Old school grooves
November 27, 2006 6:45 AM   Subscribe

"In the monitor booth the sound technician listens to the rehearsal through a loudspeaker, and in cooperation with maestro Ellington, brings the music to its highest sound perfection before transmitting it through the electrical circuits to the recording machine!" Record Making With Duke Ellington (1937). [YouTube]
posted by flapjax at midnite (11 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Thanks for this. I love Ellington. Sadly I always think of this story when his name comes up:

In 1969, George Wein, impresario of the Newport Jazz Festival, decided it would be a tremendous idea to put the Mothers of Invention on a jazz tour of the East Coast. We wound up working in a package with Kirk, Duke Ellington and Gary Burton in Miami at the Jai Alai Fronton, and at another gig in South Carolina.

The touring package did not carry its own PA -- we had to use whatever speakers existed in each of the venues we were booked into. The hall in South Carolina was rigged with small jukebox speakers, set in a ring around the building. Useless, but there we were -- we had to play the show.

Before we went on, I saw Duke Ellington begging -- pleading -- for a ten-dollar advance. It was really depressing. After that show, I told the guys: "That's it -- we're breaking the band up." -- Frank Zappa

posted by KevinSkomsvold at 7:10 AM on November 27, 2006

It's going to really suck if youtube ever gets napstered. There's so much amazing stuff on there now.
posted by empath at 7:34 AM on November 27, 2006

And that, my whiny-ass young'uns, is how we used to burn CDs.
posted by hal9k at 7:49 AM on November 27, 2006

Now instead of bringing the music to its highest sound perfection, they run it through a digital compressor and squish it all flat and lifeless with almost no dynamic range.
posted by caddis at 8:07 AM on November 27, 2006

The recording had to be done in one take, must have been a lot of coasters. The leadership of Duke to get everyone playing on cue and perfect from start to end was important. Interesting how recording processes and music are symbiotic.
posted by stbalbach at 8:13 AM on November 27, 2006

I've just been re-reading "L'écume des jours" from Boris Vian. Duke Ellington is constantly mentioned because Chloé is Colin's favorite song and also the name of his love. Such a heartbreakingly sad and lovingly surreal book.
posted by zenzizi at 8:39 AM on November 27, 2006


I know what phenomenon you're talking about, but please don't dis compression in general. Unless you like your albums to sound like monkey-doo, of course. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.
posted by Zero Gravitas at 9:15 AM on November 27, 2006

Actually that was caddis that mentioned using compressors, but even then it was only in conjunction with setting them at bad levels. This article comes to mind: Everything Louder Than Everything Else.

I was kinda hoping to see a Fairchild 670 in that rack at 1:20 in the video but I think 1937 might have been too far back for that.
posted by ernie at 9:42 AM on November 27, 2006

Here's modern day vinyl production. Part I, Part II
posted by hypersloth at 10:54 AM on November 27, 2006

Hey, hypersloth, nice links! Thanks for adding those.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:49 PM on November 27, 2006

I totally agree with empath, but I think its only a matter of time until all that tasty goodness goes poof.
posted by leftoverboy at 6:42 PM on November 27, 2006

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