Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Rachmaninov Comes Out of the Gramophone Archive

From an April 1931 article in Gramophone by Sergei Rachmaninov:

Not long ago I was asked to express my opinion as to the musical value of broadcasting. I replied that, to my mind, radio has a bad influence on art: that it destroys all the soul and true significance of music. Since then many people have appeared and surprised that, disliking wireless so intensely, I should lend myself to recording for the gramophone, as though the two were, in some mysterious way, intimately connected.

To me it seems that the modern gramophone and modern methods of recording are musically superior to wireless transmission in every way, particularly where reproduction of the piano is concerned. I agree that piano recording was not always so successful as it is to-day. Twelve years ago, when I was making my first records with Edison in America, the piano came out with a thin, tinkling tone. It sounded exactly like the Russian balalaika, which, as you may know, is a stringed instrument resembling the guitar. And results produced by the acoustical process in use when I began to record for His Master’s Voice in 1920 were far from satisfactory. It is only the perfecting of electrical recording during the last three years combined with recent astonishing improvements in the gramophones themselves that has given us piano reproduction of a fidelity, a variety and depth of tone that could hardly be bettered . . .

Thanks to Perverse Egalitarian for posting that Gramophone's 85 years of publication are now available online.

1 comment:

  1. Between about 1928 and 1934, the fidelity of 78rpm recordings and affordability of playback equipment improved markedly. Rachmaninov notes that. What he fails to note, though, is an important aspect of why radio broadcasting of music during the same time period was very important.

    In the USA, during that same time, programs like Duke Ellington's Cotton Club not only spread the most popular American music of the period 1930-1950 - Jazz - but helped prepare the way for integration and civil rights.

    Politicians, the police, religious and "civic" leaders could keep the races segregated in the concert hall. They could also categorize and stereotype the races through recorded music and film.

    But they were unable to keep black people from inviting whites into their living room, or whites from inviting blacks into their living rooms, when it came to radio programming. Through radio, Duke Ellington was able to enter over a million white homes each week, without being kicked out, arrested, beaten up, or lynched.


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