Recording pioneers- Part 8, William Conrad Gaisberg

 

“We realised how many different degrees of smells there are in the world”

-William Gaisberg’s observation of Hyderabad, India

 

Name:              William Conrad Gaisberg

Born:               26th June 1877

Resident:        Born in Washington DC, USA

Occupation:   Recording engineer, managing director & head of London Recording Department

Loves:            Travelling, opera, pushing the boundaries of music and his brother (Fred)

 

William Gaisberg

 

Upon completing one’s education, following in your brother’s footsteps in the recording industry would not seem at all unusual, but, in the case of William Gaisberg, their father thought otherwise. As William recalled in his later years, “My father…did not think that he should let two of his sons start their careers in such an uncertain business as the talking machine.” Instead William was put to “selling coal.” Eventually however, despite his father’s reticence, he allowed him to join elder brother Fred.

In 1894, Fred Gaisberg came to work at Emile Berliner’s laboratory in Washington D.C. In 1902, younger brother William [Gaisberg] and William Sinkler Darby, came to join him. It was during this period that Berliner imparted his knowledge of the secrets of disc record-making to these young men. Within a few years the three of them moved to Europe, where, as recording engineers, they became the most important figures in The Gramophone Company’s staff.

 

William Gaisberg vatican

    -Recording in the Vatican, Recording in the Vatican, April 1902. Left to right: William Michaelis, the castrato Alessandro Moreschi and William Gaisberg

 

William Gaisberg’s enthusiasm and enterprising nature led him to take over many of his brother’s duties, which included managing and leading the third recording tour of India. The third tour began at Calcutta in 1906, and then proceeded onto Lucknow, Delhi, Lahore, Hyderabad and Madras.

Despite the Gramophone Company’s dominant position and success in the talking machine and disc record trade in Asia, It could not rest on its laurels of achievement, as American recording companies such as The Columbia Phonograph Company began making great advances. This motivated William to record artists of a higher repute and achieve a product of a much higher quality.

Gaisberg sought to record vocalists associated within the theatrical circuit, which resulted in him making the first recordings of Miss Janki Bai of Allahabad. He also placed emphasis on recordings of Gauhar Jaan, whose status had grown significantly, earning the reputation as a ‘Gramophone celebrity’.

In 1910 at the age of 33, William became manager of the Recording department, where he provided a vital link between the head office and its overseas territories.

In October 1918, a month before the Armistice was signed, The Gramophone Company became involved in a project to record the sound of the war. The reasoning behind the venture was that if there were to be no more war, then for the benefit of posterity, it was important to record and document the sounds of battle.

The Company elected to send William to the Western Front. It was in the French city of Lille that he recorded The Royal Garrison Artillery firing off a gas barrage. By the time the recording was completed, the war was over. Gaisberg had been slightly gassed during the expedition, and fell victim to the flu pandemic and tragically died a month later in November 1918.

50th Anniversary of the Moog Modular Synthesizer

October 12, 2014 marks the 50 Year anniversary of the unveiling of the Moog modular synthesizer at the Audio Engineering Society’s (AES) New York convention. On that day in 1964, Dr. Robert Moog introduced the world to a completely new type of instrument that would go on to change the course of music history and influence decades of future instrument design. Told by a Moog engineer, Moog Historian, and Bob Moog himself, this mini-documentary explores Moog Music’s quest to resurrect the original methods, materials and designs used in the foundational modular synths. Through recreating Keith Emerson’s modular system, Moog Music rediscovers the power, elegance, and enduring legacy of its first instruments.

Find out more at http://www.moogmusic.com/products/mod…

Footage of Keith Emerson from the film “Isle Of Wight” used with permission of Murray Lerner.

Photo of Keith Emerson & Bob Moog at by Mark Hockman

 

Recording Pioneers- Part 6

Frederick William Gaisberg 1873 – 1951

“Fred was clearly one of those Children with a natural talent for the keyboard, and his mother made the most of this opportunity from the moment she began to teach him when he was four.”

-Extract from ‘A Voice in Time’ – Jerrold Northrop Moore

 Name:               Frederick William Gaisberg

Born:              1 January 1873

Resident:        Born in Washington DC, immigrated to the United Kingdom as a young man of only 25 in 1898

Occupation:   Sound Recording Engineer, A&R Supreme

Loves:             Travelling, musicians, engineering

Fred Gaisberg

© Courtesy of EMI Group Archive Trust

Fred Gaisberg’s love affair with music began at the early age of just four.  From the age of eight until his voice broke Fred was a chorister at St John’s Episcopal Church, here he met and studied under one of Washington’s most celebrated artists of the time – the young master of the United States Marine Band, John Philip Sousa.

“I attended rehearsals in his then modest home in the Navy Yard in South Washington. He (Sousa) patted me on the head and made quite a pet of me… I was one of those music-mad youngsters who hovered by his podium and never missed a concert.”

-Fred Gaisberg recalling his childhood

Although he was an excellent singer, the piano remained his first love and after securing a scholarship to study piano he gained a reputation for his excellent playing and accompanying and was soon playing for charitable organisations and amateur organisation throughout the city. In 1889 in search of some more pocket money, the sixteen year old Gaisberg came across an advert for the Columbia Phonograph Company.  They were looking for someone to play the piano loudly and clearly enough for its sounds to be captured by the apparatus as the accompaniment for a musician to record.

One of the first musicians selected to record with Gaisberg was John York Atlee, a Whistler. Together they would churn out in three’s countless records of performances of ‘Whistling Coon’, ‘Mocking Bird’, and the ‘Laughing Song’.  These recordings were made on small hollow cylinders of wax, where a needle moved gradually in a lateral way etching the grooves that represented the sound waves into the wax.

Fred Gaisberg secured his first job working at the Columbia Phonograph Company. He spent the next few years working for various people within the growing phonograph industry, including Thomas Edison.

In 1894 he met Emile Berliner and his career took on a new direction. His fascination with Berliner’s novel recording process was the start of his career change from an accompanying pianist to a recording sound engineer. Very soon after meeting and working under Berliner, Gaisberg was sent to London to record music for the European market, working with Trevor Lloyd Williams and William Barry Owen.

Once he reached London he was introduced to another sound engineer – Sinkler Derby and together they continued to travel all over the world recording local music for the ever expanding Gramophone Company. His travels are well documented in “The Fred Gaisberg Diaries” which have been made available by Hugo Strötbaum.  Fred Gaisberg was without a doubt one of the single biggest contributors to the success of the Gramophone Company.  More details on exactly what he got up to can be found in our Gaisberg Travels blog series.

Fred Gaisberg and Sinkler Derby

Gaisberg’s Travels

Thursday, 21 September 1899 [Dublin]

A very disappointing day from a record-making standpoint.

Miss [Maud] Boyd did not appear during the day, but on going to dinner that evening I discovered the whole crowd of them in the dining room.

Courtesy of V & A

Courtesy of V & A

When they arose to go, I followed them and reminded them of their promise, and after a good lot of coaxing they followed me over.

Miss Boyd proved a charming lady with a grand, big voice. She sang “The Golden Isle” from “The Greek Slave“, and a sweet girl, Mrs. Medlicot, played her accompaniment.

-         Extract from Gaisberg’s Diaries.

Miss Maud Boyd was a prominent pantomime singer at the time. She did only a small number of recordings for the Gramophone Company but they did release her rendition of “The Golden Isle.”

 

Recording Pioneers- Part 5

Francis Barraud 1856 – 1924

“The whole world saw it and succumbed to its charm”

-Alfred Clark comments on the painting

Name:                   Francis Barraud

Born:                    June 16, 1856

Resident:             Born in London

Occupation:         Artist, Painter, stray dog lover

Loves:                 Painting, animals

Francis James Barraud was born into a family of artists in London. He studied art at the Royal Academy School and in Antwerp. An accomplished technician, he was a frequent exhibitor at the Royal Academy and else where. One of his early works An encore Too Many is displayed in the Liverpool Walker Art Gallery, and the painting His Master’s Voice brought him world wide fame.

Francis Barraud, in his studio. ©  Courtesy of  EMI Group Archive Trust

Francis Barraud, in his studio.
© Courtesy of EMI Group Archive Trust

Barraud was never to recapture that success, however and by 1913 he was in financial straits. When he learned of this situation Alfred Clark commissioned Barraud to paint a copy of His Master’s Voice for the Victor Company. Thereafter, Barraud painted a total of 24 copies of his most famous work. In recognition of these services, the Gramophone and Victor Companies paid Barraud a pension. His Master’s Voice remains one of the world’s best-known trademarks.

Recording Pioneers- Part 4

Trevor Lloyd Williams

 

“The money behind the music”

Name:                        Trevor Lloyd Williams         

Born:                         18 July 1859, Deudraeth Castle, Penrhynd, Merionethshire, Wales

Resident:                  London

Occupation:             Solicitor, The first major British investor and registered The Gramophone Company in the United Kingdom in 1898 with William Barry Owen

Loves:                       Classical music, Law, Travelling, Investing in new inventions from across the pond

·

Trevor Lloyd Williams Copyright courtesy of  EMI Group Archive Trust

Trevor Lloyd Williams
Copyright courtesy of EMI Group Archive Trust


In the very early days of the Gramophone Company Emile Berliner (inventor of flat discs and the gramophone) sent his partner William Barry Owen to London to generate some interest and investors in the gramophone to launch the company.  After many months of high profile engagements in London Owen wasn’t having much luck.  In a final attempt for investment he gave his young solicitor, Trevor Williams, a gramophone to take home for one evening. Williams was unimpressed by the prospects of the gramophone to begin with but was convinced on trip to New York where he met Berliner and witnessed for himself the recording industry beginning to become established in the United States.

 

 When he returned to London, Williams along with three of his friends, arranged for a bank guarantee of £5000.  This wasn’t as much as Owen and Berliner had hoped for but just enough to kick start the company.

 

William  Barry Owen Copyright courtesy of  EMI Group Archive Trust

William Barry Owen
Copyright courtesy of EMI Group Archive Trust

On February 23rd 1889 Owen and Williams registered the small, private Gramophone Company.  Trevor Williams had overall control and Owen was his general manager.  Gramophones would be assembled in London from components supplied by America.  The company made its own recordings, but the actual records would be pressed at a factory in Hanover, Germany, at a factory plant owned by Berliner’s brother.  Trevor Williams knew that the American taste in music would not be big sellers in the Victorian salons, so recording specific musicians that would be to the taste of Victorian Britain was essential.

“Williams put his foot down and insisted on selecting his own repertoire”

-William Barry Owen

The Company set up its offices at 31 Maiden Lane, just off the Strand. It was a shabby old building, part of which served as a make do hotel.  However it was close to many of London’s theatres and music halls, where London’s brightest and best singers could be found easily.  At the time Williams and Owen had no way of conducting the recording sessions for themselves, however Berliner was not prepared to share the details of his record making process with the two business men.  Instead Berliner sent his trusted young sound engineer, Fred Gaisberg, to London to start making recordings for the European market.

One of the first ever recordings was the Welsh National Anthem, Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, sung by Trevor Williams’ niece, Madge Breese.

For Hound readers with access to the Welsh Language channel S4C wishing to learn more about the Welsh connection watch  S4C Darn Bach o Hanes (a little piece of History) 26 August 20.25 to 21.00                                            

Dewi Prysor looks at the Welsh connection in the history of recorded music. He learns about the Welsh roots of the music recording and publishing company  EMI, attempts to record his own voice using some early technology, and visits EMI Archive Trust to listen to the first recording in Welsh.     


 

Mystery Object # 3 Answer

Full points to Rob, Andy and Russell who deftly identified last weeks Mystery Object of the Week as an early Tin Foil Phonograph.

Mystery Object # 3 Answer Tin Foil Phonograph Courtesy of  EMI  Archive Trust

Mystery Object # 3 Answer
Tin Foil Phonograph
Courtesy of EMI Archive Trust

Object: Modified Tin Foil Phonograph Maker Archibald H.Irvine, 1877

This is a rare hand-driven modified Edison tin foil phonograph on a heavy mahogany base with mahogany trunnions and speaker/reproducer mounts (one with diaphragm). It has brass fittings and an iron mandrel on a shaft threaded at each end, with a spoked hand-wheel. It has now been raised on wooden supports for angled display. It was constructed by Archibald H. Irvine (M.Inst. C.E.) for the first Phonograph demonstration and lecture, and exhibited before the Royal Institute by Sir William Priestly in December 1877. It was presented to the Gramophone Company by Sir Francis Fox (M. Inst. C.E.) in December 1912. Sir Francis Fox also donated some original tin foil strips to The Gramophone Company.”

Mystery Object # 3 Answer  Tin Foil Phonograph Copyright courtesy of  EMI  Archive Trust

Mystery Object # 3 Answer
Tin Foil Phonograph
Copyright courtesy of EMI Archive Trust

This is a sample of original tin foil for recording and reproducing on early phonographs. The tinfoil is stored between two heavy glass sides to ensure it remains flat. The paper covering the glass sides is written on in ink and reads “The Manager of The Gramophone Co Hayes Middlesex. Tin Foil for “Records” – for the original Phonograph made in the year 1876. With compliments Sir Francis Fox.

Sir Francis Fox also donated a Tin foil phonograph to The Gramophone Company.

Mystery Object # 3 Answer Phonograph Tin Foil Copyright courtesy of  EMI  Archive Trust

Mystery Object # 3 Answer
Phonograph Tin Foil
Copyright courtesy of EMI Archive Trust

The Hound thought you’d enjoy this clip of Michael Wolf demonstrating his own Tin Foil Phonograph.

Thank you to our friends at the EMI Archive Trust for allowing us to share their archive through Mystery Object of the Week.

Syria Lamonte

The Hound would like to thank Mr Tony Locantro for sending these rare images of one of the first recording artists  for the Gramophone Company, Miss Syria Lamonte.

‘Courtesy of John Culme’s Footlight Notes’.

‘Courtesy of John Culme’s Footlight Notes’.

By Tony Locantro

The Australian soprano Syria Lamonte was probably the first woman to be commercially recorded outside of the USA and history does her a great disservice by remembering her as a waitress at Rule’s Restaurant ‘with aspirations to be a singer’ as I saw quoted recently. She had already been successful in Australia in the theatre singing in operettas and giving concerts during the 1890s before coming to Europe to further her career and was apparently working at Rule’s in 1898 while seeking work in London. She eventually went on to appear successfully for several years on the music halls both in England and abroad before returning to Australia.

Syria Lamonte,  Melbourne Punch 19 October 1899

Syria Lamonte, Melbourne Punch 19 October 1899

Listen to Syria Lamonte  ‘Comin’ through the Rye‘ on  Gaisberg’s Travels #2

Friday Mystery Object # 2 Answer

Congratulations to Russell Medcraft who not only knew the correct
answer but supplied the Hound with a fascinating piece of information on lasts week’s Mystery Object of the Week!

For Hound followers who may have missed Russell’s original answer read below:

Portrait of Alfred Clark, by Arthur Porn, painted 1944  Copyright courtesy of  EMI  Archive Trust

Portrait of Alfred Clark, by Arthur Porn, painted 1944
Copyright courtesy of EMI Archive Trust

“Alfred Clark was the first EMI Chairman. He had worked with Eldridge Johnson on an improved soundbox design which they patented. On this EMI subject, I helped P.D.R..Marks develop the famous EMI 806 Microphone amplifier and other associated equipment whilst I was in the EMI Studio Sound laboratory during 1958 and 1959.”

-Russell Medcraft

Mystery object 2 Portrait of Alfred Clark, by Arthur Porn, painted 1944  Copyright courtesy of  EMI  Archive Trust

Mystery object 2
Portrait of Alfred Clark, by Arthur Porn, painted 1944
Copyright courtesy of EMI Archive Trust