Gaisberg’s Travels #2

“8-8-1898”

The young Fred Gaisberg arrived in Liverpool and made his way to London to set up his studio. Despite the long journey and unfamiliar country Gaisberg was in high spirits and recalls

“Arriving in London at the tail end of a strawberry glut of which I took the fullest advantage.”

– Fred Gaisberg

Before any recordings could be made he needed to find the correct space for the studio and purchase all the necessary materials and chemicals. His Notebook is filled with a long list of items such as:

        A gallon of coal oil

        Jars and pitchers of earthenware and glass

        A soldering iron

        Acid

        Gasoline

        An etching tank

        Scissors

        Oil cloth

        Linoleum

        Cotton cloth

        A bucket

All parts were necessary to make the discs after the recording.

The studio was based in the basement room of the dingy Old Coburn Hotel.

 

  Copyright courtesy of  EMI Group Archive Trust


Copyright courtesy of EMI Group Archive Trust

“Yes, grimy was the word for it. The smoking room of the Old Coburn Hotel was our improvised studio. There stood the recording machine on a high stand; from this projected a long, thin trumpet into which the artist sang. Close by on a high movable platform, was an upright piano.”

-Gaisberg’s description of the studio

Although it was grimy it was very well placed near the theatres, concert and dance halls of London’s west end, which made finding artists to record easier for the young American.

 Copyright courtesy of  EMI Group Archive Trust


Copyright courtesy of EMI Group Archive Trust

By the end of the first week of August all the necessary materials were purchased, the studio was set up and began recording.  The records were made in Hanover at Berliner’s bothers factory.  The earliest discs issued are dated

“8-8-98”

One of the first recording artists was Syria Lamonte, an Australian singer working at Rules Restaurant in Maiden Lane.

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Recording Pioneers- Part 1

Emile Berliner 1851 – 1921

“The key to victory is never-ending application”

-Emile Berliner

Name: Emile Berliner

Born: 20 May 1851

Resident: Born in Hanover in Germany, immigrated to the United States as a young man of only 19 in 1870

Occupation: Recording sound mastermind

Loves: His wife and family, inventing, campaigning for better health standards and shellac discs

Emile Berliner

Emile Berliner

Berliner applied himself to the science of sound and recording. On November 8 1887 he patented a successful system of sound recording. Berliner was the first inventor to make recordings on flat disks or records. Previously recordings were made onto cylinders. With Berliner’s new system a spiral groove with sound information was etched into the flat record.

Around the time of his invention Berliner met a young man called Fred Gaisberg. With a keen interest in the newly developing phonograph industry Gaisberg paid a visit to Berliner’s laboratory in Washington DC where he watched Berliner record Billy Golden onto a flat disc and then listened to the playback.

When Gaisberg first heard one of Berliner’s recordings he noted

“I was spell bound by the beautiful round tone of the flat gramophone disc”

-Fred Gaisberg

The superior sound and ease of mass reproducing recordings lead Berliner to set up the Gramophone Company in the United States. He later sent the young Fred Gaisberg to London to set up a recording studio to exploit the European market.

Emile Berliner & Hanover Factory - Germany Copyright: EMI Group Archive Trust

Emile Berliner & Hanover Factory – Germany
Copyright: EMI Group Archive Trust

Berliner has been described as an eccentric inventor and scientist but the intricacies of the business world never came naturally to him. The success of the Gramophone Company was due to his careful choice in business savvy partners, such as Gaisberg, who made the contacts and sales that pushed the company to be an industry leader. Gaisberg commented in his journals

“For many years Berliner was the only one of many people I knew connected with the gramophone who was genuinely musical and possessed a cultured taste.”

-Fred Gaisberg

For his achievements in the recording field Berliner was awarded the prestigious John Scott and Elliott Cresson medals by the Franklin institute. He remained a true scientist throughout his career. Both in public health by promoting the pasteurisation of milk thus reducing the rates of childhood infectious diseases and in the field of physics where he continued making developments in acoustic tiles, aeronautics and microphone technology.

Gaisberg’s Travels

On the 23rd of July 1898 Fred Gaisberg, at the age of 25 set sail on the 9 a.m. SS Umbria Cunard ship from New York to Liverpool. He was sent by the inventor of the Gramophone, Emile Berliner to London as one of the first sound engineers to set up a recording studio in London to cater to the European market. GAISBERG_DIARIES_11.pdf - Adobe Reader

Fred’s personal preparations for life across the sea were simple. “My baggage consisted of a complete recording outfit plus a twenty-five dollar bicycle with pneumatic tyres, and a notebook stuffed with receipts addresses and advice… “

GAISBERG_DIARIES_1.pdf - Adobe ReaderAt only 25 years old one can only imagine the excitement, curiosity and fear Gaisberg would have felt as his cousin, Carrie, waved him goodbye from the New York harbour. He must have wondered…would he like the new people? Would London be welcoming? Would the journey be comfortable?

Gaisberg (L) and Joseph Sanders (C) aboard the SS Umbria en-route to Liverpool, July 1898Copyright: EMI Group Archive Trust

Gaisberg (L) and Joseph Sanders (C) aboard the SS Umbria en-route to Liverpool, July 1898Copyright: EMI Group Archive Trust

Although he must have been anxious he was certainly ambitious, taking the opportunity to meet potential contacts and artists while aboard. During his journey he met the music hall comedian Bert Shepherd, whose wide repertoire and contagious laugh drew in Gaisberg. The two became friends and before leaving the SS Umbria Gaisberg  secured a promise from shepherd to visit the studio in London once it was set up.

The Proms 2013

Today marks the start of one of the World’s biggest Classical music festivals. The BBC Proms begins with a concert at the Royal Albert Hall featuring Sally Matthews (soprano,) Roderick Williams (baritone,) Stephen Hough (piano,) BBC Proms Youth Choir, BBC Symphony Chorus, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Sakari Oramo (conductor) in a performances of Julian Anderson – Harmony (BBC Commission, World Premiere,)  Britten – Four Sea Interludes from ‘Peter Grimes,’  Rachmaninov – Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini,  Lutosławski – Variations on a Theme by Paganini and Vaughan Williams – A Sea Symphony.

Sir Henry Wood recording with the Queens Hall Orchestra for the Columbia Gramophone Company around 1912 © EMI Group Archive Trust

Sir Henry Wood recording with the Queens Hall Orchestra for the Columbia Gramophone Company around 1912  © EMI Group Archive Trust

This year the Proms will be broadcast to classical music enthusiasts all over the world. Many of the concerts and performances will be recorded and made available for purchase. It’s hard to imagine now but just 126 years ago a piece of music could only be heard when the audience was present, and as such was only available to those who could afford a ticket to see the best performers. At the end of the 19th century the Gramophone Company revolutionised this idea, making audio recordings available across the globe.

Tonight’s opening show which will be available via radio, TV or at the Royal Albert Hall itself is built upon the 126 year old legacy of Emile Berliner (inventor of the Gramophone) and the early Gramophone Company founders.   But for now relax and enjoy this clip of the God Father of the Proms Sir Henry Wood.

 


Happy American Independence day!

In the early days of the Gramophone Company the British founders worked closely with their American counterparts. A lot of the initial success can be attributed to one of the first sound and recording engineers – American Born Fred Gaisberg.

Fred Gaisberg

Fred Gaisberg, Copyright: EMI Group Archive Trust

He began working on the newly invented gramophone in the late 19th century and was taken on by the Gramophone Company in 1898.  Read more about the work Gaisberg did as one of the first sound engineers on a previous blog post here

Fred Gaisberg with Sinkler Darby, Copyright: EMI Group Archive Trust

Fred Gaisberg with Sinkler Darby, Copyright: EMI Group Archive Trust

On this very day 113 years ago (4th of July 1900) Gaisberg himself was en route to Milan to record for the Gramophone Company as recorded in his personal diary. As one of the company’s best sound engineers he spend a lot of time in mainland Europe recording popular local musicians.

“Wednesday, 4 July 1900 [The Vatican → by train to Florence → Bologna → Milan]
“We started for Milan, passing through Florence and Bologna.
Arriving at the Hotel Milan about 9 o’c we entered, and were lucky enough to see the great composer Verdi. Fine-looking maestro now bent with age, yet with a distinguished look. He must be about 86 years old.” FG

File:Verdi-photo-Brogi.jpg

Giuseppe Verdi

So  please be upstanding for AMERICA and STAR SPANGLED BANNER by the Victor Brass Quartet – 1909

Exhibition of Stadivari violin played by EMI classical artist Yehudi Menuhin

This summer (13 June – 11 August)  the Ashmolian Museum in Oxford  has a exceptional exhibition celebrating the work of the seventeenth century master crafter of string instruments; Antonio Stadivari.  The rarely seen pieces will include a 1721 Stradivarius violin played by the famous EMI classical violinist Yehudi Menuhin before its auction at Sotheby’s 1971

Stadivari violins are considered the finest in the world, played only by the best professional musicians and held in private collections amoungst royalty.

Yehudi Menuhin photographed by Angus McBean. Copyright: EMI Music Ltd

Yehudi Menuhin photographed by Angus McBean. Copyright: EMI Music Ltd

Menuhin was an EMI recording artist for almost 70 years. He made his first recording in November 1929, aged just 13 and his last recording in 1999 aged 83. As a violinst and a conductor he recorded over 300 pieces for EMI.

Tracks Of My Tears

by Wayne Shevlin

Some grooves make you shake your bootie. A stadium anthem can get you swaying with lighters in the air. And some music brings tears to your eyes.

Image: Ludwig Van Beethoven by Neil Shevlin - All rights reserved

Image: Ludwig Van Beethoven by Neil Shevlin – All rights reserved

There are certain pieces of music that make me cry.  Consistently.  Spontaneously. Involuntarily.  It requires conscious effort to shut the tears off.  The tears differ in kind, are evoked for different reasons.  I am intrigued by music’s ability to manipulate my emotions. I am perplexed as to why, from time to time, I deliberately subject myself to stimuli which I know will result in making me cry.  I can only guess at how unsettling it must be for B to see me standing there, headphones encasing my head, tears rolling down my cheeks.  She must wonder why too.

Sometimes, it is that a piece of music has an association with a specific event in my life. Regardless of its musical or lyrical content, it triggers an emotional response in the same way a smell can take you back to nursery school (something that happens to me when passing by the Swiss Cottage McDonalds – only that branch does it) .  Effective – but this is a superficial evocation.  It isn’t the music per se, but an external relationship between the music and my life which the composer and performer had no knowledge of or control over.   For me, the song Let Her Cry by Paul Bollenback performed by Hootie & the Blowfish is the best example.  It’s not a brilliant song.  It is brutally sad in its own right, but what gives it the power to make me cry uncontrollably is that it was playing on the radio constantly as I drove back and forth to the hospital in LA during the week in which my mother died.   I also found the lyrics strangely relevant -as though Hootie knew the situation and was singing for me.

Thus, Let Her Cry, unintentionally, became the official soundtrack to that short but traumatic period of my life.  I cannot listen to it without that week materialising in my mind as though it were yesterday.  It is painful to remember.  And yet, from time to time, I deliberately put it on knowing full well what the result will be.  Though it rekindles the sadness, it also brings back the memory of my mother more powerfully and tangibly than anything else.  I just wish I had a happy song that had the same effect.

More interesting to me is music that makes me cry not because it is acting simply as a cheap emotional trigger, but that the music embodies emotion within itself and communicates that to me directly.  It becomes part of my internal emotive mechanisms and drives them without my conscious participation.  There are two pieces of instrumental music which make me cry – and for completely opposite reasons: one because it sounds so sad and the other because it sounds so beautiful.

Classical music has many examples of exquisitely sad pieces – Albinoni’s Adagio in G minor and Barber’s Adagio for strings are obvious and well worn examples – but the one that does it for me every time is the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony and specifically as performed by the Columbia Symphony Orchestra conducted by Bruno Walter.  I discovered this piece in a strange way when I was a teenager.  A solo piano arrangement of it was used as the background music in a Peanuts cartoon – the one with Charlie Brown – to evoke Charlie’s sad-sack, dumped on existence.   The music grabbed me immediately and it took some good deal of investigation to discover what it was.

The 2nd of the 7th has been a guaranteed tear-jerker for me ever since.  I don’t know why, but that piece just makes me cry.  What can I say?  Beethoven clearly has his finger on my musical sad-button with that one.  It covers all levels of sadness, running the gamut from a sombre whimper to Burghers of Calais torment – the way the wailing theme is handed back and forth between the upper and lower registers.  Very finely crafted and very, very minor.  By the way, I’ve tried many other versions: Von Karajan, Rattle, Toscanini and many other conductors.  In my opinion, no one gets Ludwig Van like Bruno.

On the other side of the spectrum is an instrumental electric guitar piece by Joe Satriani called Friends from his album The Extremist.  It’s a crunch chords and wheedley-woo number, but unlike most power-rock played by pyrotechnic Strat abusers, it is incredibly melodic and any fretboard acrobatics are all in the service of the music, not the other way around.  Undoubtedly there is a component of admiration involved because I know how much is involved in playing it from a technical perspective.  Perhaps I’m crying because I know I’ll never play that well.  Not really – I just think it’s gorgeous.  The lines soar and lift my heart with them.

Finally, there are songs that make me cry primarily because of the lyrics.  Lyrics are lyrics because they are meant to be set to music.  The two must support and reinforce each other.  It is frequently the case that great lyrics make lousy poems.  There are a number of songs with evocative, emotive lyrics that move me to tears: The Cruel War performed by Peter Paul & Mary,  Sondheim’s Send In The Clowns performed by Judy Collins – but the song that really does me in every time is Comfortably Numb by Roger Waters & David Gilmour performed by Pink Floyd.  Each time I think: “no, not this time”, but as it works its way through the second verse I lose it:  “When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse/ Out of the corner of my eye/ I turned to look but it was gone / I cannot put my finger on it now/ The Child has grown, the dream is gone/ I have become comfortably numb“.

These words, set to the backdrop of the sombre, resigned melancholy of the music – written, I believe, by Gilmour and beautifully arranged – are imbued with such a powerful sense of loss and hopelessness that I feel my entire existence vanish into the darkness. My child’s dream is gone. This is then followed by what is, in my opinion, Gilmour’s most powerful and exquisite guitar solo which cries too, along with me.

So why do I do it?  Perhaps you are worried about me – what’s this guy doing to himself? I am happy to say that in daily life I have few legitimate reasons to cry – so maybe this is a way to empty out the few tears that accumulate over time and have no other outlet.   But I’m not the only person who allows music to move them to tears.   And if it’s not music, then perhaps it’s some other art form such as movies.  Plenty of people (who shall remain nameless) are happy to subject themselves to romantic weepies and blubber away.  Clearly, many of us use art as catharsis.  In some way we need it – this strange enjoyment we get from self inflicted sadness.   Sometimes, for some reason, we need to cry for the sake of it – whether in sorrow or in joy.  Somehow, it makes us feel better.  But by using art we are in control.  We can turn it off or walk away.  The emotional release is in there, but only if we allow it.

Beethoven was not a good “melodist” and he was bad at harmony,”  Leonard Bernstein

Go to 5.18 as Bernstein discusses with Maximilian Schell  Beethoven Symphony No. 7

Mojo at Abbey Road – Electronic Music

Mojo ask Daniel Miller, Andy McCluskey, Martyn Ware, Mark Jones, Trevor Jackson, Matthew Herbert and Bill Brewster their thoughts on electronic music.

Electrospective-The Remix Album (2CD) release date 27 August 2012-  EMI Gold

shop.electrospective.com

Florrie Forde’s lost Blue Plaque

By Roger Neil

In 2006 I proposed to English Heritage that they put up one of their Blue Plaques in London to the music hall legend, Florrie Forde. They were enthused and started the apparently long and arduous task of researching her life and work and homes.

Florrie was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1876 and ran away from home at sixteen to Sydney to go on the stage. There she was seen by a British star of the day who was touring Australia, GH Chirgwin and, encouraged by him, moved to London, where she made her debut at three separate halls on the same evening.

Her inexhaustible vocal power and engaging personality equipped her ideally to become queen of the music hall chorus-song – amongst them “Down at the Old Bull and Bush”, “Hold your hand out, naughty boy”, “She’s a lassie from Lancashire”, “Oh!Oh! Antonio”, “It’s a long way to Tipperary”, “Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag”, “Daisy Bell” (Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do…), “I do like to be beside the seaside”, “Fair, Fat and Forty” and many more. She was also a famous Principal Boy in panto and starred in the first Royal Variety Performance in 1912.
Florrie Forde died in Aberdeen in April 1940 after entertaining wounded sailors. What a trouper. In his curmudgeonly poem, “Death of an Actress”, Louis MacNeice recalled her “elephantine shimmy” and “sugared wink”.
Here she is, very movingly, in the flesh:

http://youtu.be/oYWygJSetbA

Now, six years on from my original proposal, English Heritage has just dropped her from their shortlist, with the explanation that their budget has been cut and that anyway she lived mostly at Shoreham-by-Sea in Sussex. While she was working? I don’t think so.

And what took them six years to discover this? No wonder their budget has been slashed.

Love this article and want to read more by Roger – go to  http://rogerneill.blogspot.co.uk/