[Dixielandjazz] Re-creating/sounds of the 20s

Anton Crouch anton.crouch at optusnet.com.au
Sat Sep 24 05:46:54 PDT 2005

Hello all

I'm catching up after a few days in Melbourne - the trip was second prize
in a competition; first prize was one day in Melbourne. Ha, ha, bloody ha!

A couple of comments on a recent issue:

1. Those "dead guys" DIDN'T "play great". How could they - they weren't
dead. Yes, I know what people mean but the point is that it's all too easy
to think of recordings as the past. They may have been made and preserved
in the past but the music is here, now - the present. Also, the music
cannot be re-created unless someone (like in "Jurassic Park") can find some
preserved meme DNA. 

But seriously, everyone is free to imitate to their heart's content and the
result will stand as it is - simply music. We might think that the effort
is misguided and/or the result inferior to the "original", but that's a
matter of opinion.

2. There was a suggestion that the sound quality of recordings didn't
become satisfactory until sometime in the 30s. Not so. The Western Electric
system was used from late February 1925 and it is a popular misconception
that everything that preceded its use (ie the entire "acoustic" era, from
c. 1888) was only of marginal value as an indicator of the quality of the
musical performances. Again, not so. Most of the problems with contemporary
transfers of acoustic recordings lie with the fact that the discs
themselves are worn and/or damaged. A mint condition Caruso or King Oliver
is just as exciting as anything recorded in the past 80 years.

As to the almost universal belief that drums and other percussion could not
be recorded satisfactorily until the advent of electrical recording, again
not so. Listen to the bass drum in the ODJB's first recordings for Victor
in 1917. I have a transfer from an Edison cylinder of the US Marine Band in
1909 and the power (and clarity) of the percussion is almost hair-raising.
It is true that recording engineers liked to lead a peaceful life and tried
to limit percussion in small ensembles to woodblocks and snares but that
was more a matter of being conservative with regard to record wearability
than an inability to record the full percussion.

All the best
Anton (who lives in Sydney and has no knowledge of AFL)

More information about the Dixielandjazz mailing list