fretless guitar,” a self-modified sarod-guitar hybrid.- from Vasant's website

You have recorded several "East-West blends" recently. As a classical artist, what motivated you to go in this direction?
I would like to offer the best of Indian classical music to as many people as possible. But only about 10 percent of the population would go to listen to Indian music, or any Oriental classical music. That doesn't mean that they don't like it. It's just new for them. I have tried to create something with Western musicians. I have mixed Indian and Western music so audiences hear something Indian when they are listening. When the general listener hears Autumn Song or Spring Flowers (Vanguard LPs), he would hardly know this is something from India.
Did you compose those pieces and then find Western musicians to suit your needs?
Yes. I composed and then thought, "What instrument would work with this composition?" I thought of violin, cello, or any other continuous sound instrument. Because I play sarod, which is plucked, I wanted a bowed or wind instrument-and drums, of course. I thought if I used tabla the audience would decide, "Oh, this is something Indian." So I included more conga drums. Then I tried many different violinists. They were good, but I wasn't satisfied-they would improvise well but would go far away from the composition. Then I finally got Jerry Goodman. He's a very good violinist who has been classically trained and who also plays jazz. When he played I was satisfied. I called him from Chicago and within a day he "felt it." Collin Walcott of Oregon helped write the staff notation. I also wanted either oboe or alto sax, so I got Paul McCandless from Oregon. He's a wonderful musician; his improvisation was a good match for my composition.
- an Ira Landgarten interview for Frets magazine in 1980

Artist: Vasant Rai & Oregon
Albums: Spring Flowers (1976) and Autumn Song (1978) on 1 CD
Label: Comet (2002)
Total time: 74:54

Spring Flowers:

1. Smile of Goddess Sarasvati 4:38
2. Distant Village 5:20
3. Spring Wind 5:57
4. Guitarist from Unjha 4:35
5. Saptak 6:54
6. Leaving Home 4:32
7. Midnight Meditation 6:53
All compositions by Vasant Rai

Vasant Rai (Sarod, Acoustic Guitar, Flute and Tamboura)
Collin Walcott (Tabla, Congas, Percussion, Sitar and Bass Guitar)
Glen Moore (Piano and Double Bass)
Paul McCandless (Oboe and French Horn)
Dilip Naik (Electric Guitar)
Jerry Goodman (Violin) - 1,3,5,6

Autumn Song:

1. Autumn Song 7:13
2. Country Wedding 4:52
3. Bhairui (Drak-Eyed Girl) 7:12
4. Lullaby 5:08
5. Late Night Guitar 3:43
6. Sunlight Dance 7:57
All compositions by Vasant Rai

Vasant Rai (Sarod, Flute, Guitar, Piano and Swarpeti)
Paul McCandless (Oboe and English Horn)
Collin Walcott (Tabla, Madal, Congas, Mouth Bow and Percussion)
Glen Moore (Double Bass)
Charles Kindler (Violin)
Robert Kindler (Cello)
Kokila Rai (Tamboura)
Martin Quinn (Drums)

Whistling - our first choice personal audio

Wikifacts about whistling and whistlers

I'm someway deeply fond of whistling... I've never been able to use fingers for those loud cowboy-ish calls, BUT, nonetheless, I always loved this so human sound and I'm rather clever at it.

... yes, I know, also prairie-dogs whistle;-)))... but from Harpo Marx to some '50s and '60s american tunes where a round, beautiful whistle blends with orchestra and jazz combos... well, I always loved this noble and humble art.

I wonder "what" makes a tune good for whistling: it's not only a simple melody, as I'm able, with the support of my inner ear - i.e. filling the gaps left with inside humming and the like, to also whistle complex part, solo and counterpoint;-)))...

It seems a tune worth being whistled owns a very strong personality, a strenght not present in every song.

... as you're possibly aware, I'm a big fan of Robert Wyatt music and singing and composing... I find it both weird and amusing I'm able to whistle looong parts of his "Moon in June" almost twenty minutes long composition (!!??!!)...

I'm not doing this on a stage for an audience... I love TOO much people to annoy with such an "artistic expression",-) of mine... but the interactive, deep pleasure I obtain from whistling the a.m. "Moon in June" is MUCH more than the one I have from listening to it on my iPod...

Strange, isn't it?

It's like the memory loves retriving the melodic lines, as like as the body loves harmonically blowing through the lips... and I'm not telling you how much I love singing in desert church, museum, large hall and the like.

Mom made me flawed, folks;-)))

Friday, August 27, 2010

Last evening disks... David Grubbs - "An Optimist Notes the Dusk" and Peter Blegvad & Ian Partridge - "Orpheus - The Lowdown"

My recent exposure to "Gastr del Sol" music brought me to my friend Daniele's CD-R of David Grubbs' "An Optimist..."

Must admit I'm not a lover of "copies" or downloads... I'm an old-timey cat: when I like something I buy it, as my disc-pusher - Ivan - well knows...

Nonetheless, I had this cheap CD-R by David Grubbs Daniele gave to me weeks ago... "Give a listen!"... and humble like only a CD-R in a plastic-bag can be, I simply left it unlistened on a shelf...

Yesterday evening, after dinner, I reached my studio and turned ON only the Thomas Mayer VT-25A line-stage and power-amps... browsed among disk and was attracted by... well, you got it;-)

... and I put it on the Studer and... WOW!

A plain, slightly distorted electric guitar, but played in a "non-style" similar to last John Fahey's Telecaster era... and a voice almost naked, straight like an arrow and a dark, burnished atmosphere which was soooo "right" for my evening listening.

I listened to Grubbs' disk in one uninterrupted shot... and like I entered an alternate-world path, I felt ready for "Orpheus - The Lowdown" by Peter Blegvad and Ian Partrdidge... this disk truly is a weapon: the (extremely low frequency) skin of drums on "Galveston", the guitars and loops and voices and texts on "Noun Verbs"... ALL is weird and seldom heard.

No words are able to describe the effect which these two disks together left on yours truly... when I turned OFF my music system and walked home... I felt like a stranger in a strange world.

Powerful stuff, indeed...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

RR-77 and Schumann Resonance


What is the Schumann Resonance?

The "Schumann Resonance" is a resonance frequency that exists in the Earth's "electromagnetic" cavity; i.e. it exists between terrestrial surface and ionosphere. German physicist W.O.Schumann first detected the resonant properties of this terrestrial cavity in 1954. It may be said that the Schumann Resonance is a breathing phenomenon of the Earth that is lasting from old time. The lowest-frequency ?iand highest-intensity ?jmode of the Schumann Resonance is at a frequency of approximately 7.83Hz.
Human and all animals and plants have been guarded by this frequency of 7.83Hz and lived for long time. But recently, many unnatural radio waves and electromagnetic waves disturb this frequency of 7.83Hz, it have caused wrong influence on our human bodies.
We substantiate that there are many effects when the frequency of 7.83Hz is generated artificially.

Wikifacts about SRF

For Audio equipments
By generating the Schumann Resonance, there is an effect that it neutralizes electromagnetic waves generated from an audio equipment and external harmful radio waves. So interference of electromagnetic waves and radio waves that exist among equipments is disappeared, it becomes possible to reproduce the music clearer, the S/N ratio is improved higher and the distortion is reduced.

For Listening room
Also, by generating the Schumann Resonance, there is an effect that it neutralizes harmful standing waves. And it has the feature of improving the viscosity of the air in the listening room. Therefore, you can reproduce the excellent music, the sound is improved clearly audible, and the depth of the sound image is increased dramatically.

For Listener
It is established medically that generating the Schumann resonance activates the cellular immunity. And it is said that the Schumann resonance produces the good relaxation effects, and the attentiveness is raised greatly. So you can hear the details of the sounds that could not be heard before.
Ultra low-frequency pulse generator RR-77 is used in the major recording company!!
Because of the great effects of the RR-77, recording engineers or musicians take notice the RR-77. recently, the RR-77 is used for the recording process of the major recording company; it has given full play to its ability for not only recording equipments but also a live performance of a piano and other instruments. The RR-77 is also used at every music schools and concert.


Picture quality is improved by the RR-77
The RR-77 brings a great ability of a projector, such as CRT Projectors, DLP Projectors, Liquid projectors. By using RR-77, the focus of the picture is improved certainly.
We recommend that you use the RR-77 as final method of adjustment of the projector.



RR-77 is never contacted with devices
When you connect the RR-77 to the wall receptacle with the AC adapter attached for it, you set the RR-77 at the place which height is over than 1m50cm in your room.
If the height of the location of the RR-77 is less than 1m50cm, effects become less. So you must make sure of the height of the setting position of the RR-77.


N.o.B. (Note of Blogger) - I don't know if what I "feel" is a 7,83 hz "Earth Pulse", folks... sure - at night - also in the quietest room in a hostel in the forests of the Dolomites - "something" exists... a noise, like a background noise I "feel" more than hearing it... I always jokingly called it "my inner machine pulse" and my wife blamed my foolishness;-).

... hey, Herr Schumann;-)))... is this you intended?

No comment.

Jac Holzman and Elektra - "Follow the Music: The Life and High Times of Elektra Records in the Great Years of American Pop Culture"

Go and browse Amazon, folks... this very book is about Jac Holzman and his Elektra records which represented a lot for our music... The Doors, Tim Buckley, only to name a few... this book tells EVERYTHING!

... and, hey... the producer and recording engineer behind The Best Elektra's was (recordist extraordinaire) Bruce Botnick... one of my heroes!

This book is a veritable must-have.

Wikifacts about Jac Holzman... an impressive career, indeed...

BTW... did you know Jac Holzman and Mike Nesmith (of Monkees' fame) have been the creators of MTV?!?!?!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Le dynamiseur "LODYFI"

I'm posting the following after reading it - thanking my friend Toni and his "Diapason" French music magazine - an enthusiastic, INCREDIBLY enthusiastic would say review of these... theeese... well, apparently small emptied wooden chops on a base with "water" inside...

I'm linking to the French distributor(s)- 1 /and 2 and the scarce literature available on WEB without ANY responsibility nor any comment on my part - i.e. read, judge, eventually order under your mature, full responsibility.

... all said and considered... maybe worth a read, as Diapason seldomly quoted rubbish, both in software AND hardware;-)

... and any speculation is much welcomed.

Vienna Vibes 2010

About two months ago was held in beautiful Vienna an audio tasting where friends old and new were there with their enthusiasm, knowledge, craziness and skill...

David Haigner, Thomas Mayer, Frank Schroeder, Thomas Schick, Michael Ulbrich, Bernd Uecker, David C. Shreve, Hartmut Quaschik... the best of the crop, was there, hosted by Norbert and Alexander.

Beer, triodes and music were well represented, too... like - thanking Thomas Mayer - "hecho a mano" Habanos's;-)))

As I wasn't able to join the group, I'm well aware such a gathering isn't describable in words, as it's chatting, empathy, laughing, listening and swapping ideas and knowledge, friendly.

The best of audio, indeed!

... and only the pictures tell enough... words are a limit.

"Bravo" to Norbert and friends... hoping to see you soon.

The Audio Eagle review


... more pixes by Thomas Schick

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bristol: among the most musical cities ever?

Portishead, Massive Attack and a bunch of music daredevils come from Bristol.

Maybe the air, the sea, the quality of ales and pubs, good schools and strong, tight friendships... ALL considered this beautiful town gave to music more than Liverpool;-)))

A genuine well-kept Welsh secret is a group called "Flying Saucers Attack", aka Rural Psychedelia, as they're sometimes also called, after the name of one of their best discs.

Wikifacts about FSA

It's spacey, adventurous music, sometimes noisy free-jazz tinted, sometimes reminding the best Can from Germany.

A refreshing listening, nonetheless...

Thanks to Martin Stuart Moore for his beautiful bird-sight over Bristol.

Monday, August 23, 2010

News from David Sylvian's SamadhiSound

David's compilation of collaborative recordings made over the past decade or so and entitled 'Sleepwalkers' will be available from Sept 27th. We'll be taking pre-orders from the end of August. We'll post more details closer to the actual date.

A number of the tracks have been given a subtle remix by David to bring them in line with his personal requirements while others have been given more obvious updates and changes. All the material has been completely remastered.

As previously reported the track listing is as follows:

01. Sleepwalkers (with Martin Brandlmayr)
02. Money for all (with Nine Horses)
03. Ballad of a deadman feat. Joan Wasser (with Steve Jansen)
04. Angels (with Jan Bang and Erik Honoré aka Punkt)
05. World citizen - I won't be disappointed (with Ryuichi Sakamoto/Chasm mix)
06. Five lines (with Dai Fujikura/ previously unreleased)
07. The day the earth stole heaven (with Nine Horses)
08. Playground martyrs (with Steve Jansen)
09. Exit/delete (with Masakatsu Takagi)
10. Pure genius (with Tweaker)
11. Wonderful world (with Nine Horses)
12. Transit (with Christian Fennesz)
13. The world is everything (with Takuma Watanabe)
14.Thermal (with Arve Henriksen)
15. Sugarfuel (with Readymade FC)
16. Trauma (solo outtake from Blemish)

Compilation produced by David Sylvian.

Little Girls With 99 Lives by Ingrid Chavez
31.07.10: Permalink » Little Girls With 99 Lives by Ingrid Chavez

The four songs written and recorded by David Sylvian and Ingrid Chavez in the mid to late 90's, which were previously only available on the B-sides of various singles released by Virgin Records, are collected here for the first time. Available in a new digipak designed by Sylvian and, in keeping with some of the intimate themes addressed in the material, the artwork features images of Ingrid as a young girl. Each copy is signed and numbered by both Sylvian and Chavez and the pressing is strictly limited to 1000. There will be no reprinting of the edition once it has sold out.

18.06.10: Permalink » Manafon vinyl edition

The Manafon Vinyl Edition will be released on the 26th July. It will only be available as a pre-order from initially, and then from specialist retailers from 26th July.

This two-disc deluxe vinyl version of Manafon is produced to the highest standards in a heavy, rigid card gatefold sleeve with design by Chris Bigg and featuring artwork by Ruud Van Empel and Atsushi Fukui. This release is limited to a one time pressing of 1200 units, and will be priced at $40.00 (US)

Both vinyl discs are manufactured in the UK using 180gm heavyweight vinyl, the album was mastered at Metropolis Mastering, London. Each disc comes in a printed card slip-case, and the entire package was manufactured by the same team that produced the Deluxe Manafon edition.

Spread over four sides, the album comes with a bonus track, a remix of "Random Acts of Senseless Violence" by acclaimed contemporary classical composer Dai Fujikura, which was previously unavailable outside of Japan.

For track listing, packshots and ordering details, visit the Samadhisound shop.

Friday, August 20, 2010

BBC "Noises and Sounds from the World" Series

I'm ready for any screenplay need... beautiful old discs by BBC... ask me for the sound of a bee on a flower or a pony galopping or a Winchester's rifle shot... I have it!;-))

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Lampizator goes commercial or World needs more Fikus

Here is new Lukasz Fikus' site and newly brewed DAC masterpieces available to every Man of Good Will...

I guess - after completing my bass horn(s) project - I'll finally choose hot-rod digital and will order my Fikus' DAC... like Loredana and others did...

Stay tuned!

Thanks Lukasz for burning yr. fingers and breathing soldering vapors in the name of Music.

How a vinyl disc is produced or the making of a record

Are you sitting comfortably?

It all starts with the disc recorder or "lathe" as it is often referred to, an amazing piece of equipment designed with a slowly rotating feed screw mechanism and carriage to move a cutting head across the radius of the disc. The accurately shaped cutting stylus, mounted in the head, cuts a precise spiral groove across a flat lacquer coated aluminum disc (acetate) spinning at an exact speed of 33-1/3, 45, or in the old days, 78.26 revolutions per minute, the standard phonograph operating speeds.

Next see's the cutting head installed on the lathe, this is simply a phonograph pickup in reverse, that is, feed audio in and get mechanical motion out. Other than Dits greater size, the specially shaped cutting stylus, and the feed screw mechanism which moves the head across the record to make the spiral groove, the internal workings are very similar. The recording stylus is probably the most important component of the recording process, and was probably first used by Edison in 1877.

Diamond is not a good material for a cutting stylus, but is excellent as a reproducing stylus. Home cutting styli were commonly made of a steel alloy because it was inexpensive to manufacture but most cutting styli for professional use are made of corundum, better known as sapphire which will outlast a diamond and produce superior recordings. Since those early recordings on wax, recording blanks have been called by various names including instantaneous discs, lacquers, acetates, soft-cuts and others. The most accurate is probably "lacquer" because of the fact that they are lacquer coated with a compound of cellulose nitrate, and acetate had little to do with it, although it has become a common name for a lacquer coated disc, and many professionals still use the term "acetate".

The phrase "waxing," still persists to day even though the old solid block of wax were in use until not long before World War II. Before there was no magnetic tape and the recordings had to be cut originally on huge thick blocks of warmed, essentially beeswax. The final product before "processing" became a single lacquered disk onto which the actual recording grooves were cut. different grades of "acetates" were offered by the manufacturers, distinguished by the evenness of coating and thickness of the metal itself. Simply explained, all the discs of a given grade started through the manufacturing process the same way, but subsequent inspection determined the quality level that the disk met before it was shipped out for use. Before setting off on its spiral course, everything must be pre-set and double-checked, from the visual selection and flatness of the disc blank, to the condition of the sapphire cutting stylus, chip suction and all the audio connections and settings. An appropriate size recording disc blank is chosen... usually 14" diameter for a 12" final disc size. Once it's underway a cutting stylus cannot be stopped without ruining the disk! A silent groove test cut is made, outside the diameter of the finished disc. This is examined under the microscope to check for correct groove size, and sometimes played back to ensure that the noise level is appropriately low. Sometimes discs are rejected at this stage, or even a cutting stylus might be changed, before things are ready to begin the actual recording.

It this point the vacuum pump is started, tape players are cued to the beginning of the recording, the cutting turntable set rolling and now the stylus is carefully lowered to the record surface. First, the fast beginning lead-in spiral is cut, the tape playback is started a turn or two after the spiral has ceased and the audio feed to the disc recorder is enabled. Depth of cut is periodically checked through the microscope, and of course the volume levels must be watched even though automatic variable pitch will protect against most instances of overcutting to adjacent grooves. The running time must be checked at the 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4 way through, to ensure that the disc reaches the desired end point necessary for standardization of the finished product. At the end of the record, after about two blank revolutions, the final spiral lead-out groove is made by speeding up the lead screw of the cutting lathe, either automatically or manually, followed by a lock groove.

In earlier times, an eccentric lock groove was added on a special machine designed for this purpose. The master is now done and is visually examined very closely for flaws... once made the master is never played. for moving, the masters are bolted by their center holes into a complicated box of separations that keep the actual surfaces from touching, the lacquer is extremely delicate and easily scratched.

There are only minor differences between records, other than the most obvious of size and speed, from 7" 45 rpm through to the 12" 33 rpm. The greatest differences, however, are found in the groove sizes. Coarse groove 16" radio transcriptions used a slightly narrower and more closely packed groove than the average 78 "standard", but it is played at 33 rpm. The groove used for LP's and 45's is smaller still, and much more closely packed. The problems of groove accuracy with LP's are greater than with the old larger groove, and for a while after the first LP's in 1948 it was reported throughout the industry that small groove cutting was all but impossible. After months of experimenting the cutting of small grooves became less hassle and no more trouble in this area than the wider groove process. With minor adjustments to stylus size and depth of cut any record type could be cut on the same equipment. Producing a metal press that will actually mold records from shellac or vinyl is a multiple plating process.

Depositing metal upon metal by means of an electric current that transfers metal through a plating solution directly to the actual surface being plated. At this point record making is surrounded by tanks. Rows and rows of containers filled with multi coloured liquids, some steaming, some sloshing about, as objects are swished through the depths. To make an actual metal impression the lacquer must either flow on the metal and let it harden or plate it on cold. The first process obviously being impossible (lacquer is a soft, highly inflammable plastic!), some form of plating is the only answer. But how do you plate metal onto a non-metal? A number of methods have been used. The oldest, when master records were cut into wax blocks, was to apply an extremely thin coating of graphite, a form of carbon that we know as pencil lead, which conducts electricity. To this coating, thin enough not to disturb the record groove shape unduly, one could actually plate metal, which would take on the shape of the record grooves. When enough metal had been backed up on the plating, it was an easy matter to strip it from the wax and the graphite, leaving a mold of metal. Three ways are used to get the first microscopic layer of metal onto the lacquer. Silver spray is the newest and trickiest and also the silver pan bath is still used, similar in its chemistry; it takes longer, and is not as accurate . Lacquers are treated in a different way, to give metal coatings at first only a molecule or so thick.

The most dazzling to watch involves silver nitrate and a simple spray gun. The lacquer surface is "sensitized" by being dipped into a solution of stannous chloride which is washed off in a water spray, leaving a very thin coating. Silver nitrate solution is sprayed at the disk and the black becomes a mirror of silver in seconds. Silver has been deposited in an extremely thin layer by chemical (replacement) action, the stannous chloride acting as a catalyst to promote the process. The newly silvered disk is washed and moves on to its next treatment. The next objective is to build up a solid metal backing on the thin silver coat. This may be confusing, since this "backing" is actually being deposited on the front of the original disk. Remember, that we are making a negative mold, its surface now of silver, in direct contact with the lacquer surface and facing away from us as we look at the record. We are really looking at the silver from the rear, and we are about to add more metal to that rear in order to stiffen it. The original record will eventually be stripped away, leaving the other side of the silver, the facing-down side, as the mold. The beginning of the build-up of the metal backing support, a layer of very fine-grained and delicate copper or sometimes nickel, is laid down slowly on the silver surface just produced. It's fine-grained in order so not to disturb the tiny groove patterns and to hold them accurately in place.

After this, a more coarse grained metal can be piled on, although in some plants, another layer of fine grained "pre-plating" is added first. The coarse coating is desirably much faster, since at the slow fine-grain pre plating speed, it may take weeks to build up a strong enough layer of metal. One company used special rotating disk anodes that swish around close to the surface of the metal record and do the plating job to required thickness in a few hours. Other much slower systems use the usual immersion tanks with moving arms to swish the contents about. Enough metal is put on the back of the silver surface to support it rigidly. and with a quick blow of a special hammer and with a shaking of the inserting tool, the entire silver-copper mold breaks free from the lacquer, and we have a negative in metal, the back side or down-surface of the silver a mirror-image the original grooves. The lacquer is usually damaged in this separating process and cannot be used again; so the new metal negative, or "matrix", is now the only form in which the grooves exist. Being a negative, the grooves become sharp ridges with flat valleys between. This metal negative or "matrix" can now be used to stamp out actual records! Since it is now the only existing copy of the original lacquer disc, in most cases it is used to produce a "mother", a positive metal record that can actually be played for testing purposes. Playing is not this mother's destined role and instead, the mother is submitted to another plating operation much like the first, ending in another metal negative which is the desired "stamper". Since the mother, unlike the fragile lacquer original, is made of metal, it can be re-plated many times over, producing negative after negative in metal, all identical with the first.

We now have a source of negative offspring stampers, each of which can press out as many as a thousand or so actual finished records. Multiple mothers can be made from the original metal matrix so multiple identical mothers can be sent to other pressing plants or countries for their production requirements, and thus huge quantities of records can be produced in a very short time if need be, all with exactly the same quality level of the release pressings in the originating country or plant. The first step in preparing for the creation of the mother is to remove the silver that now contains the direct groove Impression.. Removing the silver coating is necessary because it would quickly oxidize and corrode in the air. Fortunately it is a molecule-thin coating, and the underlying harder metal has virtually the same sharp image as the original. A swish or two of chromic acid takes the silver away faster than it was deposited by spray in the first place. With the silver off but the groove image still "metalized" in the negative matrix, the whole plating process is repeated to re-create a new image. Before plating, a separating solution is applied to the surface, so that, though metal will plate on metal, it can be stripped off later on, otherwise the entire thing would become a useless solid metal block. Next, a hard but ultra-thin chrome surface must be plated on and next the hole in the middle, plus the stamper's rear side, which must be shaved to the right thickness to fit the press and the outside edge which must be trimmed to size. The rear surface is machined away in a lathe operation where a precision gouge scrapes a spiral track from the outside of the back, right to the inside, shaving off all the irregularities, leaving a mirror-bright flat backside. The edges trimmed, the stamper then goes to the centering machine. As soon as the master has its hole, it loses it. Another punch knocks out a larger area, usually a couple of inches in circumference from the middle to fit the center of the press. But the disk's position is exactly determined by the small hole, and so the essential information is preserved, the final hole in the record to be made in the actual pressing according to it.

After the previous steps that occur between the original recording and the final metal negative stamper disk comes the final operation of making of the actual record. The basic press structure is precisely what is needed for record making... two similar molds, both heated, mounted face to face with a hinge at the rear so that the machine opens up facing you. Enlarge these two molds to record size; to hold two record stamper disks, one below and one above (fastened in by their centers and around the edges), and you have the beginnings of a record press behind each stamper comes a sudden heat, using super-heated steam at three hundred degrees, then quick cooling by cold water, all of which must be controlled by the opening and shutting of appropriate valves - and automatically, since no human operator could maintain the exact desired cycle of hot and cold that produces the perfect record. The easiest record to make and the most common is the solid disk, of a single material all the way through, though the more complex records, such as Columbia's old laminated disk, go through the same presses. Record and label are bonded together in the pressing. The operator of a pressing machine has beside him a "hot tray" on which is placed a dozen or so rectangular blocks of material, (shellac or vinyl) about half the area and two or three times the thickness of the final record. The biscuits are softened up on the hot plate until they are of the consistency of a soggy piece of fried mush, just about movable in one piece, and no more. With the press open, first a label, then a biscuit, then another label is placed in the press, and the top lowered. The automatic system then takes over unobtrusively; steam heats and flows the plastic material into every tiny groove; at the predetermined moment it is replaced by water, and the record is instantly hardened. The record is lifted out, and the next one is ready to go in.

After coming out of the hot press the newly made record has its ragged edge neatly trimmed by a circular cutting device and then passed on for inspection. Records are rejected by visual inspection and by actual playing checks. A significant quantity are rejected - large bins of rejects, returns and cut-outs wait to be fed to the elaborate machinery that reduces these masses of unsatisfactory disks to chunks, and then to powder for recycling into more records. Visual inspection is done by workers who look closely at every disk that comes to them on conveyer belts, sorting out the rejects. The supplementary playing-out-loud of a sample record every so often catches most faults that may have developed in a stamper before it has pressed too many bad discs.

... an always interesting essay.

The invention of vinyl

In 1888 a gentlemen named Emile Berliner invented the flat disc record. These very first discs were produced of a vulcanised rubber and were between 12.5cm and 18cm in diameter.

Later he discovered that a mixture of shellac (a secretion from the lac beetle) and slate dust produced an extremely hard wearing but very brittle surface and from this the 78rpm disc was developed. The slate dust was used because the older acoustic gramophones used steel needles with a pick-up weight of up to 200 grams and the slate helped grind the needle to fit the groove more closely. A modern record pick-up tracks at a recommended maximum of 7 grams. Most record players today can pick up a track at under 1 gram.

Between 1900 and 1960 the discs were usually 25 or 30cm across & gave between 2 and 5minutes playing time each side. In the beginning sound was recorded with a horn attached to a diaphragm and stylus, which scratched out a trace in a rotating wax disc. This method lasted until 1925, when microphones became sufficiently developed to allow the recording of music.

During the Second World War records were sent from the USA to overseas POW camps to keep up prisoner morale. Due to their brittleness these were frequently broken in transit, so a new compound, vinyl, was born to give greater flexibility and reduce the likelihood of breakages. During the war years vinyl was a very expensive material but the special circumstances of war justified it's use.

By 1948, Columbia Records had developed its 30cm Long Playing record, rotating at 33rpm and giving about 20-30 minutes a side which saw the downfall of shellac and vinyl was used from then on. Long-playing phonograph records may look the same now as when they were introduced in 1948, but countless refinements and developments within the industry have been made to perfect the long-playing record's technical excellence and insure the best in sound reproduction and quality available in recorded form.

A year later the first 45rpm disc was produced by RCA, 18cm in diameter and giving about 3 minutes a side. No better than the 78 for playing time, but ideal for pop record companies and juke box manufacturers! The 45 was light, compact, sounded much better than the 78 and was less prone to getting broken. 1958 saw the arrival of stereo records although unsuccesful experiments with two channel sound had been going on since before the First World War. This pleased those first "collectors" but irritated the retailers who had to keep dual stocks of LPs in mono and stereo and of course, the record companies had to prepare separate mono and stereo mixed versions of the LPs to start with. Stereo was generally only used for LPs up until about 1970, when pop singles began to appear in stereo versions so by this time the mono LP became a thing of the past.

In the late 1950s some companies experimented with a 16rpm speed originally intended for 'talking books' but was also used for music LPs in Eastern Europe and Africa. An American company also produced an 8rpm discs in the early 1970s for talking books for the blind. The 30cm disc rotating at 45rpm made it's first appearance in 1975 and makes the most of the best features of the 33 and 45rpm formats by offering a reasonable playing time (up to 12 mins/side) at a greatly enhanced volume and frequency response. EMI produceed a short run of classical LPs on this format in the early 1980s.

Despite the devastation caused to vinyl sales by the rapid rise in popularity of the CD, the format still thrives among keen record collectors and club disc jockeys.

Score: Buyers 2 - Industry 0


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Fred Gerlach

... you know: Music often lives of word-of-mouth and tales and legends... also some artist sort-of "shines" of moon-like reflected light, after being associated to this or that musician.

It happened several times - i.e. Folk Baroque, Davey Graham, Bert Jansch, John Renbourn... American Primitive - John Fahey, Peter Lang, Leo Kottke... 12 strings geniuses - Leo Kottke (again), Robbie Basho and... Fred Gerlach.

Now, twelve strings guitar, as per Robbie Basho's dream, truly represents a genuine, indigenous instrument to U.S. of A., also if it possibly arrived to American shores via Italian, Mexican and Portugueses immigrants.

Huddie Ledbetter aka Leadbelly, Rev. Gary Davis, Pete Seeger and... Fred Gerlach were, before Kottke and Basho, the first guitar players to spread the verb and the amazing, superbly rich, gorgeous sound, so rich of overtones of "the mighty, roaring twelve strings acoustic guitar", which captured thousands youngsters... a wave which didn't stop to these days, yet.

I had the chance to know of Fred Gerlach, through his seminal "Song my Mother Never Sang" on Fahey's Takoma and found it less interesting, too much traditional if compared to Peter Lang weird 12 strings solos or Kottke's best or - WOWOWWOW - Basho's masterpieces and style... BUT, nonetheless, Fred Gerlach, like Dick Rosmini's best twelve strings solos, was a fantastic player, deeply rooted in tradition, but still able to surprise a young seeker of musical uniqueness, like I was (and still are...), looking for the VERY best.

His Takoma's effort - which I later loved, after listening and re-listening to it in the eyars - was produced after choosing among 400+ hours (!!!!!!!) of playing and open-reel spinning under John Fahey's supervision...

I found his Folkway's twelve strings folk and blues disc later on, and still I appreciated it a lot, maybe more than Takoma's.

Fred has been an honest, passionate scholar of American root music and a lighthouse for anyone who met him in person or through His music and discs

A quiet, humble man, he passed away on Dec. 31st, 2009 in San Diego, after a life of music, played and as a luthier of superb acoustic guitars (read the amusing short story by Steffen Junghans-Basho on a link I posted here below).

An obituary
and and more tributes

... and - sadly - another father of "our" music has gone, folks...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Vicoustic's room treatment


Wendy Carlos - "Beauty in the Beast"

This Wendy Carlos' disc is a true obsession of mine.

I knew of this record after a review I read on The Absolute Sound magazine, many years ago.

After the record review, I also read an interesting interview with Wendy Carlos herself, about her music, Robert Moog, the analog-to-digital sampling of acoustic, orchestral sounds - please pay attention we're talking about '86 computers... - and much more.

I found with some difficulty the imported vinyl of "Beauty in the Beast" - now a deleted, out-of-print MUCH sought after item - seems it was ONLY distributed for three months (!!!) in 1987 - but still available as a 24-Bit remastered disk - and... I was blowed away!

I should have been someway prepared to this music, as I read Mrs. Carlos had to deal with microtonalities of Gamelan, Balinese music... BUT it wasn't an electronic pastiche à-la-Kitaro or some so-so Vangelis' lesser works.

It was a new world opening at my ears and mind: like for Hans Reichel but using more technology than luthiery and woodworking, Wendy Carlos' vision was uniquely hinting to parallel universes and galaxies, where C-D-E-F-G-A-B isn't "the" standard... a supremely fractal music where the intervals and scales are strangely sounding, indeed.

It's something I experienced during last month vacation, when I re-read "Complete Works" by a youth love of mine, Howard Philips Lovecraft (H.P.L.).

I used my El-Cheapo I-Pod dock while reading on my terrazza, looking at the sea... the thick H.P.L.'s book and its pages with its weird content was fingered and read passionately...

... what happened while reading "The Mountains of Madness" - a lenghty, nightmare-like story of Antarctic explorations and Ancient cities and its inhabitants - I cannot say nor explain... yet something VERY powerful "clicked" during my reading, as a specific track (Just Imagining) from Wendy Carlos' masterpiece began to play.

I strongly had the feeling "this" music was as weird as the story on the old book... in this piece there is a fantastic climax reached after some soft, orchestral-like passages and... "right" when the explorers in the HPL's story entered the alien city in icy Antartica, looking at something only an ill imagination - HPL's - may have, as he was the creator of Chtlulhu, Nyarlathotep, the Necronomicon, Erich Zann, Ulthar, Arkham and Innsmouth...

Well... the music changes giving the superb sensation of something REALLY broad, HUGE, unseen and unexplorated, opens in front of you, the reader (and listener).

An amazing sensation, also in a sunny morning, with blue sky and sea as a "real" landscape.

I imagined for an instant the scene so well described by HPL... and the music was perfect and funtional, like the VERY best of original soundtracks, ever... and for a second, the sea and the sky were purple and I felt a chilly wind and shivers and goosebumps;-)))

I was only reading and listening to music... no dope whatsoever was involved;-) - only the two a.m. (powerful) ingredients.

"Beauty in the Beast" was recorded in 1986 and issued in 1987 and I purchased it that year... I listened to it one hundred+ times and I always find and unveil something new.

... and it's one of my Desert Island discs, folks, and I cherish both the vinyl, so full of nuances and the 24-bit disk... I wrote about its recording qualities, about the beauty of the music... now pointing out the weirdness... ALL my attempts are toward having more and more people listening to it.

... I told you: it's an obsession;-)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hidden treasures - "The Dawn of Dachsman" by Hans Reichel

After the recent posting about Hans and his site and aesthetics, I had a loving re-listening to some of his discs.

(Among) the most enjoyable proved to be FMP 1140 "The Dawn of Dachsman", later reissued on CD always on FMP, with added re-recording of same tracks.

The vinyl in my collection impressed me a lot, as I listened to it once or so, years ago... my improved audio system frequency response gave to this very disc a seldom heard beauty and fullness, so rich of unheard sounds and climaxes and never ending feeling of "surprise" - i.e. which note will follow.

It's improvising as the purest of musical acts possible... the artist used all his soul and skill to connect himself and the listener to another dimension, where a completely new harmonic and scales and notes and intervals system exists in parallel to "our" everyday world.

"Dachsman meets the Blues" is an amazing piece of music, where "blues" is hinted as an African lament, more akin cotton plantation sweat and suffering days, than the usual, sometimes empty 12-beats stuff.

It's awesome, GREAT music.

I also loved listening in Gotorama to the "Dawn of Dachsman" track, where a fantastic new creature, sort-of, exits from a supernatural egg and screams and moves in soundstage: a truly ugly, amusing piece, also having a superb recording quality, with growly subbases 2D4.


This great recording - maybe more than others by Hans Reichel - deserves a careful listening and - why not - more younger fans;-)

A useful link, also nice for having a cheap listen to this music, before purchasing it on any format (BUT be careful this disc isn't first Hans' disc!;-)))


... about Daxophone