Inventor of Stereo Sound Alan Dower Blumlein to be Honoured with Posthumous Grammy®

Pioneering British Engineer and Inventor of Stereo, Alan Dower Blumlein to be Posthumously Honoured with the Recording Academy® Technical Grammy® Award

The ground-breaking work of British engineer Alan Dower Blumlein, inventor of stereo sound recording, is to be posthumously honoured by The Recording Academy® with the Technical Grammy® award at a special ceremony to be held later this year.

Alan Dower Blumlein (1903-1942) photo courtesy of THE EMI Group Archive Trust

Alan Dower Blumlein (1903-1942) photo courtesy of The EMI Group Archive Trust

The news of Alan Dower Blumlein’s posthumous Grammy® received widespread interest from mainstream media outlets including Sky News, BBC Radio 4, the Daily Mail, The Telegraph and the London Evening Standard.

Born in Hampstead, London on 29th June 1903, Alan Dower Blumlein was one of the most prolific inventors of the twentieth century who transformed the worlds of audio and recording technology, television and airborne radar. In March 1929, aged 25, he joined Columbia Graphophone, one of the forerunners of EMI. During his time at Columbia and EMI he thrived as an incredibly inventive and innovative engineer, filing 128 patents in the space of 13 years.

On 14 December 1931, Blumlein filed a patent for a two-channel audio system, or stereo as we call it now. It included a “shuffling” circuit to preserve directional sound, an orthogonal “Blumlein Pair” of velocity microphones, the recording of two orthogonal channels in a single groove, stereo disc-cutting head, and hybrid transformer to mix directional signals. Blumlein brought his equipment to Abbey Road Studios in 1934 and recorded the London Philharmonic Orchestra, where he was honoured in 2015 with a commemorative plaque by the IEEE for his work in advancing technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity.

Tragically on 7th June 1942 during World War II, aged just 38, Blumlein’s life was cut short in an aircraft accident, whilst testing the H2S airborne radar system that the team he was leading had developed and which was soon deployed throughout the RAF’s fleet. Given the top secret nature of H2S his death was never officially acknowledged and so despite this major contribution to the Allied war effort, as well as his ground breaking work in sound recording and television, his accomplishments are not widely known.

Alan Dower Blumlein is one of the great unsung heroes of British science and technology in the 20th century.

The life and work of Alan Dower Blumlein is currently being developed into an as-yet untitled film project by Universal Music Group, which also supports and maintains The EMI Group Archive Trust.

Found out more about the work of Alan Dower Blumlein on the EMI Archive Trust Blog.

Watch and listen to Alan Dower Blumlein’s early stereo sound recordings

‘Trains at Hayes Station’ – Universal Music Group YouTube Channel

‘Walking and Talking’ – Abbey Road Studios YouTube Channel

Mystery Object of the week #13 Answer

A hearty Christmas congratulations to Catherine Crump and Rob de Bie who correctly identified last weeks’ mystery object – The Ivor Novello Award also known as The Ivors. Named after the Cardiff – born entertainer Ivor Novello these have been presented annually in London by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) since 1955.

The Ivor Novello Award 1988 presented to EMI for 'Mistletow and Wine' - Courtesy of the EMI Group Archive Trust Collection.

The Ivor Novello Award 1988 presented to EMI for ‘Mistletow and Wine’ – Courtesy of the EMI Group Archive Trust Collection.

This award was presented to EMI Records for Cliff Richard’s version of ‘Mistletoe and Wine’ which was the best selling A side for 1988 – original song written by Jeremy Paul, Leslie Stewart and Keith Strachan.

The Award itself is a solid bronze sculpture of Euterpe, the muse of lyric poetry –individually crafted by Mike Wilson.

Ivor Novello Awarded to EMI Records – 1988 for ‘Mistletow and Wine’ – Courtesy of the EMI Group Archive Trust Collection.  

Mystery Object of the week #12 Answer

Congratulations to Rob de Bie, Rolf Christian Holth Olsen and David James who correctly identified this weeks mystery object –  Mae Starr by Universal Talking Toys Company – U.S.A, 1930.

Talking Doll - Mae Starr by Universal Talking Toys Company U.S.A - 1930 Part of the EMI Group Archive Trust Collection

Talking Doll – Mae Starr by Universal Talking Toys Company U.S.A – 1930. Part of the EMI Group Archive Trust Collection

Mae Starr was made by the Universal Talking Toys Co., and uses the Averill Manufacturing Company’s cylinder phonograph motor. The cylinder mechanism is housed in a well constructed tin-plate housing at the back of the doll. the sound is directed out of the front of the chest. A small lever starts the motor and positions the stylus on the beginning of the cylinder, whilst a crank is used on the thigh to wind the mechanism. All of the dolls that used this type of mechanism used blue, 2 3/16 inch diameter, and 1 ¼ inch long cylinders.

 Talking Doll - Mae Starr by Universal Talking Toys Company U.S.A - 1930 Part of the EMI Group Archiev Trust Collection

Talking Doll – Mae Starr by Universal Talking Toys Company U.S.A – 1930 Part of the EMI Group Archive Trust Collection

This doll has celluloid arms, legs and head. Her body is cloth and stuffed, and has the metal cylinder holder in her back and a metal lined hole in her chest where the sound comes out. On her side is a hand crank. Mae’s eyes open and with brunette human hair wig.  This particular doll stands 26 2/4 inches tall and comes with two original cylinders.

Mae Starr talking doll by Universal Talking Toys Company – Courtesy of the EMI Group Archive Trust Collection.  Film courtesy of  thegirlofmusic1– ‘Mae Starr Phonograph Doll – Nursery Rhyme: One, Two.’

Mystery Object of the week #11 Answer

Congratulations to Martyn Dowel, Rolf Christian Holth Olsen and Robert Spencer who all correctly identified this weeks mystery object  – The Auxetophone designed by the British engineer Sir Charles Parsons.   

This Auxetophone is in the 'Queen Anne' Style with a highly polished mahogany cabinet with panelled doors and cabriole legs. It has a triple-spring spiral-drive motor, 12" turntable, speed indicator, tapering tone-arm with gooseneck, auxetophone soundbox, and a mahogany grained Flaxite horn. Part of the EMI Group Archive Trust collection

This Auxetophone is in the ‘Queen Anne’ Style with a highly polished mahogany cabinet with panelled doors and cabriole legs. It has a triple-spring spiral-drive motor, 12″ turntable, speed indicator, tapering tone-arm with gooseneck, auxetophone soundbox, and a mahogany grained Flaxite horn.   Courtesy of the EMI Group Archive Trust collection

The Auxetophone was perhaps the most effective attempt, prior to the development of electrical amplification in the 1920’s, of increasing volume. Invented in 1904, it used air pressure to enhance the vibrations of a specially-designed reproducer valve. An electrically-powered blower inside the cabinet forced air through the tubing along the tone arm and through the special reproducer, enormously increasing the volume. The machine did not sell particularly well, in part due to price, and in part due to the fact that it was not well suited to home use (it was extremely loud and meant for mass public consumption).The sales literature promoted its use in “large residences,” and the market was thus largely restricted to commercial applications such as dance halls and theatres.

Amy Eliza Castles (25 July 1880 - 19 November 1951), was an Australian soprano

Austrian soprano – Amy Eliza Castles  – 1917 (1880-1951)

 

A ‘Grand Gramophone Concert’ was given at the Royal Albert Hall on 14th December 1906, about which The Daily Mail wrote; ‘ Many ladies were visibly affected when Madame Patti or rather the gramophone sang ‘Home Sweet Home’. The rendering recalled in a startling manner her singing at the same hall on the occasion of her farewell concert a few days ago….The most effective example of what the gramophone can do was demonstrated immediately after Miss Amy Castles had sung in person as her encore was a repetition of the song on the gramophone itself’.

Gramophone and Typewriter Ltd. Auxetophone – Courtesy of the EMI Group Archive Trust Collection.

Mystery Object of the week #10 Answer

Congratulations to Rolf Christian Holth Olsen who correctly identify this weeks mystery object – The Lioretograph Model 2 phonogragh – created by the Parisian watchmaker Henri Lioret in 1898.

Lioretograph Model 2 part of the EMI Group Archive Trust Collection

Lioretograph Model 2 part of the EMI Group Archive Trust Collection

This particular model – The Lioretograph Model 2 – came in a fitted case dating from 1899/1900. Lioret used his watchmaker’s knowledge to create a machine with a curious mixture of high-class clock work motors coupled with wire and cardboard for the acoustic mechanism.

On the front flap of the case are instructions for use in French, the rest of the case interior is finished in a green cloth.  A compartment to the left of the case contains cylinders housed in cardboard boxes (6 x 2m cylinders).

The reproducer is made form cardboard with spring-tension to the mica diaphragm and a series of graduated cardboard rings inside the drum-shaped body, leading to a short celluloid conical horn.

Unlike Columbia and Edison phonographs, the Lioretograph had no feedscrew, and its celluloid and brass 2 minute cylinders were held by a split taper-pin.

 Lioretograph Model 2 designed by Henri Lioret 1898 – Courtesy of the EMI Group Archive Trust Collection.

EMI are taking a trip down memory lane at Hayes Old Vinyl Factory

EMI are inviting former employees at the Old Vinyl Factory in Hayes, to come back and share their memories of the iconic site.

The factory was a major employer for the town and produced records by some of the world’s best-known artists, including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Cliff Richard.

The reunion will take place on Wednesday, February 3, from 10am-1pm and is hosted by the EMI Archive Trust in conjunction with the BBC for their People’s History of Pop project.

Back in the day: The Old Vinyl Factory in Hayes

 

 

 

If you would like to come along, send your RSVP details to 7Wonder, the production company working with BBC on the People’s History of Pop project, at: phop@7wonder.co.uk or telephone 0203 701 7615.

Read the full article by NE  www.getwestlondon.co.uk 25th January 2016

Rare Recordings – From The EMI Vaults #2

Moo! Baa! Oink! Quack! or Happy New Year!

We are proud to present another rare recording uncovered by our friends from the EMI Archive Trust.

118 years ago Trevor Lloyd Williams, legal eagle and first Chairman of The Gramophone Company, stepped into the newly established Maiden Lane studio to record his famous party piece of farmyard animal sounds!

The result ……well not bad for a lawyer!

 

Early recordings supplied courtesy of the EMI Archive Trust.

Trevor Lloyd Williams  ‘Morning on the Farm’ 7″ Berliner E9292 – 1899

Rare Recordings – From The EMI Vaults

Miss Christabel Pankhurst – Speech on Suffrage for Women

Christabel Pankhurst, a leading Suffragette, was one of the primary strategists of the campaign for women’s right to vote in the first decades of the twentieth century. Christabel was jailed in 1907 and 1909 and was dubbed the ‘Queen of the Mob’ by the media, as described in this contemporary press release.

Miss Christabel Pankhurst
One of the leading figures in the militant movement organised to gain the suffrage for women, Miss Pankhurst was a joint founder and leader with her mother (Mrs. Pankhurst) of the Women’s Social and Political Union, which from 1910 to 1914 carried out a series of violent demonstrations of various kinds, which included the destruction of property, and even assaults upon persons. Miss Pankhurst was frequently arrested, imprisoned and liberated, under the famous “Cat and Mouse” Act, which was passed to deal with militant suffragist and it was during this time the “hunger strike” in prison was introduced by the suffragist. Since the gaining of suffrage by women, Miss Pankhurst has led the Women’s Party, which is devoted to social progress. This record was made a few hours after her release from Holloway prison, after one of her many terms of imprisonment.

Speech on Suffrage for Women
Date recorded (78) 1909
No 01016 Size 12 Label Black (single-sided)

Courtesy of The EMI Group Archive Trust

Chekhov’s Band – Eastern European Klezmer Music from the EMI Archives,1908-1913

 Chekhov’s Band – Eastern European Klezmer Music from the EMI Archives,1908-1913

Chekhov’s Band – Eastern European Klezmer Music from the EMI Archives,1908-1913

 

All recordings used in this the making of this CD form part of The EMI Archive Trust, a heritage organisation set up to preserve the first 50 years of the Gramophone Company (later EMI) 1897-1946 http://www.emiarchivetrust.org

Produced by Renair Records  www.jewishrecords.co.uk

Distribution by Honest Jons    www.honestjons.com

“The Dream of Gerontius”, Elgar’s opus 38 – Vivid memories from April 1945

By Ted Gadsby     

“The Dream of Gerontius”, Elgar’s opus 38 – Vivid memories from April 1945

April this year marked the 70th anniversary of the recording in Huddersfield Town Hall of the ‘Dream’, an occasion I witnessed at first hand. Could an 8-year old claim to have appreciated what was going on, and how much is it a genuine memory or later study? I confirm how I was deeply moved – this guaranteeing for me what I genuinely recall. I experienced a spiritual wakening at the choir’s affirmation of “Praise to the Holiest” and the lingering of Heddle Nash’s frightened, dying and weak voice shook this child on that day. I was hooked.

Sir Edward Elgar conducting first record 'Carissima' Jan 1914, possibly at City Road - Early 20th century recordings.  Image supplied Courtesy of The  EMI Group Archive Trust

Sir Edward Elgar conducting first record ‘Carissima’ Jan 1914, possibly at City Road – Early 20th century recordings. Image supplied Courtesy of The EMI Group Archive Trust

From the Mayor’s box (there were, maybe, 14 or 16 Huddersfield Choral Society (HCS) committee members, friends and civic dignitaries) we looked down into the auditorium; no other non-participants were present, just performers and recording engineers. I had been taken there by my father, Hugh Frederic Gadsby (on leave from the RAF) and his own father, Frederic Walter Gadsby, a long-serving member of the HCS Committee (and its President: 1947-1949). I remember acute embarrassment as my elders in the mayor’s box stood up in unison – and I demurely followed – on two occasions to demand a re-start.

In those days of direct shellac recording re-starts were discouraged – get it right first time! I remember the repetitive stops & starts as successive maximum-12 minute sections were put down for each of the 78-rpm’s 24 sides onto which the master (HMV recording C.3435-3446) was directly archived. Only those two sides (nos. 4 & 9 out of 24) were re-started, a remarkable contrast to today’s ‘perfecting-technology’. Cleverly, the sound technicians, I learned since, over-lapped many of the sides “as if anticipating how this could help bring together the recording as a whole at sometime in the future.”

This had been the first recording of the full 1900 work (those in 1927 under Elgar himself had been of extracts only). So, how did this performance compare with later ones? Bill Rosen has posed five short questions: Was Elgar England’s finest composer? Is The Dream of Gerontius his finest work (“the best of me”)? Was this Sargent’s finest hour and his 1945 recording of this work the greatest ever made? Was Heddle Nash the finest Gerontius ever? Whilst I am ill-qualified to compare this with a dozen post-war recordings, Rosen believes that others played the drama too early, Sargent (1945) sustaining it to the end. Perhaps his 1941 performance in London’s Queen’s Hall, hours before its destruction, moved and motivated him.

For years I had to make do with a poor cassette recording of an 8th December 1978 Radio 3 broadcast taped from the original discs, until I obtained, with great joy, the 2006 Direct Audio Transfer made by Pristine Audio (PACO.009). Despite bringing me a beautifully continuous performance, it will never cloud my personal reminiscences of that day. Two questions I pose: Does anyone know the exact date in April 1945 and, is there anyone else alive who bore witness to this musical treat? HCS’s 125th anniversary booklet (1961) omits this major contribution to choral music in its Notable Dates, it being covered in the Performance Listing.

Perhaps my visits to Birmingham Oratory, passing Cardinal Newman’s own office also adds a touch of sentiment! Being an early music buff, I don’t relish Gladys Ripley’s style, but my heart savours the whole. Heddle Nash’s “Take me away” will never be surpassed.

I was indeed so privileged to have witnessed the occasion, and after this arduous day was done, I proudly remembered being introduced to Mr. Herbert Bardgett, chorus master since 1932, and being patted on the head by Dr. Malcolm himself (two years before his knighthood)!

Comments invited and publication and archiving encouraged – by Ted Gadsby  

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