Recording - February 2018 - 80

FadeOut
OBSERVATIONS FROM THE
VINYL RECORD BIN
Guest Editorial by Michael Nickolas

Are you expecting someone to listen to your recordings in
the year 2079?
Like many others these days, I'm enjoying the vinyl
resurgence. Before my last move, I cleared out a lot of my
vinyl albums, but I did keep a handful that I deemed important
enough to hang on to and bring to my new place. I've been
adding to them since, buying at flea markets and thrift shops
along with a few more recent releases. I have a new Bluetooth
turntable that sounds great and hearing the crackle of an old
record again puts a smile on my face.
I thought it would be fun to sort my records by the year
of release. The oldest ones are from 1956-a Dixieland
recording and a swing recording. I can't help but wonder if
the engineers of the records ever considered someone would
be listening in the year 2018. Probably not. They were just
having fun making music, like us today. Then I stretch that
thought to all art... the novelist, the painter. To the extreme,
did Leonardo Da Vinci consider the Mona Lisa being viewed
500 years later?
Sorting by year also gives a glimpse into modern-day
recording history. I've found notes about the technology of
the time on the backs of the albums. The notes appear mostly over a ten-year span from 1958-1968. They peter out
in the 1970s. In 1958 Warner Brothers touted "Vitaphonic
High Fidelity, the first name in sound" as the "optimum in
modern sound recording technique". They thought it was
important to let the listener know that the recorded range was
20-25,000 "cycles" and that they used 3-channel Ampex
300 tape recorders and the latest condenser microphones.
It goes on to say that mastering used the "RIAA playback
curve. Rolloff, 13.75 DB at 10 KC". I didn't know what a
"KC" was. A quick Google search brings up information on
the Kanas City Chiefs football team; a deeper search got me
kilocycles, which is old-timey speak for kiloHertz. Reading
these notes gets me to wondering again, though. Should I
add a note to my recordings? Like "mastered through a series
of plug-ins by Waves and iZotope to achieve the highest
fidelity possible without paying someone else to do it"?
Eight years later, in 1966, RCA hyped "Dynagroove", which
it appears was the be-all-and-end-all of recording. Characteristics
of Dynagroove listed and defined for the jacket reader were
brilliance and clarity, realistic presence, full-bodied tone, surface

80

RECORDING February 2018

noise virtually eliminated, and inner-groove distortion virtually
eliminated. They achieved all this using-and according to them
for the first time in audio-"highly ingenious computers". They
clarified "computer" (which must have been an oddball term for
the time) by defining it as an "electronic brain".
Come the late 1960s, it seems record companies needed
to assure customers that the newfangled stereo technology
wasn't a problem if the listener had only mono equipment.
Longevity may have been a concern of record buyers. More
than one album jacket states that the stereo record will last
just as long as mono records played on the same equipment.
Skipping ahead a few decades, I took a look at the latest
release I have, hoping the tradition of flaunting the newest
recording technology on the record jacket was being carried
on. Nope... not on that particular release anyway.
If vinyl hadn't had such a resurgence, I'm not sure that I'd
be listening to and learning from these old recordings. Of
course old recordings exist in the digital world, but it's the
physical aspect at play here. Hunting through the bins at the
flea market is a different experience from searching on YouTube.
Would I listen to a 62-year-old Dixieland recording if I hadn't
stumbled across the old album and thought, "Wow, this could
be cool to hear"? Probably not, unless I was doing research
for a specific project.
The liner notes from the time go to show that people were
always striving to create the best recordings possible, and we
should do the same. They may not have considered someone
listening 62 years later, but by producing their best work
possible, the music stands the test of time.
If I had to guess, I'd say that Leonardo didn't consider the
Mona Lisa being viewed 500 years later, and it wouldn't
have made any difference if he did; he did his best and
his best is what we see today. Your recordings may have
a longer shelf life than you'd expect. Create to the best of
your ability, because you never know who will be listening
to it someday.
Michael Nickolas (nickolas@recordingmag.com) is a
recording engineer, composer and musician living and working
in Massachusetts. Recent placements of his music include
The Late Show With Stephen Colbert and a feature film now
streaming on Netflix called 1 Mile To You.



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recording - February 2018

Contents
Recording - February 2018 - Intro
Recording - February 2018 - Cover1
Recording - February 2018 - Cover2
Recording - February 2018 - 1
Recording - February 2018 - 2
Recording - February 2018 - 3
Recording - February 2018 - 4
Recording - February 2018 - 5
Recording - February 2018 - 6
Recording - February 2018 - 7
Recording - February 2018 - Contents
Recording - February 2018 - 9
Recording - February 2018 - 10
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Recording - February 2018 - Cover3
Recording - February 2018 - Cover4
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