It will not have escaped anyone’s attention that there is a sizeable market
for ‘antique’ recordings transcribed onto CD. It’s a pity no-one
thought of this when the CD specification was drawn up otherwise Philips and
Sony might have included a mono standard to allow the discs to play for twice
as long. These antique recordings date as far back as the acoustic gramophone
- it’s almost impossible to imagine now a piece of sound reproducing equipment
that doesn’t use electricity - and even back to cylinders, mainly for their
curiosity rather than musical value. There is a vast archive of material on
acoustically and electrically produced 78 rpm records which covers a very important
period in the development of performance styles. Many of the artists involved
in making these 78s had a very close musical connection either to the actual
composers of the nineteenth century repertoire, or to people who followed closely
in their musical tradition. As we move further and further away in time we inevitably
lose perspective, and old recordings provide a valuable educational resource.
Also on 78 rpm discs is an equally vast repertoire of jazz recordings. Jazz,
more than any other type of music, is ephemeral in its nature. An improvised
solo exists only while it is being played, unless captured in a recording. Once
again, the catalogue of 78s holds important information, this time on the development
of a musical style. These old recordings need to be available, and presented
with the best audio quality possible under the circumstances.
To the above paragraphs I should also add that these old recordings can be
immensely enjoyable, much more so than modern re-recordings which may be technically
perfect but can somehow never capture the excitement and vigour of the originals.
The application of some type of restoration process to scratched and noisy
78 rpm records is self evident. Slightly less so is the need to improve the
quality of 33 1/3 rpm long playing records. After all, if you want to release
60s or 70s material on CD, it’s best to go back to the original master
tape, •isn’t it? Well the answer is yes, if you can find it,
and if when you find it it is still in a playable condition. It seems that
more and more horror stories concerning the longevity - or rather the lack of
it - of 1/4 inch tapes are coming to light. If you have an old tape which sheds
oxide, sticks to the heads or is otherwise difficult to play, the first course
of action is to consult the tape’s manufacturer who may have a fix. If
the master tape cannot provide usable results, then the only thing to do is
to find a good copy of the LP to transcribe onto CD. Yes, it does happen, and
if you want to hear the music, it must.
Another source of noise ridden dialogue and music is the optical film sound
track. Once again, this is a very ‘clicky’ medium, any scratch on
the film is interpreted as a noise impulse, and these scratches are bound to
occur through repeated spooling of the film print.
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