Tuesday, June 4, 2013

At the Edison Museum

Shooting film with DJ MAC at the Thomas Edison National Historical Park.  We shot a little footage of MAC using a demonstration copy of the tin foil phonograph, and I'm excited to see what comes of the double exposure shot walking through the Music Room as a transparent ghostly figure.

Rumor has it, due to his deafness there's a Diamond Disc phonograph with Edison's bite marks on the edge of the wooden cabinet.  He could listen better using the transmission of vibrations through his teeth.  If there is such a phonograph that exists, with the Edison teeth marks, it doesn't seem to be there at the Edison Museum.  But the story seems too particular to have just been invented, so maybe this machine does exist somewhere?

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Returned to the Thomas Edison National Historical Park on June 1st for Edison Day and the Wax Cylinder recording sessions with Sound Recording Curator Jerry Fabris and performances by many wonderful musicians: John Ehlis Ensemble, Sherita, Garden State Saxophone Quartet, Scott Robinson and Julian Thayer, Oliver and Gene Lake.

An interesting process to witness -- with no meters or mixing board an elaborate set of steps took place: positioning the instruments different distances from the horn based on loudness (string instruments close to the horn, brass instruments further back), recording a short test, listening back to see how it sounded, and then repositioning the performers closer or further from the horn to adjust the mix.

While the recording was being cut (literally being cut into the cylinder) Jerry used a small blower to blow away the loose shavings to prevent them from interfering with the blade mounted to the recording diaphragm.  The maximum time on a blank cylinder was two-and-a-half minutes, and in some cases (when the piece was more improvisatory) the musicians would have to keep and eye out for a hand signal to let them know when it was getting close to the end.

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Five or six more shoots scheduled in June, which should put me over the hump towards being halfway done with shooting by the beginning of July!

"That's all."

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Johnson Victrola Museum & Emile Berliner

A visit to The Johnson Victrola Museum in Dover, Delaware, named for Elridge Johnson who collaborated with Emile Berliner to add a spring motor to the gramophone, and founded the Victor Talking Machine Company.

Some very nice displays of early sound technology.  But also a very impressive collection of Nippers, the famous canine from the trademark of the Victor Talking Machine Company.  Filmed a short montage of some very nice examples of Nipperania.  Although the Nipper here in this picture that's modeled after a taxidermy head mounted on a wooden plaque seemed a little disconcerting to me.

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Interviewed the director of the museum and one of the resident experts.  And then an interview with Oliver Berliner, the grandson of Emile Berliner, inventor of the gramophone.  Some footage of the "Grammy" posthumously awarded to the gramophone's inventor.  Interesting that the "Grammy" is named for the gramophone and not the phonograph, but then again, would someone really want to win something called the "Phony" award?

More info on Emile Berliner here at the Library of Congress:
Emile Berliner and the Birth of the Recording Industry

"That's all."