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- Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings Project History
Of these four accounts the first two are the most generally accepted. Before , recording was done by the same purely mechanical, non-electronic "acoustical" method used since the invention of the phonograph nearly fifty years earlier. No microphone was involved and there was no means of amplification. The recording machine was essentially an exposed-horn acoustical record player functioning in reverse. One or more funnel-like metal horns was used to concentrate the energy of the airborne sound waves onto a recording diaphragm, which was a thin glass disc about two inches in diameter held in place by rubber gaskets at its perimeter.
The sound-vibrated center of the diaphragm was linked to a cutting stylus that was guided across the surface of a very thick wax disc, engraving a sound-modulated groove into its surface. The wax was too soft to be played back even once without seriously damaging it, although test recordings were sometimes made and sacrificed by playing them back immediately. The wax master disc was sent to a processing plant where it was electroplated to create a negative metal "stamper" used to mold or " press " durable replicas of the recording from heated "biscuits" of a shellac -based compound.
Although sound quality was gradually improved by a series of small refinements, the process was inherently insensitive.
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It could only record sources of sound that were very close to the recording horn or very loud, and even then the high-frequency overtones and sibilants necessary for clear, detailed sound reproduction were too feeble to register above the background noise. Resonances in the recording horns and associated components resulted in a characteristic "horn sound" that immediately identifies an acoustical recording to an experienced modern listener and seemed inseparable from "phonograph music" to contemporary listeners. From the start, Victor innovated manufacturing processes and soon rose to preeminence by recording famous performers.
In , it instituted a three-step mother-stamper process to produce more stampers and records than previously possible. After improving the quality of disc records and players, Johnson began an ambitious project to have the most prestigious singers and musicians of the day record for Victor, with exclusive agreements where possible.
Even if these artists demanded royalty advances which the company could not hope to make up from the sales of their records, Johnson shrewdly knew that he would get his money's worth in the long run in promotion of the Victor brand name.
These new celebrity recordings bore red labels, and were marketed as Red Seal records. For many years these records were single-sided; only in did Victor begin offering Red Seals in double-sided form. Countless advertisements were published praising renowned stars of the opera and concert stages and boasting that they recorded only for Victor.
Victor Talking Machine Company
As Johnson intended, much of the record-buying public assumed from this that Victor Records must be superior. In the company's early years, Victor issued recordings on the Victor, Monarch and De Luxe labels, with the Victor label on 7-inch records, Monarch on inch records and De Luxe on inch records.
De Luxe Special inch records were briefly marketed in — In , all labels and sizes were consolidated into the Victor imprint. The Victor recordings made by world-famous tenor Enrico Caruso between and were particularly successful.
They were often used by retailers to demonstrate Victor phonographs; Caruso's rich powerful baritonal quality highlighted the best range of audio fidelity of the early audio technology while being minimally affected by its defects. Even people who otherwise never listened to opera often owned a record or two of the great voice of Caruso. Rachmaninoff, in particular, became one of the first composer-performers to record extensively; he recorded exclusively for Victor from to Arturo Toscanini 's long association with Victor also began in , with a series of records conducting members of the orchestra of the La Scala Opera House of Milan.
He recorded for the company until his retirement in The first jazz and blues records were recorded by the Victor Talking Machine Company. The advent of radio as a home entertainment medium in the early s presented Victor and the entire record industry with new challenges. Not only was music becoming available over the air free of charge, but a live broadcast made using a high-quality microphone and heard over a high-quality receiver provided clearer, more "natural" sound than a contemporary record.
In , Victor switched from the acoustical or mechanical method of recording to the new microphone -based electrical system developed by Western Electric. Victor called its version of the improved fidelity recording process "Orthophonic", and sold a new line of record players, called " Orthophonic Victrolas ", scientifically designed to play these improved records.
Dating victor records
Victor's first electrical recordings were made and issued in the spring of However, in order to create sufficient catalogs of them to satisfy anticipated demand, and to allow dealers time to liquidate their stocks of acoustical recordings, Victor and its rival, Columbia, agreed to keep secret from the public, until near the end of , the fact that they were making the new electrical recordings which offered a vast improvement over the ones currently available. Then, with a large advertising campaign, Victor openly announced the new technology and introduced its Orthophonic Victrolas on "Victor Day", November 2, Victor's first commercial electrical recording was made at the company's Camden, New Jersey studios on February 26, Several takes were recorded by the old acoustical process, then additional takes were recorded electrically for test purposes.
Frederick Stock and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra made a series of recordings for Victor, beginning in , first in Victor's Chicago studios and then in Orchestra Hall. The San Francisco Symphony Orchestra conducted by Alfred Hertz made a few acoustical recordings early in , then switched to electrical recordings in Oakland and San Francisco, California, continuing until Toscanini made his first Victor electrical recordings with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in The origins of country music as we know it today can be traced to two seminal influences and a remarkable coincidence.
Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family are considered the founders of country music and their songs were first captured at an historic recording session in Bristol , Tennessee also known as the Bristol Sessions on August 1, , where Ralph Peer was the talent scout and recording engineer for Victor. Most record labels continued to bear only the "Victor" name until , when the labels changed to "RCA Victor" and eventually, to simply "RCA" in late Victor and its executives became extremely wealthy by the s and in doing so were able to establish markets outside of the original Camden, NJ base of operations.
S to manage the remaining holdings of the Gramophone Company a company in which Victor owned a significant portion in part due to patent pooling agreements, and Victor's success in its first two decades. Victor kept meticulous written records of all of its recordings. These written records are among the most extensive and important sources of available primary discographic information in the world. There were three main categories of files: There are about 15, daily log pages, each titled "Recording Book," that are numbered chronologically.
I have never seen this mark mentioned in Victor literature, and it is not mentioned in any of the existing files found in New York. Late in , Victor experimented with a groove enhancement program that smoothed and deepened the original record groove on masters whose grooves had rough edges. I have found no mention of this in the Victor files, nor do treated masters have any special mark showing that this has been done. Pressings made from such treated masters can be identified by sight by some rather subtle indications.
Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings Project History
We first learned of this process from correspondence found in the files of the Gramophone Co. In , Victor developed an acoustical dubbing process to create new masters from pressings where damage had occurred to the originals. These are occasionally but not always noted in the New York files. Pressings made from these dubbed masters are sonically inferior to the originals. During the electrical period i. Such dubbings do not appear to be noted in the New York files.
Beginning in , Victor started sending recording teams to Asia and Latin America. Wax plates were shipped back to Camden for processing, and finished pressings, often of local interest only, were shipped to their country of origin for sale. Letter prefix numbers were assigned to each overseas trip and the resulting recordings were numbered serially for that trip, which perhaps would start in Mexico, go to Cuba, then down the west coast of South America, across to Buenos Aires, and back by Rio and the Caribbean.
Paper documentation of these field trips is only fragmentary today. Special Recordings and Tests: