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October 29, 2010


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Bill Forbes

Now listening to Amazon samples from a double album of "Four Freshmen and Five Trombones" and "Four Freshmen and Five Trumpets". Lovely Stuff!


The picture of the four singers grouped around one side of a single mic made me curious about how this was recorded. According to Wikipedia the first stereo Lps weren't released until three years later in '58. While not shown on the album cover pictured here, the one pictured on Amazon says "Duophonic Sound." (Meaning?) Wiki also states that the BBC made stereo broadcasts in 1924 although it's not clear who would have had the equipment to listen to them on.

Ed Leimbacher

Seems to me Duophonic was the duo-phoney name Capitol invented for its artificial Stereo reissues--after-the-fact attempts to keep up with changed technology. Personally, I have no gripes with strong Mono originals. And there must be a solid and stubborn "Back to Mono" movement since Sony has just issued a set of Dylan's first seven or eight albums in the Mono that he and producer(s) preferred and made as sonically excellent as was possible. (Ditto the Beatles.) As for Stereo, Duke and RCA experimented with it in the Thirties I believe.


Ed, thanks for the info! Mono is definitely preferable to the fake stereo stuff done with filtering. However some stereo reissues are of albums that were originally issued in mono, but have been remixed from original multi-track recordings. Hopefully they aren't using the "duophonic" masters for the Freshmen reissues! I'm not aware of any Duke/RCA recordings from the '30s in stereo, which isn't to say that they don't exist. According to Wiki the first large scale use of stereo was on the 1940 Disney film "Fantasia." I suspect that this would only have been available at certain theaters though.

Ed Leimbacher

Okay, to follow through... In 1932, RCA had Duke cut a pair of near 8-minute "hits" medleys for experimental longplay 10" discs (and maybe standard 12") and, as I recall, these were recorded in an accidental version of Stereo (different mixes on two separated mics), but not released that way. They finally appeared on some obscure LP in the '70s or '80s devoted to littleknown early Stereo recordings (Classical stuff mostly)--and probably on some RCA issue since then that I can't cite, the huge 24-disc set being most likely.

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of a Song" (Grove) and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax is a two-time winner of the Jazz Journalists Association's best blog award.

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