Tuesday, May 19, 2009

"Embalming" Sound, c. 1916

Text not available
The Popular Science Monthly

Here is a nice little description of recording practice, c. 1916, including a discussion of the Stroh violin:

As a general rule the musicians are perched midway between floor and ceiling, with their instruments pointing toward the horn of the recording phonograph. Men who play the tuba and similar brass instruments turn their backs to the phonograph so that the mouths of the instruments may project their growls and blasts toward the horn. In order that the tuba players may see the conductor of the orchestra, mirrors are placed in front of them, which reflect the movements of his baton.

For violin solos, an ordinary violin is used, the artist usually playing directly in front of a horn projecting through a partition. This is true of chamber music and all records in which the violin tone can be heard with sufficient distinctness. In heavy orchestral pieces, however, a special instrument called, after its inventor, the Stroh violin, is used. It seems that the sounds of the ordinary violin are difficult to produce, especially at a distance. Stroh devised a violin which has no sounding-board. It comprises simply a bridge, over which the strings are stretched in the usual manner, and a horn which amplifies the sounds. This instrument is now used in all phonograph laboratories. On the finished phonograph record its sounds are hardly to be distinguished from those of an ordinary violin.

Source: "Singing for the Phonograph," The Popular Science Monthly, May 1916, 659-60. Click on image above to go to article in Google books.

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