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Re: [ARSCLIST] Robert Johnson RPM debate

From: Malcolm Rockwell <malcolm@xxxxxxxxxx>

> James -
> I've read the arguments and heard the pitch shifted samples

Were these samples actually "pitch shifted" or were the speeds changed. 
So many younger collectors use the term "pitch shifting" incorrectly. 
It should ONLY mean electronically changing the pitch of a recording
without changing the speed or tempo.  That is entirely different than
changing the rotational speed of a record which changes the pitch and
the tempo at the same time.  Some modern turntables allow you to change
the rotational speed and keep the same pitch while changing the tempo,
and also changing the pitch while keeping the same tempo.  Computer
programs also allow these three different changes while using the wrong
names for them.  

Younger computer-based collectors don't always know that.  

> and say it's possible the recordings are pitched high. 

Do you mean that the tempo would also be faster?  Do THEY mean that the
tempo would also be faster or are they only concerned with the pitch of
his voice???????

> This would mean one of three things: 
> 1) Robert really sang that way; 
> 2) the material was recorded too slow; and/or 
> 3) the final pitch was modified by dubbing prior to manufacture.

When dubbing at that time, the master disc would usually be played at
the same rotational speed as the new master, which means that the
pitch/tempo will remain unchanged.  

> I tend to go with #1, mostly because I've always heard him the way he 
> has been presented on LPs and CDs and my ear is used to that. The 
> samples are interesting food for thought, though!

The Columbia LP reissues were dubbed using a 16-inch Gates rim-drive
broadcast turntable which not a variable speed turntable.  Columbia
always did all of its LP reissues during that era at 78.26 .

> #2 is possible mostly because machines do run slow 

I had a big surprise a year or two ago.  The January 1925 Columbia
Atlanta session yielded an Ed and Grace McConnell side that was
announced by Lambdin Kay of WSB including chimes.  The actual chimes Kay
used are on display at WSB.  Michael Shoshani has collected all of these
Degan chimes, and using the model chimes that Kay used, the ONLY way the
chimes match is playing the disc around 72 RPM.  I also have a disc of
McConnell from an electrical Atlanta session later that year and his
voice matches the rotational speed of the earlier acoustical session. 
Maybe all those Atlanta sessions -- and others from the same trips --
were recorded at 72 RPM.

And please everybody, lets use the proper phrases from now on?  If they
are really just pitch shifting the recordings (which should only mean
that the tempo is not changed with the pitch) then this exercise is

Mike Biel   mbiel@xxxxxxxxx  

> (there's very little 
> homogenity of 78rpm recording speeds company to company, and session to 
> session within the same company. Add that to playback speed variations 
> and, well...). What was the power source in Dallas? 110 VAC? 120 VAC? Or 
> was it DC voltage? If AC, was the frequency (usually 60 Hz) solid, or 
> did it wander? What kind of motor did the portable recording lathe 
> use... AC, DC or counter-weighted (mechanical)? There are just too many 
> variables here.

> #3 requires forethought and since there was seemingly so little of it in 
> #2, I doubt this scenario. Producers are not going to agonize about this 
> kind of thing; to them Robert was just another blues picker. But who 
> knew what he'd become 60 years later or that any of this would matter?

> Good luck with your research!   Mal Rockwell


james mendenhall wrote:
> Hi, Arsclist
> I am doing research about the rpm debate of the Robert Johnson 
> recordings.
> Does anyone have any information for me?
> And, is this all speculation or has there been proof found that they 
> are indeed too fast?
> thanks
> james

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