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It will not have escaped anyones attention that there is a sizeable market for antique recordings transcribed onto CD. Its a pity no-one thought of this when the CD specification was drawn up otherwise Philips and Sony might have included a mono standard to allow the discs to play for twice as long. These antique recordings date as far back as the acoustic gramophone - its almost impossible to imagine now a piece of sound reproducing equipment that doesnt use electricity - and even back to cylinders, mainly for their curiosity rather than musical value. There is a vast archive of material on acoustically and electrically produced 78 rpm records which covers a very important period in the development of performance styles. Many of the artists involved in making these 78s had a very close musical connection either to the actual composers of the nineteenth century repertoire, or to people who followed closely in their musical tradition. As we move further and further away in time we inevitably lose perspective, and old recordings provide a valuable educational resource.
Also on 78 rpm discs is an equally vast repertoire of jazz recordings. Jazz, more than any other type of music, is ephemeral in its nature. An improvised solo exists only while it is being played, unless captured in a recording. Once again, the catalogue of 78s holds important information, this time on the development of a musical style. These old recordings need to be available, and presented with the best audio quality possible under the circumstances.
To the above paragraphs I should also add that these old recordings can be immensely enjoyable, much more so than modern re-recordings which may be technically perfect but can somehow never capture the excitement and vigour of the originals.
The application of some type of restoration process to scratched and noisy 78 rpm records is self evident. Slightly less so is the need to improve the quality of 33 1/3 rpm long playing records. After all, if you want to release 60s or 70s material on CD, its best to go back to the original master tape, isnt it? Well the answer is yes, if you can find it,
and if when you find it it is still in a playable condition. It seems that more and more horror stories concerning the longevity - or rather the lack of it - of 1/4 inch tapes are coming to light. If you have an old tape which sheds oxide, sticks to the heads or is otherwise difficult to play, the first course of action is to consult the tapes manufacturer who may have a fix. If the master tape cannot provide usable results, then the only thing to do is to find a good copy of the LP to transcribe onto CD. Yes, it does happen, and if you want to hear the music, it must.
Another source of noise ridden dialogue and music is the optical film sound track. Once again, this is a very clicky medium, any scratch on the film is interpreted as a noise impulse, and these scratches are bound to occur through repeated spooling of the film print.