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

Neville Thiele (4 December 1920 – 1 October 2012)

On October 1st Australian audio industry icon (Dr Albert) Neville Thiele, OAM, passed away aged 91.

Neville was one of the most influential figures in audio, and is best known for his role in the development of the ‘Thiele-Small parameters’. As a consequence, virtually every loudspeaker in the world has a specification sheet with these parameters.

Joining EMI (Australia) Ltd., he was employed as a design engineer on special projects, including telemetry. With the start of television in Australia, he spent six months of 1955 in the laboratories of EMI at Hayes, Middlesex, and associated companies in Scandinavia and the United States, and on return to Australia he led the design team that developed EMI’s earliest Australian television receivers. Appointed Advanced Development Engineer in 1957, he was responsible for applying advanced technology in EMI Australia’s radio and television receivers and electronic test equipment.

 

Neville Thiele on Alan Blumlein

The History of Recorded Music trailer. Is this going to be the Forest Gump of documentaries?

The History of Recorded Music is a major documentary series that has had a long and eventful gestation and has been “in post production” for some time; a description which can cover a multiple of sins from a stage in the production process through to the shelving of a project for whatever reason. It aims to tell the story of both the evolution of technology and the industry. I was involved a little bit on a couple of occasions and I got to see what a complicated process it is to make this kind of television series especially as it required many many rights clearances. I also know just how much hard work – and money – a number of people have put into the project. I wish them luck in completing the series.
I do have a concern after watching the trailer (below) which I would like the producers to consider as they complete the work. The trailer presents the history of recorded music to be an almost entirely American story. I appreciate that trailers are made for specific audiences, but this one shows no interviews with people from outside the US, I spotted one clip of a UK act (The Beatles) and an Irish act (U2) and a couple of UK acts (Led Zeppelin, Radiohead) mentioned by the talking heads. And that’s it. 95%++ US only. It even says that Edison invented recording, a fact disputed by the story of the Phonautograph covered on this very site this very week! The USA did play the prominent part in the history of recorded sound, but there is a big world out there beyond their national borders and a lot of interesting and significant stories in the history of recorded music; from Gaisberg to Blumlein to George Martin to Sex Pistols to Kraftwerk to Techno Music to Classical Music (which drove a lot of recording technology innovation) to mention just a few Euro-centric tales. I hope the documentary finds time to include some of them. My biggest frustration with Forest Gump is that the music back drop chosen to represent the 60’s and 70’s included very little if any non-American music. It irritates me so much that I can’t watch the movie because of its one-eyed approach. I hope the documentary itself when it gets completed does not repeat that mistake.