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IRENE Seeing Sound Blog

Lacquer Disc Recording of the CBS Symphony Orchestra

The NEDCC IRENE Lab has been working on more interesting recordings from the Carnegie Hall Archives collection, while continuing to fine-tune the 2D imaging capabilities in the Center's IRENE system.

Today’s audio clip is part four of an instantaneous lacquer disc recording of the CBS Symphony Orchestra, with Robert Shaw conducting Paul Hindemith's “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd,” recorded June 30, 1946 for radio broadcast.  Robert Shaw commissioned the work from Hindemith.  It is the complete text of Walt Whitman's poem which Hindemith set to music for chorus, soloists and orchestra.  The world premiere of the piece had taken place just a few weeks earlier on May 14, 1946 at City Center with Shaw conducting the Collegiate Chorale.




Yale University kindly loaned the Carnegie Hall Archives this photo of Robert Shaw and Paul Hindemith with the original score of "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd," taken in 1946. 


Photo Credit:
Photo 196
MSS 86, the Robert Shaw Papers
Gilmore Music Library, Yale University



A Note on Fidelity - The IRENE system is designed to safely photograph the grooves on the media, so it “sees” the grooves made during the recording, as well as any scratches, dust, or other degradation of the material. Variabilities between formats, and even between recording equipment within a format, present further challenges. As part of the grant project, the IRENE Lab has been fine-tuning their process to get the best possible sound out of the variety of formats and conditions they are sure to encounter when NEDCC's IRENE service becomes available to cultural institutions across the US.

About the Carnegie Hall Recording Company

The Carnegie Hall Recording Company is one of the most interesting and elusive aspects of Carnegie Hall's history.  It was founded by Len Frank in the 1930's in Carnegie Hall Studio 305-6. Frank had access to CBS microphones hanging in Carnegie Hall that were used for radio broadcasts from which he recorded various artists performing at Carnegie Hall. We believe he obtained access to the microphones through his associations with CBS or Bell Telephone Laboratories.  There was noWebLilacs2 official agreement with Carnegie Hall nor did Carnegie Hall receive payment for the recordings and to date nothing in writing has been located explaining in full the company or its relationship to Carnegie Hall.  The Carnegie Hall Recording Company studio at Carnegie Hall existed from the 1930s until 1960.

“How many recordings were made has not been determined,” explains Kathleen Sabogal, Assistant Director of the Archives at Carnegie Hall. “Most have disappeared. The Carnegie Hall Recording Company Collection consists of 38 lacquer discs with the Carnegie Hall Recording Company label that have been purchased on eBay or from private collectors.”

LEARN MORE about the Carnegie Hall Archives: 

Many Materials, Many Hues

The NEDCC IRENE Lab is beginning to work on some of Carnegie Hall's materials as part of the pilot program for the grant. As the lab continues to work with the 2D imaging process, we’ll feature excerpts from disc recordings in our pilot collections.

Carnegie Hall's collections include a variety of recordings on the Carnegie Hall Recording Company label.  As our audio specialist was working with this one-sided lacquer disc, he discovered this intriguing clip from a radio broadcast on March 11, 1950 called "I Stand and Listen,"  featuring guest speaker Harold E. Stassen.


There is little information on the background of this particular recording, other than it was most probably part of the Protestant Church's efforts to raise money for European reconstruction after World War II.  There was a national effort to expand the fundraising around a common cause.  In 1950 they began using the name "One Great Hour of Sharing" and several radio broadcasts were produced.


When you listen, you'll see why we were interested in this clip. NEDCC (And the IRENE Lab itself) are currently housed on the 4th floor of a renovated historic woolen mill building in Massachusetts. Those background sounds could have been inside these very walls . . .



Reaching the 100th Flanders Cylinder

The IRENE Lab reached the 100th cylinder from the Helen Hartness Flanders collection at Middlebury College Special Collections this week.

One of the key goals of the grant project is to develop workflow protocols, estimating models, proposal templates, and deliverable specifications, so it has been great to have this large (and fascinating!) collection of cylinders to use in the pilot phase.

                                  dictaphone animation

                                                       IRENE/3D AT WORK!

The 100th cylinder in the Flanders collection is a recording of Mabel Wilson Tatro of Springfield, VT, made in appx. 1930, singing "Two Little Kittens."

LEARN MORE about how Helen Hartness Flanders  was able to collect the unique collection of New England folksongs and tales:

"In 1931 the collection of songs based on the previous year's efforts of Helen Flanders and George Brown, sponsored by the Vermont Commission, was published by the Stephen Daye Press. This volume, Vermont Folk-Songs and Ballads, included both texts and musical transcriptions of songs, although many of the transcriptions were based not on dictaphone recordings, but on songs taken down in musical notation by Brown during his early weeks of collecting in southern Vermont. Cylinder BoxesFlanders was responsible for notes and the general organization of the materials, while Brown, Elizabeth Flanders Ballard (Flanders' daughter) and George Brown’s mother, Alice Brown did the musical transcription.

During the summer and early fall of 1930, Alice Brown also did some field collecting. Her contributions to the archive are found in early publications. Some of the songs Alice Brown notated by hand from the singing of Mrs. George Tatro in July 1930, Flanders recorded on dictaphone in November of that year." - from the "Index to the Field Recordings in the Flanders Ballad Collection at Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vermont."

VIEW AN EXAMPLE of the handwritten notations by Helen Hartness Flanders and others as they documented song lyrics. (Courtesy of Middlebury College Special Collections)



1951 Radio Transcription - Boston Bookmobile Driver Interview

Audio Preservation staff continues testing and refinements of NEDCC's IRENE 2D process this week.

The Boston Public Library provided this sample radio transcription on a 78 rpm instantaneous lacquer disc .


The recording is an interview by Boston's WNAC radio with one of the city's dedicated bookmobile drivers.

Classic audio snapshot of an era. (And classic Boston accent!)