Music February 1990
Refurbishing Caruso and company
On musical treasures.
A recent spate of fresh transfers of early 78 RPM vocal discs—those dating from the pre-electrical recording days before 1925 and thus made by the acoustic process—has again focused attention on what are undoubted musical treasures. The recognition of their value is nothing new; our forebears found them to be wonderful, and often said that so splendid was their reproduction of the great voices they preserve that the records could hardly be told apart from the live originals. But what is treasurable about the records for us today is hardly their primitive and constricted reproduction, dim in musical tone and full of loud and grating unmusical noise (caused by the abrasive shellac compound of which they were made) when played back directly on even the best and most up-to-date equipment; the discs are wonderful because they provide our only evidence in sound of a Golden Age of...
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