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

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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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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.

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.

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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

A Whisper That Roars

By Wayne Shevlin

I’d like to celebrate the microphone and the revolutionary impact it has had on music.

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As technology, the microphone is a marvel: converting into electricity the invisible, minute air pressure waves – what we in our mind’s ear perceive as sound – so that the very essence of sound can be captured and AMPLIFIED.   Yet, however fascinating the technology, history and development of the microphone; however crucial its role in the very existence of audio recording, these are not the aspects I want to explore here.  What I am interested in is the fundamental way in which the microphone has changed music in artistry, aesthetics and style.

In the beginning, the microphone was used merely as an extension of the ear.  It was placed where an ear would normally be, essentially hearing on the ear’s behalf.  But soon, microphones became pioneers, exploring sonic landscapes – going where ears could not go, capturing sound from unusual perspectives and contexts.  From these unique vantage points the microphone creates new sounds and new ways of hearing sound.  It allows unnatural sonic relationships to exist.  With a microphone, the most delicately quiet sound can be highlighted, isolated and elevated to soar above the loudest cacophony.   The microphone allows a whisper to roar.

Without the microphone, naturally quiet sounds require turning down the volume of the surrounding soundscape to be heard.  This directly affected the way music was composed prior to its invention.  In a Mozart flute concerto, the orchestra must lower its volume when the flute plays lest the flute be drowned out.  Mozart deliberately arranges the instruments so that the flute will be heard.  Perhaps the brass cease playing and the violins go pizzicato – maybe it’s a good time for a harpsichord accompaniment.  Flute themes in classical music are seldom set against a thunderous accompaniment because the physics are simply against it.

Even on one leg, Ian Anderson suffers no such impediment because he plays his flute through a microphone.  His lone flute can soar above the bludgeoning onslaught of 120 decibels of electric guitars and drums (which are also amplified using microphones with a resulting change in musical impact) .  With a microphone, Ian Anderson can write music for flute, not as a sweet sound set against light accompaniment, but as a screaming banshee wailing through a maelstrom.  The microphone gives his flute a new character, elevates its sonic relationship with the rest of the band and he writes a different style of music as a result.

Singing has been even more profoundly impacted by the microphone.  In the past, when the fat lady sang, she was attempting to reach the upper stalls of the opera house on the strength of her natural vocal power alone.  This requires a style of singing that, by necessity, must have a high degree of concern for projection.  That’s why opera singers sing that way: larynx wide open, deep from the diaphragm.  They need to reach the gallery.  Power, volume, projection: to be heard above the orchestra (which, must still tone down) – these are the key qualities for opera singing.  And the operatic style reflects this.  It is instantly recognisable. Nuance and delicacy are, to a great extent, sacrificed for power and volume.

And before a clutch of opera buffs huff and puff that, “damn it, opera is full of nuance and delicacy”, please consider the singing style of Billie Holiday.  That’s the kind of delicacy I’m talking about:  a whisper – a vocal teardrop – a sigh that shimmers above the hot brass.   The microphone allows the most intimate vocal style – normally only appropriate for the smallest of spaces – to fill the grandest hall.

When a mother sings a whispered lullaby in her baby’s ear, it has a particular sonic impact.  The relationship between the sound and the baby – the distance between mother’s mouth and baby’s ear – is natural and appropriate.  Filling Wembley Arena with exactly the same sound, but at the volume of a jet engine, changes the sonic impact on the listener and the meaning of the lullaby. The medium is the message.  A whisper heard as a roar acquires new meaning – and becomes a new kind of music.

The microphone creates an unnatural relationship between the listener and the original source of sound. If the microphone is considered an extension of the listener’s ear then it is worth noting that the microphone may be less than an inch from the singer’s mouth and captures the nuance of the voice in that aural space.  Sound is air pressure waves in motion and the sound emanating immediately from a singer’s mouth is high pressure indeed.  Other than babies listening to their mothers’ lullabies, we do not typically listen to singers at such a close proximity.

Singers are aware of the unnatural relationship between their voices and the listener and have developed specific techniques to avoid – and take advantage of – the sonic peculiarities resulting from, effectively, placing the listener’s ear directly in front of their mouths.  Good singers play their microphones like an instrument.  They take advantage of the increased bass when the microphone is close but avoid sibilance (ssssssss’s). They use the detail the microphone captures for dramatic effect.  They vary the distance of the microphone from their mouth to achieve consistency in volume – so that belting out the chorus and humming the softest verse are equally loud.  The microphone has created a new style of singing that is as demanding and specific as that of the opera singer, but completely different in perspective and technique.

A sonic impossibility that we have all come to take for granted is the sound of the drum set.  Today, drums are routinely amplified by placing microphones directly against cymbals and inside the drums.  Though these are mixed to create a holistic drum set, nonetheless the actual sound is completely artificial.  We do not normally listen to drums by simultaneously sticking our heads directly next to the crash cymbal and inside the bass drum.  However, nowadays, this is what we expect drums to sound like.  A drum set mic-ed as we would normally listen with ears – at least 10 feet in front – would sound empty and hollow.  Without the artificial mic-ing technique, heavy metal would simply not have the requisite weight to satisfy the righteous head banger.

Music has always been a reflection of and an adaptation to the available sound producing technology of the time.  The evolution of musical instruments from hollow logs to brass tubes to digital synthesisers has, on the one hand, been a response to the needs of musicians and yet, on the other, has set the limitations on the sounds they could create.  This, in turn, defines the style of music created.  This is a quality not generally associated with the microphone; that it is not merely a passive receiver, but creates sound as much as does a saxophone; that it has changed the course and style of music.  That it is an instrument in its own right.

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

Daphne Oram’s 1960’s Optical Synthesizer Oramics Machine – Electronic Music Pioneer

In the early ’60s, pioneering British composer Daphne Oram set out to create a synthesizer unlike any other, she called it the Oramics machine

Commissioned by The Science Museum, London. Directed, Produced, Filmed and Edited by Nick Street and Jen Fearnley.

Science Museum Oramics to Electronica: Revealing Histories of Electronic Music  Until Saturday 01 December 12  oramics.aspx

The New Sound Of Music 1979

The New Sound of Music is a fascinating BBC historical documentary from the year 1979. It charts the development of recorded music from the first barrel organs, pianolas, the phonograph, the magnetic tape recorder and onto the concepts of musique concrete and electronic music development with voltage-controlled oscillators making up the analogue synthesizers of the day.

 

Electronic Music Studios (EMS) EMS Synthesizers and equipment are a heavily featured technology resource in this film, with the show’s host, Michael Rodd, demonstrating the EMS VCS3 synthesizer and it’s waveform output. Other EMS products include the incredible Synthi 100 modular console system, the EMS AKS, the Poly Synthi and the EMS Vocoder. Most of the location shots are filmed within the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop studios as they were in 1979.

The oldest-known EMI recording desk

By Brain Kehew

This mixer is the oldest-known EMI recording desk in existence. It was a bespoke design made for Abbey Road studios (then called the EMI Recording Studios Ltd.) When the studio complex was young, there was very little commercially-made studio equipment; so studios built their own. This desk is an early example of almost 50 years of EMI desk designs. (It is likely there were at least two more of these desks, as the studio had three main studios in operation.)

The desk has two “scenes” which are level settings for 5 microphones; one scene on the Left and one on the Right. The engineer would fade from one pre-set scene to the other using the centre fade control. This allowed quick transitions between microphone setups, as linear controls (now called faders) were not yet common.

Below each of the 5 level controls are on/off switches, with corresponding green and red lamps above to indicate the on/off setting for each input.

This photo shows the desk in use at Abbey Road in the 1940s, with staff engineers Laurie Bamber and Chick Fowler.