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

In 1894, Fred Gaisberg came to work at Emile Berliner’s laboratory in Washington D.C. Shortly afterwards he was joined by his school friend William Sinkler Darby and also by his younger brother William [Gaisberg], who had previously worked for a period of time as a recording engineer with the Berliner Gram-O-Phone Company in Canada. It was during this period in America where 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.

Mystery Object # answer 4

Our last posting must have been a bit too easy for our regulars hound contributors, but for those still biting at the bit  here is the answer ….

The Klingsor Gramophone, Krefeld and Polyphon. 1910 Courtesy of  EMI Group Archive Trust

The Klingsor Gramophone, Krefeld and Polyphon. 1910
Courtesy of EMI Group Archive Trust

The Klingsor Gramophone was invented in Germany in 1907, and featured a group of strings stretched across the horn opening which resonated as the sound was emitted. There many styles and sizes available, including coin-op and ones with dancing figures in the recess below the horn. They were sold in the UK through Murdoch, who was still offering machines in the 1920’s.

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.

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

Recording Pioneers- Part 2

Alfred Clark 1873 – 1950


“The fine thread running through the very fabric of HMV history”

-Fred Gaisberg

Name:                  Alfred Clark

Born:                    19 December 1873

Resident:             Born in New York,  moved to France 1899 aged 26  then resident of the UK, 1909 -1950

Occupation:        Gramophone Company Managing Director, Chairman and EMI President

Loves:                  Classical music, sealing the deal, travelling the world

 

Alfred Clark Copyright courtesy of  EMI Group Archive Trust

Alfred Clark
Copyright courtesy of EMI Group Archive Trust

 

Clark was born into an affluent New York family. He began his career in the newly forming recording industry with North American Phonograph in 1889, at the age of just 16. Throughout the 1890’s he also worked for Thomas Edison’s Kinetoscope organisation, where he produced ‘Mary, Queen of Scots’ – Edison’s first scripted film.

“Clark had all the vision of youthful enthusiasm and it was not long before he had enticed to his recording studio the great stars of the Opera and concert halls…”

-Fred Gaisberg meeting Clark in Paris

 

He later went to join Emile Berliner as a sales manager at the Berliner Gramophone Company store in Philadelphia.  Around this time he also became involved in experimental work, redesigning and patenting a new design for the gramophone sound box with Eldridge Johnson.

Thomas Edison letter Alfred Clark Copyright courtesy of  EMI Group Archive Trust

Alfred Clark letter of introduction from Thomas Edison

In 1899 at the age of just 26 Clark immigrated to France as an agent for Thomas Edison and Emile Berliner.  He joined forces with the Gramophone Company to form ‘Compagnie Française du Gramophone.’  He remained here until 1908 and after one year’s short break he became the Managing Director of the Gramophone Company in 1909.  He stayed in this post for 21 years until 1930, when he became The Gramophone Company’s Chairman.

Alfred Clark Copyright courtesy of  EMI Group Archive Trust

Alfred Clark
Copyright courtesy of EMI Group Archive Trust

 

 

He played a central part in the negotiations that led to the formation of Electric and Musical Industries Ltd (EMI Ltd) of which he was the first chairman. In 1946 he became EMI President. He stayed in this post for only 6 months before deciding to leave the company. Despite his incredible success Clark took a humble view of his career.

 

“…it has been a drab, plugging career, nothing spectacular, a business of laying one brick upon another…”

-Alfred Clark

Friday mystery object #1

The Hound gets to see some amazing stuff and often has to work out what it is.

So pop on your Deerstalker Hat and help us solve the first in the series of…………….

Fridays Mystery Object of the Week!

Mystery object No 1

Mystery object No 1

Put you thoughts in the comments section below, answer will follow next Thursday

Good luck!

Scott’s Gramophone Great Tour

courtesy of EMI Group Archive Trust

courtesy of EMI Group Archive Trust

In 1910 this beautiful HMV Gramophone was loaned by The Gramophone Company to Captain Scott to keep the sailors and expedition team entertained as they made their way to the South Pole.

Scott took with him two HMV “monarch” gramophones, donated by The Gramophone Company, which later became EMI, together with several hundred 78rpm discs, chosen to boost the team’s morale.

courtesy of EMI Group Archive Trust

courtesy of EMI Group Archive Trust

Scott’s Gramophone has now returned safely back to the EMI Archive Trust after another epic journey to Australia, New Zealand and back to the United Kingdom with the award winning the Natural History Museum’s” Scott’s Last expedition” exhibition, June 2011-June 2013.

The EMI Archive Trust worked closely with EMI to make a collection of recordings played, and recordings likely to have been played on Scott’s fateful last expedition to the South Pole.

‘Scott’s Music Box is available as download or double CD. (available here.)

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Winner, Scott’s Last Expedition

The Natural History Museum won the Best of the Best award at the Museums and Heritage Awards for Excellence 2013 ceremony last night.

Scott’s Last Expedition took the award for Best Temporary or Touring Exhibition, recognising the innovative approach it took to revealing the tales of endurance and scientific achievements of Robert Falcon Scott’s epic Terra Nova expedition.

The exhibition was a partnership with the Canterbury Museum in New Zealand, where it is currently open until 30 June, and with the Antarctic Heritage Trust.

When Scott embarked upon the Terra Nova expedition in 1910, he took with him two HMV “monarch” gramophones, donated by The Gramophone Company, which later became EMI, together with several hundred 78rpm discs, chosen to boost the team’s morale.

Scott’s gramophone was rescued and returned to the Gramophone Company – it is currently on loan from The EMI GROUP ARCHIVE TRUST as part of this major exhibition about the expedition.

$(KGrHqZ,!rQE-ZKL,-eGBPoKBVlNmQ~~60_35[1]

The gramophone on which Scott and his men listened to music hall and opera at the bottom of the world.

If your interested in learning more about Captain Scott’s Gramophone check out the EMI Group Archive Trust website http://www.emiarchivetrust.org

For a flavour of what were the happening sounds in Antarctica 100 years ago the hound recommends. SCOTT`S MUSIC BOX Music from Terra Nova. The British Antarctic Expedition (1910-1913) EMI Gold http://www.mdt.co.uk/scott-s-music-box-music-expedition-1910-1913-emi-gold-2cds.html

Joe Batten’s Book: The Story of Sound Recording

SOTH would like to thank our latest contributor Michael Lloyd-Davies for his insightful review on the memoirs of Joe Batten – pioneer recording manager.   

By Michael Lloyd-Davies

 

 In his foreward to Joe Batten’s memoirs, Joe is described by Sir Compton McKenzie as “that other great recorder” bracketed with Freddy Gaisberg. Joe Batten’s story is perhaps wider in its horizons. The core of the book is the excitement of pioneer recording from wax-cylinder to L.P., in which mechanical hazards and progress are described as an explorer could write of his adventures.

The period before the First World War saw sound recording grow from being a novelty toy to become an industry full of innovation and eventually accepted as a serious medium and art form by both artists and the public.

Joe was one of the pioneers who began as a pianist accompanying vocalists in recording rooms as early studios were known, to become the artistic manager for Edison Bell, and later, the Columbia Graphophone Company which merged in 1931 with The Gramophone Company to form Electric and Musical Industries Ltd (EMI).

At EMI he formed the Special Recording Department which was located at new studios at Abbey Road. This venture began making sponsored shows for the Commercial Radio companies which were springing up in the mid 1930’s. The department was almost immediately shut down at the outset of the Second World War but re-opened to make recordings for the troops through ENSA up to 1945.

In the last five years of his 50 year career in the music industry, Joe made some notable recordings including two historical events, the silver wedding of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth and the wedding of H.R.H. Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh.

Inevitably Joe Batten amassed a vast number of friends and memories in the musical concert and light opera fields and it is fitting that the book (out of print since the first edition in 1956) should close with select memories of the life and times at The Savage Club, London’s last bohemian rendezvous where Joe Batten concluded his life as he began it – accompanist to those spontaneous musical evenings which from the West End to the East were once such a feature of London Life.

Joe retired in 1950 but died five years later before his memoirs were published.

Joe Batten’s Book: The Story of Sound Recording is now available via Kindle Book Store: www. https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B007Q1U4RA