Memoirs of my Recording and Traveling Experiences for the Victor Talking Machine Company
At an early age of my life, I had the misfortune of losing my father. There were four boys in the family, and my mother did not have a sufficient income to take care of the family, so instead of breaking up our little home, we boys decided to leave school and all go to work in order to keep our little home together, which I am very glad to say we did. This, of course, necessitated our study at nights or after working hours.
In 1898, I thought I would like to become a machinist, so I secured a position in a machine shop and served five years at the machine trade.
Naturally wishing to improve myself, I asked my brother Harry, who had secured a position with the Victor Talking Machine Company if there were any chances of getting a position for me.
August, 1903: (early part) Mr. C[alvin]. G. Child who was manager of the Victor Recording Laboratory, then located at 424 South 10th Street, Philadelphia, told brother Harry O. Sooy, he needed more help in the Recording Department, and brother Harry recommended me for the position.
August 17, 1903:I reported for work in the Recording Laboratory of the Victor Talking Machine Company, not knowing what kind of work I was to do. After doing odd jobs around the Laboratory for about a week or ten days, I was taken in the Recording Department as an assistant recorder.
August 19, 1903: I was married to one of the best girls in the world.
Information prior to my connection with the Victor Company: The first selection issued in the Victor catalogue, marked Record #1, was recorded by George Broderick—selection entitled “Departure” (a recitation) (author: Eugene Fields).
The first record known to be sold was recorded by Burt Sheppard entitled “Limburger Cheese.” Other talent at this time: Metropolitan Orchestra, S. H. Dudley (baritone), and Harry MacDonough (tenor).
March 26, 1903: The Victor Company established a Recording Laboratory in New York City at Carnegie Hall, Room #326, and retained these quarters until October 8, 1904.
The main object of this New York Laboratory was for the purpose of recording Grand Opera artists—these recordings to be classified as ‘Red Seal.’
April 3, 1903: The first ‘Red Seal’ date was held in New York. Artist for this engagement was Ada Crossley, contralto. Piano accompaniment was played by C. H. H. Booth.
Mr. Booth remained with the Victor Company as a piano accompanist for a number of years.
May 17, 1903: The second ‘Red Seal’ date. Artist: Zelie de Lussan, soprano.
September 17,1903: Third ‘Red Seal’ date. Artist: Lillian Blauvelt, soprano.
September 18, 1903: Fourth ‘Red Seal’ date. Artist: Guiseppe Campanari, baritone.
October 5, l9O3: Fifth ‘Red Seal’ date. Artist: Mme. Louise Homer, contralto.
November ll, 1903: Sixth ‘Red Seal’ date. Artist: Johanna Gadski, soprano.
December 23, 1903: Seventh ‘Red Seal’ date. Artist: Pol Plancon, basso.
The last recording engagement by this artist was held on April 1, 1908. This noted basso died in 1914.
December 31, 1903: Final ‘Red Seal’ date held this year. Artist: Antonio Scotti, baritone.
August 11, 1903: On this date we made the first record of John Philip Sousa’ s Band. Selection recorded entitled “Stars and Stripes Forever.”
August, 1903: About this time we started to make twelve inch records.
September, 1903: Mr. Walter B. Rogers joined the Orchestra to play first cornet.
From the early start of recording and up to this time, all records in which an accompaniment was required, a piano was used for the purpose.
The same old piano accompaniment became rather monotonous, and it was deemed necessary to substitute an orchestra to take the place of the piano, at least, in some of the records we were making, so we got a small orchestra together, consisting of, I think, about seven pieces (or musicians) and carried on a series of experiments to get the general effect of orchestral accompaniment in the records, which was favorably received.
It was about this time, I think, we started to make records with orchestra accompaniment for the catalog. Mr. Arthur Pryor was engaged as Musical Director. The musicians of the orchestra were not placed on the payroll, being engaged for such dates deemed necessary.
It was not long before we found that the piano accompaniment had drifted into a forgotten age, being used mostly for accompaniments with instrumental solos, such as ‘cello, violin, etc.,
September 15, 1903: Emilio de Gogorza, baritone, made his first records for the Victor Company. His records were first listed under the name of Signor Francisco.
November 16, 1903: I was allowed to operate the recording machine for the first time and believe me I thought I was ‘some pumpkins’ to be given this chance. The artist was Harry MacDonough, and the selection recorded was entitled “In the Good Old Summer Time.”
September, 1904: Mr. Walter B. Rogers was made Director of the Victor Orchestra to succeed. Mr. Pryor, who thought the directorship too confining—also he had the desire to establish a reputation as a bandmaster.
January 6, 1904: I made my first trip to New York to assist in recording.
This was the greatest day of my life up to that time with my work, as I had never been to New York before. The artist was Jennie Corea.
February 1, 1904: We recorded our first records of the great tenor, Enrico Caruso.
Ten records totaling ten selections were made during this engagement, titles of which were:
I was told the price paid to Caruso for this engagement was $4OO per selection or $4,000 for the afternoon's work.
This first date of Caruso' s was recorded in New York at Carnegie Hall, Room #826, which we were then using as a Recording Studio.
April 1, 1904: Signed my first contract to work for the Victor Company-salary $936 per year and a sum of their profits as a dividend. My first dividend for six months was $26.64.
In addition to the above, he must also determine the volume he is putting into the records by looking at the grooves or vibrations with the magnifying glass, as there is no other positive way of telling. He must be able to tell if he is getting too little or too much volume regardless of what he may be recording.April 8, 1940: We moved our New York Laboratory from Carnegie Hall to 234 Fifth Avenue, which was more centrally located and it made better recording studios for our work.
It was a great relief to get out of Carnegie Hall and away from the Vocal studios where vocal teachers were constantly trying voices, good, bad and otherwise.
April 24, 1904: A portion of the Victor Company in Camden, N.J., was burned down, and I heard the remark that some of the talking machines started playing "A Hot Time in the Old Town To-night."
November 5, 1904: Made our first records of Mme. Marcella Sembrich, soprano.
November 11, 1904: Made our first records of Maud Powell, the great woman violinist, who continued as an exclusive Victor artist up until the time of her death, which occurred on January 8, 1920, at Uniontown, Pa.
Miss Powell's last recording engagement in Camden was December 30, 1919, nine days prior to her death.
December 8, 1904: Richard J. Jose, a noted counter-tenor in the early days of recording, had a very peculiar habit of stuttering very badly while holding a conversation with anyone, but when he started to sing, he sang beautifully and never hesitated on a single word.
Mr. Jose made a specialty of singing the old songs, such as, "Silver Threads Among the Gold," "Dear Old Girl," "Belle Brandon," etc.,
February 17, 1905: Marcel Journet, bass, made his first record for the Victor Company.
February 20, 1905: Made our first records of Mme. Emma Eames, soprano. Her last recording engagement was April 14, 1911.
February 27, 1905: The second recording engagement of Enrico Caruso was held on this date. He made five selections. I was told he received $1,000 per selection for this engagement.
March 13, 1905: Made our first concerted 'Red Seal' record-a duet by Caruso and Scotti (tenor and baritone) entitled "Solenne in quest ora" from La Forza del Destino (Verdi).
September 25, 1905: Charles S. Sooy was made a member of the Recording Staff, thus making three brothers in the dept.-it looked like a Sooy combine.
January 3, 1906: Mine. Ernestine Schumann-Heink, contralto, made her first record for the Victor Co.
December 14, 1906: Mr. Frank La Forge made the first piano solos for the Victor Company.
January 15, 1907: I signed my second contract with the Victor Company.
February 19, 1907: Geraldine Farrar, soprano, made her first record for the Victor Company.
March 5, 1907: Mine. Nellie Melba, soprano, made her first record for the Victor Company. Sometime alter this engagement, we recorded Mme. Melba in London.
Mme. Melba's death occurred on March 23, 1931.
April 22, 1907: Mme. Emma Calve, soprano, made her first record for the Victor Company.
July 22, 1907: Up until this time, all "Red Seal" engagements had been recorded in New York, but on this date, Mr. Evan Williams, tenor, made records in our home laboratory, then located at 424 South Tenth Street, Philadelphia.
September 23, 1907: Ellen Beach Yaw, soprano, filled an engagement at the same laboratory (424 South Tenth Street, Philadelphia); however, the "Red Seal" engagements in this laboratory were few as we moved in November to our new laboratory in Camden, N.J.
November 25, 1907: During this week we moved the Recording Laboratory from 424 South Tenth Street, Philadelphia, to the S.W. corner of Front and Cooper Streets, Camden, New Jersey, on the. Fourth floor of Building #l5.
The first large type Dennison Recording Machine was installed in the Camden Laboratory prior to our moving into same.
December 11 & 13, 1907: The first "Red Seal" engagements in our new Camden Laboratory were held on these dates. Artists: Emilio de Gogorza and Mario Ancona.
From this time on, recording engagements of a "Red Seal" nature were alternated between the Camden and New York studios, to suit the convenience of the artists.
January 2, 3, & 4, 1908: We were erecting one of the largest type 'D' recording machines in our New York Laboratory as we deemed it better for our work. This was the first permanent recording machine in the New York studio.
February 3, 1908: One of the largest recording engagements we ever had was held on this date.
We made the first "Lucia Sextette" record-the artists being: Mmes. Sembrich and Severina, Messrs. Caruso, Scotti, Daddi and Journet. We also made, on this same day, the first record of the "Rigoletto Quartet"-the artists being: Mmes. Sembrich and Jacoby, Messrs. Caruso and Scotti.
These were indeed big engagements, and all concerned were on their toes with anxiety, and when we heard the finished records, they were not considered good enough, so an appointed time was set for us to remake them, it being February 7, 1903.
The anxiety, of course, became greater as it necessitated having this number of big artists come back to make these selections.
However, the second attempt proved more successful, and all concerned were pleased.
I must admit that this was, by far, the hardest job we had tackled in the making of records during my experience so far in the Recording Department.
1908: (early spring) The first notes of spring are always the birds and the hurdy-gurdy or street piano man, so early this spring we heard Signor Grinderino, down on the street, grinding out his tunes, and, as an experiment, we thought we would get Signor Grinderino to bring his hurdy-gurdy up on the elevator to the laboratory and have him grind out a couple of tunes for us in order that we could record same.
These records turned out to be so unusual that they were put on sale and made quite a hit, and so did we with Signor Grinderino because we gave him two dollars for his work and that was a lot of money for him.
After this date, we found it a task to get rid of him as every morning regularly he came around, stood in front of the laboratory and ground out his tunes until we had to chase him away in order to keep him from spoiling the other records which we were recording.
June 15, 1905: William Jennings Bryan made some political records-also a record entitled "Immortality." These records were made at Mr. Bryan's home in Lincoln, Nebraska.
August 5, 1908: President William H. Taft made some "political" records. These records were made at Hot Springs, Va.
September 24, 1908: I was supposed to have been brought up to a full fledged recorder, having had five years of training, and was sent abroad on my first recording trip, sailing from New York on the S/S Mexico for Vera Cruz thence taking the night train from Vera Cruz to Mexico City to record a repertoire of records of the natives of Mexico.
Mrs. Sooy went along with me and we had many amusing experiences due to our not being able to speak Spanish, which is the language of Mexico.
When we first arrived at Vera Cruz, I proceeded to get my recording waxes and equipment through Customs. The officials there advised if I would deposit two hundred dollars in U.S. currency, and take the equipment out of Mexico within three months time, they would return the deposit.
While in Mexico City, we, like many other Americans, could not miss seeing a bull fight, so we journeyed to the Bull Arena of Mexico City one warm Sunday afternoon where we saw four bulls killed and six horses, I think, gored to death. This, of course, is the native sport of Mexico. It is a cruel sport and once is sufficient for us, it being such a blood-thirsty affair, although it is very exciting.
The tickets at that time were sold with choice-one dollar on the sunny side and two dollars on the shady side of the ring.
All sports in Mexico are held on Sunday.
An interesting spot in Mexico is the old town of Guadeloupe. Here on one of the high hills is erected a stone sail-the legend goes that at one time the Virgin Mary appeared on this spot.
In one of the cathedrals in this town they have what is known as a "sacred well." Among the lower classes of Mexican peons, they believe that no matter what their ills may be, if they come and drink the water from this well, it will cure them of all diseases.
We stood there and watched many men, women and children drinking this water, and to me the odor of this dirty yellowish looking water was terrible, but that is their belief.
Some of our many experiences occurred when we left Mexico City for Vera Cruz, on our way home.
I was told the natural scenery between these two cities was magnificent, as the railroad around the mountains reaches an altitude of eleven thousand feet, and we, arriving on the night train, missed this scenery, so we thought we would take the day train back to Vera Cruz.
The day train left Mexico City at seven o'clock in the morning, and upon arriving at the station we found the train had no Pullman cars or Dining car, so we took pot luck with the rest of the natives. As the train did not arrive at Vera Cruz until eight o'clock at night, we were wondering where we were going to get any food, and along about noon we noticed everybody in the train getting up very much excited-we did not know whether this was a revolution starting or not, as we could not talk to anyone, but when the train stopped at Esperanza, everybody made a mad dive for the station, and, of course, 'yours truly' not wanting to miss anything, was right along in the charge, and then I found the train waited there until lunch was served, but by the time I got to the lunch counter everything was gone, so we had nothing to eat, but it did not look appetizing to me anyhow.
We then continued on and as we got within a few miles of Vera Cruz, the train stopped again, and and on piled about fifty peons. They ran up and down the aisle of the train very much excited-one peon would grab one piece of our luggage and another would grab another piece, then start to run with it.
We did not know whether bandits had held up the train or what had happened, but as we had about twelve pieces of baggage, it was up to me to get it collected together again, so I started to chase these peons in order to get my baggage. I finally found out they had boarded the train with the idea of getting a few cents for carrying baggage from the train to the hotel.
I was all out of breath chasing my baggage down, but finally got it together again and gave it to one peon who carried it all to the hotel-he looked like a pack mule.
We had all kinds of trouble getting a room at the Hotel Delahancia to stay over night. Well, we managed to get a room, but at breakfast was the real task to get some food. We finally found a Mexican peon cleaning the streets in front of the hotel, who could speak both English and Spanish, so we brought him into the hotel and he told the waiter in Spanish what we wished for breakfast. I gave him fifty cents-he was tickled, and so were we.
After finishing recording, we booked passage home, but before leaving I went to the Customs to get my money back, which I had deposited, but I could not find anyone who had ever heard of me or about any money that had been deposited; however, I sailed for home, and figured that after all it was a very cheap duty.
October 31, 1908: Admiral Bob [Robert] Evans made a record of his farewell address to the Navy. This record was made at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C.
November 21, 1908: On this date I returned from the Mexican trip.
January 16, 1909: I was sent on my second recording expedition, sailing from New York to Havana, Cuba, where I recorded a repertoire of native songs and orchestras for the Islanders.
This trip I could enjoy much better, as the Mexican trip had proved successful, which, of course, gave me more confidence in my work for this trip.
We saw many interesting sights in Cuba-took a tour through the old forts, which were in full sway during the Spanish reign (Moro Castle and Cabanas Forts), also saw the wreck of the Battleship Maine, of which parts of its hulk were sticking out of the water-this has since been removed.
Havana is a picturesque sight especially when entering the Harbor at sunrise. The first sight one sees is Moro Castle, then many colored houses with their red tile roofs which seen to rise out of the sea, with a tropical blue sky as a background. This sight looks more like a picture than it does an actual scene.
One of the many interesting sights in Havana is the Colon Cemetery.
Among the poorer classes of Havana the graves are rented for a specified time, and when the rent is not forthcoming from relatives of the deceased, their bones are dug up and thrown in one corner of the cemetery, which is known as the "bone yard" and the grave is then rented for another occupant.
The cathedral in Havana is of chief interest from the fact that it was here Columbus was buried.
The Prado is a magnificent avenue and runs to the Malecon and the Gulf Promenade, which extends around the coast. During storms the sea breaking over the sea wall is a wonderful sight.
We were in Havana at the time the U.S. Government turned the Island over to the Cubans to rule. The ceremonies were very interesting.
Then the Cubans learned that the United States Government was going to turn the Island over to them to rule, they erected a beautiful arch, on the top of which was a statue of a woman carved, who had been chained but the chains on her hands were broken. This statue is called "The Arch of Liberty."
February 17, 1909: Returned from the Cuban recording trip.
May 11, 1909: First records made by Victor Light Opera Company. These records were classified as " Gems."
June 1 & 2, 1909: We moved the Recording Laboratory in New York from 234 Fifth Avenue to 37-39 E. 28th Street, New York.
October 2, 1909: I made a record of Dr. Cook, explaining how be had discovered the North Pole.
After this record of Dr. Cook's was completed, it was listed in the Victor catalog, but because of the many protests against Dr. Cook by the public, the record was withdrawn from the catalog, and, I believe, many purchasers of this record were allowed to return it or to exchange it for another record.
January 2, 1910: Commander Robert Peary came to the Laboratory in Camden, which was shortly after his return from the frozen North, and made a record of his own successful discovery of the North Pole.
This record, made on the above date, was not satisfactory, and Commander Peary returned to Camden and remade the record. This second recording was 0.K.
January 3, 1910: John McCormack, tenor, was engaged for the making of Victor records.
January 20, 1910: Sailed on S/S Verdi from New York to Buenos Aires, S.A. via Bahia, Rio de Janeiro, and Santos, Brazil-Montevideo, Uruguay, thence to Buenos Aires, to record a repertoire of native songs and. orchestras for South America.
We sailed from New York on January 20, and arrived in Buenos Aires on February 14, which was 25 days on board ship.
During our voyage to South America, we learned that it is usually the custom to initiate all passengers who are crossing the equator for the first time.
The ceremonies are very interesting. They have Father Neptune and all of his aides dressed up in their full regalia, and all who are to be initiated are informed beforehand to put on their bathing suits.
The initiation consists of lathering your face with a whitewash brush and a bucket of suds and shaving you with a large wooden razor, then giving you a drink of salt water, and a few other funny stunts, winding up with throwing you into the swimming pool. Naturally, the windup starts a general rough house, and everybody in sight is thrown into the pool-many not time to don bathing suits.
The Captain of the ship usually stands by to see that it does not get too rough, and then he gives you a signed certificate which entitles you to all the rights and privileges to cross the equator at all times unmolested.
We found Buenos Aires to be an up-to-date city in every respect. The one thing that seemed strange to us was that June, July and August are the coldest months of the year, while December, January and February are the hottest months-just think of eating Christmas dinner in white flannels, and the thermometer near the 100 mark.
We made 424 selections on this trip and sailed for home on the S/S Vasari. On the trip back we stopped at Bridgetown, Barbados, another of the West Indies, and, as the weather was very fine, the boat ran very close to the shore of the Island of Martinique, which gave us a very close view of the Volcano Mt. Pelee, which was still smoking. It was a very impressive sight.
May 5, 1910: Returned from the South American trip.
May 11, 1910: Fritz Kreisler, violinist, made his first Victor records.
November 6, 1910: Mischa Elman, violinist made his first Victor records.
January 19, 1911: The first recording engagement of the Metropolitan Grand Opera Chorus from the Metropolitan Opera Company of New York.
February 21, 1911: Made records of Mme. Ellen Terry.
March 13, 1911: After completing the work of adding three more stories to the building at the S.W. corner of Front and Cooper Streets, Camden, N.J., we moved the Recording Laboratory from the fourth floor to the seventh floor.
The first records, after moving to the seventh floor, were made by Reed Miller and Reinald Werrenrath, tenor and baritone duets.
March 15, 1911: We made our first records of Mme. Luisa Tetrazzini, soprano. These records were made in our new recording studio, Building #l5, Camden, N.J.
March 22, 1911: Alma Gluck, soprano, made her first records for the Victor Company, and became an exclusive Victor artist.
June 19, l911: Victor Herbert made his first Orchestra records.
Mr. Herbert was always very congenial, and when making records, he always held a baton in his hand, but most of his directing was done with his whole body, and you could always tell if the rendition of the orchestra pleased him as his eyes would fairly snap with approval.
Mr. Herbert's favorite expressions were 'wonderful' or 'lousy.'
In addition to being a celebrated orchestra director, Mr. Herbert was also a renowned cellist and recorded 'cello solos for the Victor Company.
Mr. Herbert was the grandson of Samuel Lover, the poet. He recorded one of his grandfather's compositions entitled "Angel's Whisper."
March 10, 1912: Honorable Champ Clark, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Washington, D.C., came to the Victor Laboratory in Camden, N.J. and made some records on 'Political Talks' to be used for Campaign purposes.
June, 1912: James Witcomb Riley made some records of his poems. These records were made at his home in Indianapolis, Ind.
September 22, 1912: President Theodore Roosevelt made some records on 'Political Talks.' These records were made in Emporia, Kansas.
September 24, 1912: I was sent to New York to make some records of Woodrow Wilson on 'Political Talks' which were for Campaign purposes.
The first record Mr. Wilson made was entitled "Woodrow Wilson on the Third Party."
November 3, 1912: Mr. Woodrow Wilson was elected President of the United States.
November 17, 1912: Titta Ruffo, baritone, made his first record for the Victor Company.
January, 1913: Early in this month we started to make dance records by the Victor Band, which were demanded by the public.
We followed these records up pretty closely for some time, but there seemed to be quite a lot of dissatisfaction with them, or, at least, they did not meet with the approval of the public, as we thought they should.
Many of the records had been approved by some of the leading dancing masters of large cities, but for some reason, which we could not determine, they were not just what the public wanted, and the public seemed unable to tell us the cause of the dissatisfaction.
We then started to make some Dance Orchestra records with our own organization but with little or no satisfaction to the public, however, we continued to make records for dancing. We also had scouts out trying to ascertain just what the public wanted for dancing.
We kept plugging along until we made some records of the McKee Orchestra, and this organization seemed to be the starting point of dance records, which was in 1914.
September 30, 1913: Jan Kubelik, violinist, made his first record for the Victor Company.
December 22, 1913: The Flonzaley quartet made their first records for the Victor Company.
The organization of musicians is one of the oldest and is rated as the best String Quartet in the world. The members of this quartet are, I am sure, more critical of their records than any of the other artists. Many times they have repeated their records ten times after we had decided they were perfect.
After playing together for many years, the Flonzaley Quartet disbanded upon the completion of their last recording engagement, which was on May 3, 1929.
December 24, 1913: Giovanni Martinelli, tenor, made his first record for the Victor Company.
February 25, 1914: Emmy Destinn, soprano, made her first records for the Victor Company.
April 29, 1914: We made the first records of Ignace Paderewski, pianist, for the Victor Company.
Summer, 1914: During the summer of 1914, the Talking Machine Jobbers Convention was held in Atlantic City, N.J.
The Victor Company naturally felt that it was up to them to entertain the dealers during their stay in Atlantic City, so they conceived the idea of having a motion picture made of the entire Plant and its workings, in order that they might show on the screen, to the dealers, the exact procedure of manufacturing Victor machines and records.
After many days of photographing throughout the Plant, we were notified that the photographer would do the Laboratory on June 19, 1914, and that we should be prepared to have a picture made showing the artists making a record of the "Sextette" from Lucia.
June 19, 1914: We had the recording apparatus all in readiness on the morning of this day, and met the artists at the Ferry, bringing them to the Laboratory in autos. They were photographed upon their arrival at the Laboratory. We then proceeded to the Recording Studio on the seventh floor of Building #15, where pictures were made of the artists rendering the "Sextette" from Lucia for this record.
The artists were-Olive Kline, Marguerite Dunlap, Harry Macdonough, Lambert Murphy, Reinald Werrenrath and Wilfred Glenn.
After making a picture of the artists singing the "Sextette" the photographer then went into the operating room and made a picture of what he and many others thought was the actual procedure of recording a record, but this mechanical work was arranged specially for the motion picture. After this the employees of the entire Plant were photographed marching up Cooper Street, about 10,500 in number.
This motion picture proved quite a surprise as well as educational. It was indeed interesting to the dealers.
The pictures were made by Lubin and Company, Philadelphia, Pa.
October 3, 1914: We made a record of Honorable Joe Russell's speech, nominating Honorable Champ Clark, Speaker of the House of Representatives, for President of the United States.
February 11, 1915: We (brother H. O. Sooy and myself) took the recording equipment over to Independence Hall in Philadelphia and made a record of the taps on the Liberty Bell (tapping was done by Mayor Smith of Philadelphia) which was transmitted by wire to San Francisco, Calif. as the official opening signal of the Pan-American Exposition.
The tone of the Liberty Bell was quite disappointing.
February 15, 1915: Mr. Oscar Saenger, a noted vocal teacher, who is credited with having turned out more successful pupils than any other teacher in the United States, decided to record a series of Vocal lessons, whereby, people who desired to become singers could buy a set of these records and teach themselves, whether they lived in New York City or the smallest hamlet in the country,
We recorded a series of vocal lessons for soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, baritone, and bass-also a lecture on each voice by Mr. Saenger.
It took a long time to finish this series of records as each note must be perfect, and we recorded as many as twenty records of some lessons-these vocal scales were very difficult to sing perfectly.
After these records had been made and listed in our catalog, I was advised that the first artist who learned to sing perfectly enough from these records to become an Opera singer, I was to be presented with a ticket for the opening performance but as yet I have not received the free ticket.
February 1, 1916: The Victor Talking Machine Company appointed H. O. Sooy as manager of the Recording Department, in charge of all mechanical recording, succeeding Mr. C. G. Child, who was appointed head of the Artists Department. At this time I was moved up to the position of chief recorder.
September 1, 1916: Mr. Walter B. Rogers, Musical Director of the Victor Talking Machine Company, resigned his position and severed his connections with the Company.
Mr. Rogers was one of the very earliest musicians to be employed in the Laboratory.
Mr. Rosario Bourdon succeeded Mr. Rogers as Musical Director until Mr. Josef Pasternack was engaged.
September 25, 1916: Mr. Joseph C. Smith was engaged and made the first Smith Dance Orchestra records on this date.
The rendition of dance music by Smith's Orchestra seemed to be more pleasing to the dance public than any other dance organization of which we had made records and this made us all feel good, because pleasing the public naturally meant our meal tickets.
Joe Smith successfully made records of Fox Trots, One Steps, and Waltzes from the tints he started up to and including the early part of 1922.
October 16, 1916: Mr. Josef A. Pasternack was engaged as Musical Director of the Victor Talking Machine Company, directing his first engagement on this date, the talent being Reed Miller, tenor.
October 30, 1916: We made our first records of Mme. Amelita Galli-Curci, soprano.
January 19, 1917: We moved the New York Laboratory from 22 West 37th Street to 46 West 38th Street, twelfth floor.
The first date in this new laboratory on 38th Street, was with Reed Miller and Fred Wheeler, vocal duets.
May 5, 1917: We made a series of ten-inch records containing lessons in wireless telegraphy by a Mr. Chadwick who used the Marconi code.
Wireless operators were in great demand at this time and all during the war.
July, 1917: We started to make Symphony Orchestra records.
July 23, 1917: Mr. Pasternack assembled an orchestra consisting of 51 musicians.
The rooms in the general Recording Laboratory not being large enough to carry on this work, we were permitted to use the Auditorium on the eighth floor of the Executive Building.
Up until this time, Symphony Orchestra records had never been a success, but it had always been one of our greatest ambitions, and with the untiring efforts of Mr. Pasternack on the above date, we felt we had a commercial Symphony Orchestra record, but at that time, the largest orchestra we could satisfactorily record consisted of about fifty musicians.
After the results of this engagement were heard, the Boston Symphony Orchestra was booked.
October 2, 3, 4 ,&5, 1917: First engagement of the Boston Symphony Orchestra with Dr. Karl Muck directing.
October 22, 1917: The first records of the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Dr. Leopold Stokowski were made.
These records were made in the Auditorium of the Executive Building.
November 9, 1917: Jascha Heifetz, violinist, made his first record for the Victor Company.
February, 1918: The Victor Company purchased the Trinity Church, 114 North Fifth Street, Camden, N.J., as we needed a larger studio for Symphony Orchestra recording.
During the troublesome days of the World War, when every loyal citizen was trying to do his bit for Uncle Sam, the Victor Company, feeling that their products were somewhat of an unessential nature, plunged into war work to the extent, I was told, of about eighty percent of the entire plant.
September 12, 1918: Owing to the shortage of skilled labor, the Victor Company was obliged to take from the Recording Laboratory some members of its Recording Staff including myself. We were put on war work, helping to build aeroplane parts.
November 11, 1918: Daring the wee hours of the morning, we were aroused by numerous whistles of all descriptions, which told us the Armistice had been signed.
We arose about four A.M., rushed to the Laboratory where we made a record of the actual Peace Whistles at 5:45 A.M.
This record was never listed in the catalog, but I have one which I prize very highly and am keeping it for historic reference.
On this same date I returned to the Recording Department.
October 9, 1919: Made records of the Pope's Vatican Choir under the direction of Raffaelo Casimiri.
These records were made in the Church Building, and at first, the Choir hesitated about entering a Protestant Church, not understanding that the Church Building was being used for recording purposes only.
It was an interesting fact that some of the boys of the choir were so small they carried little toys with them for their own amusement.
April 14, 1920: E. H. Southern and Julia Marlow made their first records for the Victor Company. These artists are known to be among the greatest interpreters of Shakespeare.
May 14, 1920: Mr. Leopold Auer, who in his earlier days was considered one of the greatest violin teachers the world has known, and who turned out such pupils as Mischa Elman, Jascha Heifetz, and many others of note, came to the Camden Laboratory and made a personal record of his playing on the violin for the purpose of giving his pupils one of his records as a token of remembrance.
August 9, 1920: On this date we made the first records of Paul Whiteman end His Ambassador Dance Orchestra.
The first two selections recorded were entitled "Avalon" and "Whispering," and from the very first listing in our catalog of these two records, the public went wild with enthusiasm-the style of Whiteman's playing seemed to be the last word in dance records, as they created quite a furor in the entire dance world, both here and abroad.
Paul Whiteman's Orchestra, like many other artists, found what the Laboratory's Staff calls "Jonah numbers" to record. For instance, it was necessary for Whiteman's Orchestra to repeat one selection twenty-two times before we secured a satisfactory master record; however, these occasions are rare.
Up until the time of my sailing for England February l8, 1921, I had personally recorded all the Whiteman records.
December 17, 1920: Made records of the La Scala Orchestra of Milan, Italy, at our Camden Laboratory, under the direction of Arturo Toscanini.
The La Scala Orchestra was made up of 'green' Italian musicians as far as the recording went, and it was hard to make them comprehend-so we had our troubles.
January 5, 1921: Beniamino Gigli, tenor, made his first records for the Victor Company.
January 6, l921: We moved our New York Laboratory from 46 West 38th Street to 28 West 44th Street, 22nd floor.
The first date in this laboratory was with the All Star Trio Dance Organization.
In November of 1920, the Victor Company decided to send someone from our Company to reconstruct the Recording Department of their sister company, the Gramophone Company, Ltd., of Hayes, Middlesex, England.
I was selected for this new venture and. was supposed to be gone for two years. At this time I was living at 430 Chambers Avenue, Camden, N.J., which I owned, so decided this to be the proper tire to sell, as we had been wanting to go to Merchantville, N.J., to live for sometime past. I disposed of nearly all the household effects as well as the home.
February 18, 1921: Mrs. Sooy and myself along with Mr. Marcus Olsen, whom I had requested for an assistant, set sail on the White Star Liner "Adriatic" for Southampton.
February 28, 1921: Arrived on this date, took the boat train for Waterloo Station, from there proceeded to the Great Central Hotel, where reservations had been made for us.
March 1, 1921: We went out to Hayes where the Gramophone Company is located, and presented ourselves to Mr. Alfred Clark, Managing Director, and Mr. Horace Buckle, Works Manager.
We were very cordially greeted by both gentlemen, and I was told whatever was necessary to carry on the reconstruction I was to have, and they surely did cooperate with me in every detail.
Along in May, 1921, after the Department was running along smoothly, they requested that I make a trip to Italy to record the great Italian baritone, Mattia Battistini, who was then in Milan.
May 15, 1921: Accompanied by Mrs. Sooy, I started for Dover, there to cross the English Channel to Calais, France-on through the greater part of war-torn France to Valorbe, the city bordering on to Switzerland, then through the beautiful lakes and mountains of Switzerland into Italy, passing Lake Maggiore in Northern Italy.
We made this trip on the Simplon Orient Express, which passes through the Simplon Tunnel, the longest in the world.
This train is the 'crack' train which runs from Calais, France, to Constantinople, and they will not knowingly carry anything on it but personal baggage, and I, not knowing this, put all my equipment consisting of about 8 or 10 trunks on this train.
When we arrived at the border of Italy, the Customs Officials started to inspect our baggage, they threw up their hands in horror at me, having all this equipment on their 'crack' train, and they were going to throw it off, which would have placed me in a pretty fix, as I needed it to be able to record Battistini.
I was in a terrible position as I could not talk to them, and they were running around, waving their hands frantically and shouting. I did not know whether they wanted to shoot me immediately or wait until sunrise, then suddenly a thought came to me that I had met a man on the train who had said he was from New York. I found this man who informed me that he could speak Italian, so he came to the front and helped me out of my difficulty; the Customs authorities then consented to let my trunks go on to the Milan Customs House.
We registered at the Du Nord Hotel in Milan.
One day while in the recording room, I was very greatly surprised to see Vernon Williams walk in, he being the son of the great tenor, Evan Williams.
Mr. Carlo Sabajino, who was in charge of all musical activities for the Company here, was a great help to me, taking charge of registering us with the Police Department, which was necessary for all aliens, and in numerous other ways.
It was also necessary for us to present ourselves at Bow Street Police Court in London, and register there.
This is required of all aliens staying in England longer than three months. We had to notify them when we went to Swanage, on the south coast, for a two weeks vacation-also when we returned.
While in Italy we visited many points of interest, among them being the little Church of Santa Maria delle Gracia. In this church, on the wall, is the original painting of "The Lord's Last Supper." It was painted in the year of 1476 by Leonardo da Vinci, and is still in a splendid state of preservation.
We also visited the Duomo or Cathedral in Milan, which is known as the third largest cathedral in the world, and one of the most noted.
The main entrance door is of bronze and is divided into 24 blocks. Each of these blocks was carved to represent the story of the Bible. It also has 350 some odd spires, each being topped by a life-size figure or statue.
Another interesting place is the Galleria, an arcade with a glass top.
This is a famous meeting place for aspiring singers-here they meet and discuss with each other what famous singers they expect to become-of course everyone expects to become a 'Melba' or a 'Caruso.'
May 26, 1921: Returned to London from Italy.
June 12, 1921: Mr. Olsen finished his mechanical work and was permitted to return to America, arriving in New York on this date.
I might add, that while in England and Italy, I recorded some of the greatest artists and orchestras of Europe-also I made some records of an interesting English family.
These artists played Old English compositions only, and their dress was in keeping with their style of music (Old English). The instruments were hand-made, having been made by members of the family.
August 2, 1921: The passing away of Enrico Caruso occurred on this day, while we were on our vacation in Swanage, England.
The last engagement filled by this noted tenor was on September 16, 1920, at our Camden Laboratory, and the last selection recorded for the Victor Company was "Messe Solonelle" (The Crucifix) by Rossini.
We found Mr. Caruso very congenial at all times, and while making records, he would create a lot of amusement, drawing cartoons of the different people around the Laboratory; in other words, there was a time for work and a time for play with Mr. Caruso.
Little did we think that when this great artist left the Laboratory after his engagement of September 16, 1920, it would be his last with us.
He was taken seriously ill during the winter and lay at the point of death at his hotel in New York, and as a last resort, his physicians deemed it necessary to operate, which added greatly to his sufferings. I am told that he prayed at that time, if he must be taken from this earth, that the Almighty would spare him to return to his native land.
Mr. Caruso's prayer was answered, as he recovered sufficiently enough to sail for Naples, Italy. He was in Naples but a short time when he was again taken ill, this time fatally, his death occurring August 2, 1921.
We miss this man and great artist, but thanks to the Victor records, his voice still lives-one of Caruso's well-known sayings was "My Victor records shall be my biography."
November 30, 1921: The Victor Company gave me permission to return home for the Christmas holidays, so on this date we sailed on the S/S Olympic, sailing from Southampton.
December 6, 1921: Arrived in New York.
The trip home for the holidays was granted with a promise that I return to England for the purpose of checking up and reporting on the work which was done during my absence.
February 18, 1922: We sailed on this day for our second trip to England for the purpose of checking up the work for the Gramophone Company, which was done during my absence over the Christmas holidays.
We sailed again on the S/S Olympic, and upon arriving at the Gramophone Company's Plant in Hayes, Middlesex, England, I found the work had progressed to the satisfaction of all concerned.
During our stay in England, we visited many historic places of interest. On Easter Sunday we attended Divine Services in Westminster Abbey where kings and many other celebrities are buried-also attended the services in St. Paul's Cathedral.
Visited the Tower of London where we saw the Crown Jewels-also saw the exact spot where Queen Ann Boleyn, Lady Jane Grey and many others were beheaded-saw the beheading block and the axe which was used at some of the executions. Queen Ann Boleyn was beheaded with a sword. Visited St. Margaret's Chapel where many noted weddings take place, and where Sir Walter Raleigh is buried.
Also visited the following:
British Museum, British Art Gallery, Windsor Castle (the winter residence of the present King and queen of the British Empire), St. James Palace (the home of the Prince of Wales) where the wedding gifts of Princess Mary were on display; Hampton Court, the palace of King Henry the VIII-also was taken through Oxford College.
Saw the little home of the Wesleys at Swanage, the founders of Methodism-also visited the little chapel and cemetery at Jordons where we saw the graves of William Penn, his wife and five children.
Visited the ruins of Corfe Castle on the Island Purbeck. This castle was built in the year of 876 and was destroyed in 1600. Parts of this old castle are still standing on the hill. This was one of the most impressive and interesting places we visited.
We also visited a section of London known as "Pettycoat Lane" where, I was told, they stole your watch at one end and then would try to sell it back to you at the other end.
March 7, 1922: Maria Jeritza, soprano, made her first record for the Victor Company.
April 12, 1922: With my work finished in England, we again sailed for home on the S/S Olympic.
April 19, 1922: Arrived in New York.
May 24, 1922: President Harding made a record of his address delivered in Hoboken, N.J., May 27, 1921, upon the return of 5,212 bodies of soldiers, marines, sailors and nurses.
These records were made in the President's study at the White House, Washington, D.C.
October 19, 1922: During an engagement with Harry Lauder, a misunderstanding between he and Mr. Pasternack led up to a pointed remark, Mr. Pasternack refusing to finish directing the engagement; however, the engagement was finished with Mr. Lauder's director (Mr. Charles Frank).
February 12, 1923: We made our first records of Mr. Will Rogers, actor and movie star.
June 1, 1923. Josef A. Pasternack resigned as Musical Director of the Victor Company, but during November of this year he returned in the capacity of Musical Critic-also in an advisory capacity.
Mr. Rosario Bourdon succeeded Mr. Pasternack as Musical Director of the Victor Company, and has proven to be a very capable director-also he has been a great help to the Recording Laboratory.
June 5, 1923: Edgar Guest made records of some of his poems. Mr. Guest gave me some of his books autographed.
August 17, 1923: Spent my twentieth year with the Victor Company.
September 21, 1923: Double-face Red Seal records were announced to the Trade.
October 1, 1923: Mr. C[alvin]. G. child, former manager of the Recording Laboratory, also manager of the Artist and Repertoire Department, resigned from active duty with the Victor Company.
October 18 & 19, 1923: The Sistine Choir was making a tour of this country and on these dates I went to New York to make records of the Choir.
October 24, 1923: Went to St. Louis to make records of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Mr. Rudolph Ganz-also made some records of Dance Orchestras.
These records were made in the Odeon Building, Grand and Finney Avenues, St. Louis, Mo.
November 3, 1923: Left St. Louis on this date for Chicago to make records of Benson's Dance Orchestra.
November 9, 1923: Returned home from recording trip to St. Louis and Chicago.
November 26, 1923: On this date the Victor Company discontinued blowing the whistles for the starting and stopping of work in the factory.
These whistles have always been a great annoyance for many years to the Recording Department as we have lost many records by recording whistles in the Master records. The fire alarm system is being tapped instead.
December 31, 1923: We made our first piano Concerto records with orchestra-the artists being Sergei Rachmaninoff (piano) and the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski, Director.
January 3, 1924: Feodor Chaliapin, bass, made his first record for the Victor Company.
January 15, 1924: At a meeting of the Artist and Repertoire Committee, we were instructed to make some dance records as an experiment-two dance selections to be recorded on one side of a twelve-inch record as a trick record.
This was done by reducing the lead screw to 50 pitch per inch and cutting two separate grooves which would make two distinct records on one.
January 25, 1924: The first dance record of this type was recorded by Ted Weems Orchestra.
January 27, 1925: Mr. [Joseph] Maxfield of the Bell Telephone Laboratories was in Camden and went over the layout for wiring and locating boxes for the purpose of demonstrating Electrical recording.
January 30, 1925: Mr. [Max] Watkins of the Bell Telephone Laboratories telephoned they were sending the Electrical Recording Equipment via truck on February 2, 1925.
February 9, 1925: Messrs. Maxfield, Watkins and [Elmer] Raguse were at the Camden Laboratory, and we made our first electrically recorded record of a piano solo. This solo was played by Mr. Watkins and was purely an experimental recording.
March 11, 1925: We started to make electrically recorded records for the Victor catalog.
This work was started by permission of the Bell Telephone Laboratories.
Mme. Olga Samaroff was the first artist to make records for commercial use.
July 31, 1925: We made our first electrically recorded records in the New York Studio (R. Sooy and E. Raguse). Artist for this date: Jack Shilkretts Orchestra.
August 17, 1925: Was my twenty-second year with the Victor Company.
November 29, 1925: Left for Detroit, Michigan, to make records of Henry Ford's Old Time Dance Orchestra.
These records were made at Dearborn on Mr. Ford's private estate.
I found Mr. Ford to be a very fine man, in fact, his private Lincoln car and chauffer were at my disposal a good part of the time for trips to Detroit, where I was stopping.
While on this trip, we also recorded the Band of the University of Michigan.
March 21, 1926: Went to New Haven, Conn. to make records of the Yale University Band.
These records were made in one of the University's Buildings.
June 10, 1926: This was the first date of recording the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia.
Up until this time, all Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra records were recorded at our studio in Camden, N.J.
The above date proving very successful, we have continued to make all recordings of the Orchestra at the Academy of Music, using the complete Orchestra of 110 musicians.
The first selections recorded-"Sounds from the Vienna Woods" and "The Blue Danube Waltz."
Since this recording engagement of the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Academy of Music, we have recorded the full orchestras of the following:
New York Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Arturo Toscanini at Carnegie Hall in New York.
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Dr. Frederick Stock at Orchestra Hall in Chicago.
The Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Eugene Gossens, in the open air, at Hollywood. Bowl, California.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Serge Koussevitzky at Symphony Hall, Boston.
June 15, 1926: The Warner brothers started in the "talking picture" venture and called it the Vitaphone Corporation. They started in business at the Manhattan Opera House on West 34th Street, New York City.
The work of processing and the pressing of their records, which meant quite a lot of work, was given by them to the Victor Company, and wishing to cooperate with the Vitaphone Corporation in every possible way, the Victor Company sent myself and C[harles]. S. Althouse, one of the boys on our Recording Staff, to the Vitaphone Corporation for a period of time, thinking our long experience in recording sound might be of some benefit to them.
The first large musical synchronized scored picture was "Don Juan" with John Barrymore in the leading role. We also made short subjects of one reel of such artists as Giovanni Martinelli, Anna Case and Marion Talley (vocal)- also Harold Baur (piano), Efrem Zimbalist (violin) and other artists.
They used the Western Electric System for recording.
After having been with the Vitaphone Corporation for about eight weeks, they requested my services for a longer period of time, but as I was much needed at home, the Victor Company requested my return, but Mr. Althouse was loaned, to the Vitaphone corporation for a period of six months, and later he resigned from the Victor Company and took a permanent position with the Vitaphone Corporation, and is still with them in Hollywood, California.
September 11, 1926: Made my third trip to London, England, to look over the Electrical recording of the Gramophone Company.
They were recording over wire from Kingsway Hall to small Queens Hall and other theatres in London.
We sailed again on the S/S Olympic.
On this trip to England we had a very foggy passage nearly all the way over. When we were about one day out from Cherbourg and while we were at breakfast, our steamer suddenly stopped-we hurried on deck to ascertain the reason, and found we were along side of a sinking Italian freighter loaded with grain. She had been rammed by an English vessel, which not being so badly damaged had put back to port.
This was about eight thirty A.M. We, on the Olympic, stood by until eleven o'clock, when after sending messages back and forth during this time, and they still continually refused to abandon their ship and wanted our ship to tow them into port, we learned by wireless that another freighter was also rushing to their aid; so we continued on our way, and heard from the Homeric who was coming west, that she had gone down not long after we had left-all on board were picked up by some French fishing boats.
October 8, 1926: Returned home on the S/S Berengaria.
November 2, 1926: Mr. Josef A. Pasternack severed his connections with the Victor Company on this date after having been connected with the Company for nearly ten years.
Mr. Pasternack was Musical Director up until June 1, 1923, when he resigned (Mr. Rosario Bourdon succeeded him as Musical Director). He then returned to the Victor Company in November, 1923, and served in the capacity of Musical Critic-also in an advisory capacity.
Our associations with Mr. Pasternack have always been very pleasant, and his inestimable ability as a Musical Director has been a great help to the Recording Laboratory.
December 25, 1926: Brother Harry O. Sooy was taken seriously ill and was very sick until sometime in February when he recovered sufficiently enough to return to the office but was still in poor health.
In April a recording trip was planned for California, so brother Harry thought he would go out to supervise the recording, thinking the change would help him to recuperate and to regain his strength more quickly, but on May 22, 1927, he was again taken seriously ill, and passed away in Oakland, California, on May 24, 1927. His body arrived home on May 29, and his funeral was held on May 31.
Brother Harry is greatly missed in the Recording Laboratory.
June 3, 1927: Mr. Fenimore Johnson called me to his office and said he was very sorry that brother Harry had passed away and that he would be greatly missed by all, but that somebody must take his place and carry on where he left off and that he felt I was capable of the position and appointed me Superintendent of the Recording Laboratory, Victor Talking Machine Company, with the understanding that I was to report to Mr. Walter W. Clark, who had been appointed Manager of the Artist and Repertoire Department and also placed in charge of recording activities.
June 11, 1927: Over a direct wire tapped in on the Washington and New York Radio line, which was run into our Camden studio, we recorded from Washington, D.C. the complete reception to Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh upon his arrival back in America, after his epochal flight across the Atlantic.
Although we had four complete recording equipments in use, it was one of the most nerve-racking recording engagements I had ever attempted, as we all knew that one word lost meant failure in getting Colonel Lindbergh's reception complete, therefore, everything had to be timed to the split second. However, not one of the four machines failed us, and I felt that I could use "We" in these recordings for when the fifteen records were tested the next day, we learned there was not one word missing, and we all gave a sigh of relief.
These records included "The President's Address," "The President's Presentation of the Medal," and "Colonel Lindbergh' s Reply." We also recorded in the evening "Colonel Lindbergh's Reception at the Press Club and His Address."
October 14, 1927: Mr. Herbert Hoover, Secretary of Commerce, made a record of his address to the American Institute of Steel Construction.
Mr. Hoover being unable to attend the opening of the convention, made his address on a record which was played in his absence. This record was made in Mr. Hoover's office in the Commerce Building at Washington, D.C.
October 26, 1927: We recorded the complete chorus of the Metropolitan Grand Opera Company, and since this time we have also recorded many of the operatic stars with the complete Metropolitan Chorus and Orchestra.
December 8, 1927: A special engagement was booked in our New York Laboratory to make some records of Rosa Ponselle, and as this engagement was somewhat out of the ordinary, I went over to New York to take care of it.
Miss Ponselle made six twelve inch recordings and not daring to take a chance of having the records broken by shipping them to Camden in a trunk, we proceeded to carry them personally to insure their safe arrival.
They were pretty heavy but we managed to get them to the New York Station and everything went along splendidly until we arrived in Philadelphia, and while waiting there for a bus to bring the records to Camden, someone in the crowd bumped me, and I dropped the records on the pavement which broke everyone of them in a thousand pieces.
After this accident, I did not know whether to go back to Camden and tell my story or to jump into the river.
December 15, 1927: Went to Chicago to supervise the recording of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Dr. Frederick Stock.
These records were made in the Goodman Memorial Theatre.
Mrs. Sooy accompanied me on this trip.
1928: (early part) The Victor Company decided to go into the 'synchronized talking picture' business, and equipped the Church Studio at 114 North Fifth Street, Camden, N.J. with a Western Electric Recording System.
The idea was to do synchronized recording of music and sound effects for any of the motion picture producers.
March 16, 1928: The equipment was installed and the first tests were made on this date.
The picture was "Dancing Vienna," Mr. Nat Shilkret directing the orchestra.
The tests proved satisfactory.
April 12, 1928: I had the pleasure of making a record of the President of the Victor Talking Machine Co., Mr. E[lmer]. E. Shumaker-also a duet by Mr. Shumaker and Mr. W. H. Day. This duet was made for purely experimental purposes.
Perhaps the general public is not aware of the fact that Mr. Shumaker is not only an executive, but a talented vocalist and musician as well.
June 16, 1928: We started scoring the first picture for Paramount-Lasky Corporation which was entitled "Warming Up"-a baseball picture with Richard Dix as the star, and Mr. Nat Finston, Musical Director.
I could see we were going to need many sound effect records which we could dub or re-record in these productions, therefore, we started to make 'effect' records.
The next pictures to score were "Wings" for Paramount and "Lilac Time" for the First National Pictures, and as these pictures required aeroplane effects, we took a portable recording equipment out to Crescent Air Field, Camden, N.J.
We put our microphone in the center of the field and hired an aeroplane to circle about the microphone so as to make some records of the actual sounds of an aeroplane in flight.
The records turned out well and they were used in these pictures for the aeroplane effects.
In addition to aeroplane effects, the picture also featured the noise of machine gun fire.
We then made arrangements to take our recording equipment over to the Frankford Arsenal in Philadelphia, where we made records of the actual fire of machine guns, and at another time, we took our recording equipment over to Franklin Field, Philadelphia, and made records of the cheering crowd at the University of Pennsylvania and Navy Football Game of 1928.
We also have in our library of 'effect' records, automobiles, tractors, sounds of the rolling sea, army tanks, railroad engines and trains, riveters, motor boats, motorcycles, birds, a Chinese Orchestra, crowds cheering, mumbling and laughing-also the actual crying of a baby, and numerous other 'effect' records, which can be embodied into sound pictures.
This new venture in the field of sound recording for motion pictures and the growing demand for commercial recording laboratories in Japan, China, Buenos Aires, Brazil, and Hollywood, California, necessitated my enlarging the Recording Department's personnel to the extent of sixty more employees.
August 17, 1928: Was my 25th year with the Victor Company.
September, 1928: Captain Ely of the U.S. Government Ordinance Department, asked to have some records made of different kinds of hydroplanes for their use in experimenting and listening tests.
We went to League Island Navy Yard, Philadelphia, and made some records for the U. S. Government-hydroplanes at different heights, circling over the microphone.
September 18, 1928: Went to Chicago to look over a new recording room and report on same.
October 4, 1928: Accepting an invitation from Captain Ely, I visited the Army Field Day Exercises on the U.S. Government's Proving Grounds at Aberdeen, Md.
This was a very interesting day as all scientific methods of actual warfare were demonstrated including a Sham Battle.
October 29, 1928: Started to re-record from film sound track to disc our first feature picture entitled "Interference."
This was a Paramount production, and. since that time we have been kept busy, re-recording from sound track to disc for many producers.
1929: (early part) The Victor Company in conjunction with the Columbia Pictures Company, started in the 'talking picture' business, and during this year we have recorded and filmed twenty-four pictures known as 'Shorts' or one-reel subjects.
This new venture has been most interesting and instructive.
January 19, 1929: Started to install an RCA Recording System to record from film sound track to disc.
April 11, 1929: Started re-recording first feature picture on this system-picture entitled "Leatherneck." Since then we have been kept busy re-recording for RCA producers.
August, 1929: I expressed a desire to make a trip to the Pacific Coast to look over the 'talking picture' industry. I was told to prepare to go as soon as possible.
September 7, 1929: Accompanied by Mrs. Sooy, I started for Hollywood, California.
I carried letters of introduction to Mr. Le Baron of the RKO and Mr. Sammas of the RCA, and through their assistance, I was permitted to visit fourteen Talking Picture Studios, which was of great assistance to me in the 'sound picture' work.
February 12, 1931: We recorded over a direct wire from the National Broadcasting Company, N.Y., to our recording studio in New York, the complete program from Rome, Italy, the dedication of Radio Station H.V.J. with address by Pope Pius and addresses by other
dignitaries-also radio conversations between NBC and the Rome Station.
When thinking of the days of acoustic recording, we can now appreciate the handicaps under which the artist, musician and recorder were forced to work because of the mechanical limitations of recording.
It was necessary for the musical directors to rearrange all musical compositions either for orchestral accompaniments or for symphony orchestra recordings.
In the acoustic recording we have used as many as twelve recording horns at one time with good results. This made it very difficult because the more horns used, the less volume you would get in the records, consequently, a very sensitive diaphragm had to be used for this purpose; then again, we were forced to use Stroh violins.
These violins were made with a horn attached to them so that they could throw the music in one direction, but the tone quality was not so good.
It was also necessary to place the musicians who were playing the 'cello, oboe, clarinet, cornet, trombones and some of the other instruments, on high chairs or stools, so that they could concentrate their tones directly toward the recording horns. They had to be placed so close together that it was almost impossible for them to play-the violinists, while playing, would oft times run their bows up the bell of the clarinets which were being played directly above them or in one of the other musician's eyes, which would cause a heated argument.
I remember recording a xylophone solo of the "Poet and Peasant Overture." We had the xylophone propped up about three feet from the floor on flimsy stands and the artist, while playing, reached for a top note and in doing so pushed the xylophone a little too hard, consequently, it slipped off the high stands, knocked the horns down, and all fell on the floor in a heap with the artist underneath the wreckage, and it was a funny sight to see the artist crawling out from under this wreckage very much disgusted.
The new electrical recording process is a marked advancement in the art of recording sound.
The musicians can be placed in a natural position so that they can perform with ease, likewise the vocal artists-also different organizations are being recorded to-day, which would have been impossible for us to have recorded in the old days of making records.
The great Organ and Choir in the Mormon Tabernacle at Salt Lake City, Utah.
The Associated Glee Clubs of America consisting of three thousand voices.
These records were recorded during the actual concerts given by the Clubs at the Sesqui-Centennial, Philadelphia-also at the 71st Regiment Armory in New York City, and Madison Square Garden, New York City.
The Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra recorded in the open air, Hollywood, California.
The marvelous organ of Mr. Charles M. Schwaab, at his private home in New York City.
The first ringing of the Carillon Bells on the House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on the occasion of Canada's Diamond Jubilee of Confederation, 1867-l927. The recording of hydroplane sounds at different heights in the air for the U.S. government.
The recording of complete broadcasts, such as:
Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh's Reception
Also the recording for 'talking pictures' which has been an epoch within the last year (1929) for the pleasure seeking public.
Up to the present time, I have personally made records of the following Red Seal artists and organizations-also scores of popular artists:
Frances Alda (Soprano)
Pasquale Amato (Baritone)
Julia Arthur (Dramatic Reader)
Mattia Battistini (Baritone)
Lucrezia Bori (Soprano)
Enrico Caruso (Tenor)
Feodor Chaliapin (Bass)
Emma Calve (Soprano)
Richard Crooks (Tenor)
Toti Dal Monte (Soprano)
Marguerite D'Alvarez (Contralto)
Emilio De Gogorza (Baritone)
Giuseppe De Luca (Baritone)
Emma Earnes (Soprano)
Geraldine Farrar (Soprano)
Amelita Galli-Curci (Soprano)
Mary Garden (Soprano)
Dusolina Giannini (Soprano)
Beniamino Gigli (Tenor)
Alma Gluck (Soprano)
Frieda Hempel (Soprano)
Louise Homer (Contralto)
Maria Jeritza (Soprano)
Marcel Journet (Bass)
Hulda Lashanska (Soprano)
Harry Lauder (Comedian)
Mary Lewis (Soprano)
Jose Mardones (Bass)
Giovanni Martinelli (Tenor)
Margarete Matzenauer (Mezzo-Soprano)
John McCormack (Tenor)
Nellie Melba (Soprano)
Luella Melius (Soprano)
Sigrid Onegin (Contralto)
Rosa Ponselle (Soprano)
Titta Ruffo (Baritone)
Tito Schipa (Tenor)
Ernestine Schumann-Heink (Contralto)
Antonio Scotti (Baritone)
Marcella Sembrich (Soprano)
Marion Talley (Soprano)
Luisa Tetrazzini (Soprano)
Lawrence Tibbett (Baritone)
Reinald Werrenrath (Baritone)
Clarence Whitehill (Baritone)
Evan Williams (Tenor)
Arthur De Greef
Vladimir De Pachmann
Philadelphia Symphony - Leopold Stokowski, Director
New York Philharmonic Sym. - William Mengelberg, Director
Boston Symphony - Dr. Karl Muck, Director
Chicago Symphony - Dr. Friedrich Stock, Director
St Louis Symphony - Rudolph Ganz, Director
London Symphony - Albert Coates, Director
London Symphony - Sir Edward Elgar, Director
Royal Albert Hall Sym. - Sir Landon Ronald, Director
La Scala Symphony - Arturo Toscanini, Director
Some of the above artists were recorded on my trips to London and Italy.
No two artists ever face the recording instrument quite alike; some are nervous; some confident; some cannot make records with a spectator in the studio, while others must have someone standing by constantly.
Mr. Caruso was the easiest artist who came to the laboratory to record. Nothing seemed to make any difference to him, he almost always sang perfectly and with this confidence, he had nothing to fear.
Some of the greatest music in the world has gone out from Camden, and also many a great hope has come to a realization here in Camden.
I have seen great artists weep for joy when hearing their first recordings-also I have seen artists weep bitterly when listening to their records and realizing their voices were not what they used to be in their earlier days of recording.
I have seen well-known stage stars who have been on the stage for years, reciting funny stories, never making a slip, but when putting them in front of a microphone to make a record of one of the stories, they would get so nervous, they would start to tell the story backwards, in fact, they would forget their own names.
I also saw another artist get so nervous after trying to make an attempt to make a record that he picked up his hat and coat, and ran out of the studio, leaving the orchestra sitting there and has never been back.
We have had comedians come to the studio for the purpose of recording funny stories, and they being used to appearing in make-up before an audience would go halfway through a story and absolutely forget the rest or best part of it; but let them don an old hat and a pair of big spectacles or their accustomed make-up, and they would immediately feel in the proper atmosphere and continue the story without another falter.
The make-up seems to help them although there is no visible audience.
I have been presented with photographs of nearly all the famous artists from Caruso down. Below are a few unique autographs, which I greatly appreciate:
To "All right Raymond" from Alma Gluck - 1911
To Mr. Raymond B. Sooy "My recreator" - Mischa Elman
To Raymond Sooy who made possible the success (if, any) we have had. - Paul Whiteman
To Mr. Raymond B. Sooy "The man of mystery or the face at the window." - Maud. Powell
To Ray Sooy "The man who can make a better record than his humble admirer." - Felix Arndt - 1917
To Dear Raymond, "Good Luck" with all my heart I wish for you - "Mother" Ernestine Schumann-Heink
To Mr. Raymond B. Sooy "In remembrance of the of the many fine records you have made for me." - De Gogorza, 1927
To Mr. Raymond Sooy "Very fine engraver of my voice." - Chaliapin-1921
To my friend, Raymond B. Sooy. Souvenir of the many "records" we have made together - John McCormack -1920
To Raymond B. Sooy "With thanks for all the trouble I gave you in making my records." - Rachmaninoff - 1920
To Raymond B. Sooy "With sincere admiration and deep gratitude." - Luella Melius
"To my best friend, who made possible the bird records." - Kellogg, 1917, California
To my friend "Ray" Sooy "Your kindness and cooperation are always a great help to me and I am thankful to you." - Rosario Bourdon
To Ray Sooy "Can't do a thing without him. What a bunch of records he has won." - Nat Shiikret - "Only a Musician"
"To a very fine gentleman, Senor Raymond Sooy. "This photograph is a souvenir, always in passing, remember happily our meeting." - The old artist who is young in voice and heart - Remember, Battistini - Italy, 1921
A FEW MEMOIRS OF TEMPERAMENTAL ARTISTS:
I saw an artist pick up a chair and chase her manager around the studio because the manager said the records which the artist had recorded were a good reproduction of her voice, but the artist did not think that way.
I also saw an artist pick up his piano accompanist by the neck, shake him like a dog and then throw him bodily out of the studio because the accompanist had made a number of mistakes while recording, then this same artist, who was so excited, beat his own head on the walls of the Recording Studio.
Another artist was taken to the Victor Lunch Club for luncheon. This artist found a speck of something in the drinking water and immediately started to rave and accuse someone of trying to poison him, and as each course of the luncheon was served, declared it was the vilest food he had ever put in his mouth.
After a few compliments were paid to this artist's ability, he forgot about the food, and when the luncheon was finished, he arose from the table, kissed the colored waitress' hand, complimented her, and told her how he had enjoyed the luncheon.
Another artist practically accused someone in the studio of stealing his tobacco pouch. A hunt for same was taken up but it could not be found.
One of the men in the studio offered the artist some tobacco from his pouch; the artist remarked, "he would try it but he knew it would be a damn poor substitute" - later, however, the artist found his pouch in his own pocket.
A certain band director would bite his fingers and use vile language at the musicians when they made mistakes while playing for records, and as a climax, one day he actually got down from the director's stand, found the hat of the musician who had made the mistake, threw it on the floor and jumped on it - this nearly caused a riot.
One day I was recording a small Hungarian Orchestra. I placed them in what I thought the proper positions, but the director, who also played the first violin, persisted in walking all over the studio while he was playing. I explained to him that it would be impossible to record him while he was walking about, but he seemed to know more about it than what I did, and he still continued his marathon.
I pleaded with him again and again, and explained the situation to him, but it did no good, and I was at my wits end to know just what to do, and naturally got warmed up myself; finally he told me I should not interfere, it was his artistic temperament-that was just about enough for me, so I told him I had one of those "damn things" myself, and if he didn't stand where I placed him, there would be no records made. I had no more trouble with his artistic temperament after this-he stood exactly where he was placed.
In the days when funny stories were very popular on records, one of our best story-tellers could always work better when he was very much under the influence of liquor, but he could not stand still in one place, so someone conceived the idea of building a rack for him to lean his head against.
This rack served for two purposes-it helped to hold him up-also kept him in the right place for recording.
A certain well-known Musical Director, who is very temperamental while conducting an orchestra, said that we should have an audience in the hall while we were recording, as an empty hall did not give him or the musicians any inspiration to do their best work. He also wanted the microphones taken away because they annoyed him-also he did not want us to give him any signal when to start playing-he wanted to start when his inspiration told him too.
When making records there are many amusing experiences to contend with and where the recorder must use his head and try to please the artists-also the musical director, as many of them have set ideas as to what should be done and what should not be done in the making of records. No matter what their ideas way be, some of them will not listen to reason, then, the next thing to do (if possible) is to make them believe their ideas are being carried out.
For instance: Many times I have been recording a vocal artist with orchestral accompaniment, and this particular selection would have an important violin or 'cello obbligato. After we had made a test record which we could play back immediately to let them hear how it sounded, I have seen musical directors, while listening to this playback, go up in the air, rave, and say, "The obbligato is not half loud enough, and we must do something to make it much louder." But we knowing the inefficiency of the playback realize that to make it louder, would cause it to be too loud in the finished record, but you cannot make the musical director believe this story-so to save the record, the next best thing to do is to make him believe you will change something to make the obbligato louder, and many times I have taken the speaker off then taken it into the back room for a few minutes, and brought the same one out again, connected it up, told the director it was a different speaker which would give him what he wanted, then proceed to rake the records.
The next day he would hear the finished results and would be pleased with them, he then would turn to me and say, "I told you so" and our reply must necessarily be, "Yes, you were right" and let it go at that, then everyone is happy.
We made a talking record of an old lady and as she was not sure her voice would record best with her false teeth in or not, we made one record with her teeth in and one with them out to satisfy her.
During the recording of a colored Dance Band, one of the saxophone players could not keep his feet still and the continual tapping to the time of the music could be heard in the records and as he could not play unless he tapped his foot, we decided to put a soft pillow under it. This worked out all right for a while but the continual tapping soon worked the pillow out from under his foot and again the tapping on the floor could be heard and in as much as we disliked to smell feet, as a last resort, we made him take his shoes off so that we could get some records without tapping.
1931: Arturo Toscanini, one of the greatest of living musical directors, decided he would not direct his Orchestra anymore for the sole purpose of making records. He claimed that by stopping every four and one-half minutes in a Symphony, he lost all the spirit of the music he was playing and could not put forth his best efforts as it made him too nervous. It was reported Mr. Toscanini had said, if we could record during his regular concerts at Carnegie Hall he would not object providing he was not aware we were recording.
The RCA Victor Company was very desirous of having on records Beethoven's 5th Symphony with Mr. Toscanini directing. On March 4th he was booked to play this symphony at a concert in Carnegie Hall, New York. We took a recording equipment over to New York and recorded the complete Symphony, using two recording machines and at certain places in the music cutting from one machine to the other without missing a note.
REQUIREMENTS NECESSARY FOR A GOOD RECORDER
I have been asked many times what requirements were necessary in a man to make an "A" one recorder.
This question, to my mind, is very difficult to answer, as recording is a line of work entirely different from any other line of business, in fact, it is in a class by itself.
I have had the training of very intelligent men, who being technicians in other lines could never grasp the art of recording even after ten years of training. On the other hand, I have taken men in the Recording Department with no intentions of making recorders of them, not thinking they possessed any of the requirements which constitute a good recorder, and they will grasp it much quicker and become more valuable recorders than others who have worked for years in this line of work but have never acquired the necessary knack of recording.
A good recorder must have at least five years of experience. He must be a very quick thinker and patient-must know how to meet and handle all kinds of temperamental people, and govern himself under some very trying conditions. He must get the confidence of the artist with whom he has to work, whether they be good, bad or indifferent-also must not show any signs of disappointment whether the voice he is recording be good or bad, but try under all circumstances to get the best record possible.
What I should term an "A" one man, would be one you could send on a recording trip and who, under adverse conditions, such as often encountered 'on the road' as we term some recording trips, make good records of Symphony Orchestras, Vocal Artists of 'Red Seal' class, Dance Orchestras, Hillbilly songs-also Organ records, and always bring back commercial records.
In addition to the above, he must be competent in handling money as he is at times, entrusted with large amounts to pay the cost of talent, and many times to pay talent in countries where he does not speak nor understand the language. He must also obtain the name of each selection recorded-also the language it was sung in-the name of the composer, by whom it was published and copyrighted and the date of copyright. He must also furnish the instrumentation that is used in every record recorded.
On traveling trips he must take into consideration the acoustics of the room in which he is to make records, as no two rooms will give you the same results. He must use his judgment as to how much the rooms should be draped to obtain the best records, as these rooms range from a 'grass hut' to a 'palace.' He must have enough mechanical or electrical ability to repair the equipment should anything go wrong.
A recorder must learn the value of sound vibrations, as each instrument, voice, or sound, whatever it may be, has a different character of sound vibration - for instance: the piccolo, violin, clarinet, cornet, trombone, string bass, tuba, tympani, etc., each has a different character in itself. The recording man must become familiar with these vibrations by examining the waxes after a record has been made, with a magnifying glass, and after a long experience with the magnifying glass, he must be able to pick out the different vibrations-for instance: he may be recording an orchestra and after the record has been recorded, he will examine the wax with his glass and find a certain vibration, which he has learned by experience, will not reproduce properly; he must then find the instrument or combination of instruments causing this trouble, and I can safely say that nine times out of ten, a good recording man can walk out in the studio and put his hand on the man or instruments causing the trouble, move them a little farther away from the microphone, make another record, which will prove to be perfect. This is where experience saves many dollars, as an inexperienced man could not detect this trouble, as his playback, in all probability would not show it, consequently, the whole engagement would be lost.
An experienced recorder can also tell by the character of the vibrations in a record whether his recording amplifiers or apparatus is functioning properly or not, whether it is recording too much of the upper register and not enough of the lower register of the instruments or visa versa.
There are certain characters of small vibrations which are very dangerous, and will not reproduce properly; then again, there are many very large vibrations which cause no trouble whatsoever, therefore, a recorder must learn the value of many vibrations and be able to detect them in a record with his magnifying glass as soon as a record is recorded and before giving his approval of same.
Another thing which is very essential in the outcome of a record, is the placing of many combinations of instruments or vocal artists. These combinations range from a harmonica and a jewsharp [sic] to a one hundred piece symphony orchestra, or from a solo voice to a chorus. The recorder is held responsible for the balance of these combinations-if it is a duet of the harmonica and jewsharp, the instrument having the melody must predominate so that the melody can be heard at all times, but the other instrument with the accompaniment is also essential, and must be heard to make a properly balanced duet.
The one hundred piece symphony orchestra will have seventy string instruments, the rest will be made up of woodwind, brass, and percussion. They must be placed so that all will be heard to make a general ensemble, and no instrument to predominate, unless a solo is necessary; then the solo must be given a certain advantage by the recording man. The piccolo is the smallest instrument in the orchestra yet it will record much louder than any of the other larger wood instruments, therefore, he must be placed in this proper position, etc.; the same applies to vocal recording.
Then comes the most important part of recording-the monitoring or mixing, especially if multiple microphones are necessary.
I have always contended that a good recording man must be the same as a good musician-he must feel his work in order to get the best results out of it, as this cannot be done mechanically and prove successful.
When monitoring he should not be disturbed by anyone talking to him, standing over him, nor should there be any unnecessary noises in the Monitoring Room, or anything that will detract his attention from what he is doing, as he may have certain cues to catch, which, if missed, would spoil the record.
The monitoring man's mind must travel about two notes ahead of the music that is being played or sung, he must have a preconception of what is coming all the time-if there are any cues to catch, he must catch them instantly, before the notes are hit. If he does not, the damage is done.
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