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We were watching a session by the Dave Brubeck Quartet from 1964 on BBC Four last night, a programme called Jazz 625 (can anyone enlighten us as to the name?). It was listed as being "restored and re-edited", but someone should be ashamed of themselves if it was! Edited, yes - I suspect the original was rather longer. Restored? No. The original tape was so old it must have been playing back at variable speeds in several parts of the recording, resulting in wide fluctuations in the pitch of the recording. While this might not be much of a big deal in spoken word for example, it's certainly very noticeable on a piano solo! His notes were varying by up to a tone either way, and it sounded awful! This happened quite often throughout the recording. I suspect this is something that can be fixed in the restoration of an old tape - correct me if I'm wrong! If so, they should be ashamed, broadcasting something of that quality!

Aside from the recording quality, it was an interesting program. I loved the presenter - he was so stiff and formal, but trying (in a forced way) to be casual and relate to the camera audience. Brilliant! The audience looked either scared or bored, and the sixties style lent them an air of a collection of Star Trek extras. They rarely smiled, but clapped politely at the appropriate moments.

The Quartet were good, but in this setting exuded an air of being an exhibit, a novelty item for the viewer and audience to marvel at. There was no interaction or feeling between the audience and the performers, which gave it a very staid, formal feel. Paul Desmond was on alto, and had a beautiful tone - one of the nicest I've heard (I'm a sucker for a smooth tone)! Brubeck sat with his back to the bass and drums, facing the alto, a more unusual setup. But I suppose it is his quartet, so he should be centre stage.

There's another episode of Jazz 625 up on iPlayer (the Dizzy Gillespie Quintet) - I hope it's of a better recording quality than this one was!


( 4 comments — Comment )
Mar. 28th, 2009 10:33 am (UTC)
> I suspect this is something that can be fixed in the restoration of an old tape - correct me if I'm wrong!

Yep. It's simply a matter of using a digital pitch shifter available in just about any wave editor. It's not a totally trivial or automatic task, however. I can imagine that a bright DSP guy could write up some code that could partially automate it. The piano, being a tempered instrument, would be an excellent candidate for this sort of processing. Something like a trombone or violin might be a bit tougher, especially if the musician is performing very expressively.
Mar. 28th, 2009 11:29 am (UTC)
I wonder why they didn't fix it then? Perhaps the restorer was tone deaf and didn't notice, but even then, surely someone else would have noticed before broadcast! Very strange, and not like the BBC at all.
Mar. 28th, 2009 11:35 am (UTC)
It's possible that the restorer involved was an analogue purist that actually found the tape artifacts charming. I've a friend that composes strictly using old analogue recordings on cassette tape and Vinyl -- he purposefully exposes hiss, crackles, tape wow and flutter, etc.

Mar. 28th, 2009 11:50 am (UTC)
There's charming and there's painfully wrong *lol*!
( 4 comments — Comment )


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