The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
 Search This Thread  Search This Forum  Search Reviews  Search Gear Database  Search Gear for sale  Search Gearslutz Go Advanced
The early days of orchestral stereo recording
Old 27th September 2006
  #1
Lives for gear
 
NetworkAudio's Avatar
 

Thread Starter
The early days of orchestral stereo recording

You were a young engineer in the late days of Mono and early days of Stereo.
You must have some great stories from those early orchestral sessions.
How involved were the great conductors of the time in the development of new stereo techniques, and what were their concerns? I imagine them being more open minded about new approaches than they are nowadays as nothing was set in stone yet.
Did you have access to the hall for experimentation during rehersals?
What was the general feeling among the players, soloists and conductors in those sessions?

Kindly,
Old 29th September 2006
  #2
Viking
 
Bruce Swedien's Avatar
 

Tak ska du har....

Quote:
Originally Posted by klaukholm View Post
You were a young engineer in the late days of Mono and early days of Stereo.
You must have some great stories from those early orchestral sessions.
How involved were the great conductors of the time in the development of new stereo techniques, and what were their concerns? I imagine them being more open minded about new approaches than they are nowadays as nothing was set in stone yet.
Did you have access to the hall for experimentation during rehersals?
What was the general feeling among the players, soloists and conductors in those sessions?

Kindly,
Kjetil Laukholm.....

Tak ska du har....

Great thoughts... Here are some of my notes from my work with The Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Dr Fritz Reiner...

In 1957, Bea and I were living in the Chicago suberb of Wheeling, just after having moved from Minneapolis. It was almost a year before I was to go to work for my mentor, ‘Milton T, ‘Bill’ Putnam at Universal Studios in Chicago. Bill had completed construction of big, beautiful Studio ‘A’, at Universal. That fantastic large-scale music studio was a technical and acoustic masterpeice! He told me that when he finished Studio ‘B’ the following year, I would have my job at Universal. In typical Bill Putnam fashion, Bill had helped with my moving expenses, and helped arrange for my job at RCA Victor. In the meantime, this eager, young transplant from the hinterlands of Minnesota, was very happily busy, working for RCA Victor Studios.(then located on Chicago’s Navy Pier)

While at RCA, I got to work on some very exciting projects.(Not necessarily always at the RCA studios on Navy Pier). For instance, I assisted in the recording of The Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Dr. Fritz Reiner. Actually, when we recorded the CSO it was a bit of a team effort. The man in charge of engineering, and in truth, the guy who really did the recording, was Lewis Layton, a wonderful, classical music engineer at RCA Victor. He had a very generous spirit and freely helped me learn my craft. The producer on these sessions was Richard Mohr, another very kind and generous music man.

We recorded the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Orchestra Hall on Michigan Avenue. Fritz Reiner was the music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1953-1963. He built the CSO into the world-class orchestra that it remains today. I worked at RCA with the orchestra in 1957 and 1958.

Working, watching and learning on those sessions, I remember thinking to myself, “This is why I left Minnesota!”

One recording session, or series of sessions that really stands out in my mind was the Modest Moussorgsky, (Maurice Ravel Orchestration) “Pictures at an Exhibition” that we recorded with the CSO in 1957.

I was particularily impressed by the phenomenal trumpet soloist, Adolph ‘Bud’ Herseth. ‘Bud’ played those trumpet solos on “Pictures” with fantastic skill. The first day we worked on “Pictures”, when we took a break, I went out on the stage and talked to Bud. What a great guy. I found out that he was also from Minnesota. A tiny, little town called, Bertha Minnesota, as I recall. Not too far from Cokato Minnesota, where my family lived. What a small world. Instantly I knew that Bud was my kind of guy. He told me of his desire to play his solos, "going beyond the notes." Made sense to me. I felt the same way about what I do. I worked with Bud a few times doing sessions at Universal. There were other incredible trumpet players that did most of the studio work in Chicago at that time. Bud’s place was with the CSO. ‘Bud’ recently retired after 53 years as principal trumpet with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

I was really fortunate because Dr. Reiner appeared to be quite interested in the recording process. I don’t really remember that Dr. Reiner truly loved the recording process, but he certainly did appreciate it’s value... Those incredible recordings that I was involved in in 1957 and 1958 are still considered by many to be among the first truly audiophile recordings.

We would edit the Chicago Orchestra tapes bar by bar, sometimes note by note, until it was as perfect as we thought we could make it. One lasting impression of that period of time for me is, that Dr. Reiner made me a part of his innovative, new, “INCENTIVE” program.... That remarkable, new incentive program was: "One mistake and you’re through!!!". Under Fritz Reiner’s remarkable new incentive program, I learned to edit analogue magnetic tape accurately, quickly and above all musically. I'll never forget him. What fantastic musical and technical experiences! At that time we recorded the CSO on two, three-track 1/2 inch Ampex tape machines. One tape machine recorded the master tape, the other a back-up, or safety master tape. This 20 year old kid from Minneapolis had never seen anything so high-tech in his life before!

I met and worked with many fantastic musicians that were with the CSO. To name a few that stand out in my memory.... Ray Still, principal oboe, Arnold Jacobs, principal tuba. Dale Clevenger, principal French Horn and recording soloist for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (since February 1966). Dale is a well-known Chicago studio musician. I got to work with Frank Miller, not only with the CSO but in the studio, as well. Frank, at that time, was called the greatest living orchestral cellist.

My experiences recording for RCA Victor in beautiful, fantastic-sounding, Orchestra Hall extended to musical groups other than the CSO. One project that stands out in my memory is recording Dick Schory's “New Percussion Ensemble” in Orchestra Hall. We recorded an album entitled "Music for Bang Baaroom and Harp!” It was, of course, all percussion.

This project gave me a real insight into the incredible percussion players working in the Chicago recording scene at that time. We recorded titles like... “National Emblem March”, “Way Down Yonder in New Orleans” and the memorable “Duel on the Skins”.(Hmmm...) Many others as well. It was great fun.

The reviews said, “Schory's New Percussion Ensemble is allowed to roam freely in Chicago's Orchestra Hall. This recording captured Schory and his band of lunatics hitting everything but the kitchen sink.” (The reviewers must have missed something, because I distinctly remember setting up a microphone on a kitchen sink!) The critics said the “New Percussion Ensemble” was the "Biggest Battery of Percussion West of Cape Canaveral"! It was released in 1959 on the RCA label.

Some of the outstanding Chicago Percussion players were Bobby Christian, Bob Westberg and Frank Rullo. In the Chicago studios Bobby Christian was called “Mr. Percussion”. He was a mainstay of Dick Schory's percussion ensemble.

Bruce Swedien


2
Share
Mentioned Products
Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Similar Threads
Thread
Thread Starter / Forum
Replies
Blast9 / So much gear, so little time!
95
JohnRodd / Remote Possibilities in Acoustic Music & Location Recording
19
C.Lambrechts / High end
112

Forum Jump