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Canadian Historical Sound Recordings

Glossary

A

acoustic recording
A recording process which uses no electrical analogue or electrical amplification of the sound is said to be acoustic or acoustomechanical. A large cone or horn is used to amplify the sound and a diaphragm, moved mechanically by the changing air pressure of the sound, is the primary transducer. The recording stylus, driven by the movement of the diaphragm, indents or incises a physical analogue of the sound wave into the recording material. In order to achieve a good recording by this process, artists with quieter voices and instruments must be placed closer to the recording horn and louder ones further away. This often resulted in unusual seating arrangements, with performers situated on wooden tiers so high that their music stands were suspended from the ceiling. Sound recordings were made exclusively by the acoustic process until the mid-1920s. See also electrical recording.

album
Refers to a group of records belonging to a set, most often packaged together and held in gatefold sleeves. Note: As used here, does not refer to a single long-playing record.

analogue recording
The simplest type of sound recording, in which a physical likeness (i.e. an analogue) of the air pressure comprising an original sound is created by a transducer. This analogue can be visual (as with the phonautograph), mechanical (as the motion of a diaphragm), photic (as in photoengraving), or electromagnetic (as in electrical recording), for example. The sound played back is an acoustical analogue of the physical analogue(s) of the original sound. See also digital recording.

C

catalogue number
See issue number.

contemporary release
Refers to a recording issued simultaneously (or nearly so) on two or more (usually related) labels. See also primary label, reissue, and secondary label.

control number
A false matrix number used by a record company for a recording made by another company. If the use of such a recording is unauthorized, the control number served to disguise its source.

D

digital recording
A system of sound recording in which sound is represented as a series of discrete electrical measurements, expressed in binary numbers. The sound wave, converted into an electrical analogue by a microphone, is sampled and measured over time (for a musical CD, 44 100 samples per second). Each voltage measurement is then assigned a binary number. During playback, the binary data are converted to an electrical representation of the sound wave, which is converted in turn to acoustical energy by a speaker. See also analogue recording.

E

electrical recording
A process of recording which makes use of microphones to pick up the sound, an electronic vacuum tube to amplify it, and an electromagnetic analogue to vibrate the recording stylus. This allows a greater frequency range of sound to be recorded than in acoustical recording, and the ease of microphone placement greatly facilitates the recording process. The transition to electrical recording took place from about 1924 to 1927. See also acoustic recording.

G

gatefold sleeves
The record sleeves bound together that hold all the discs of an album set.

A series of drawings depicting THE GRAMOPHONE-THE NEW TALKING MACHINE 1896

Source
A series of drawings depicting "The Gramophone-The New Talking Machine" 1896

gramophone
The sound recording and playback device invented by Emile Berliner. It consisted of a turntable for a disc record, a sound box mounted on a pivot (allowing the record groove to guide the stylus), and a conical sounding-horn. The first gramophones were hand-driven, but the machinist, Eldridge Johnson (later the founder of the Victor Talking Machine Co.), devised a practical spring-motor for the machine in 1896. Note: although the distinction between the gramophone and phonograph (and the recordings played on them) continued for many years, by the time of the demise of the Edison cylinder in 1929, the term phonograph was regularly used to refer to disc-playing machines. See also graphophone, lateral recording and phonograph.

graphophone
The sound recording and playback device invented by Chichester Bell and Charles Sumner Tainter. The graphophone was named by reversing the two elements of the word phonograph, and indeed, was very similar to that machine. The graphophone used incised wax-coated cardboard cylinders instead of Edison's indented tinfoil. It was originally devised as a dictation tool. See also gramophone and phonograph.

H

hill-and-dale
See vertical recording.

I

issue number
A number assigned by manufacturer, often including a numeric or alphanumeric prefix and/or suffix, used in conjunction with the label name for identification and cataloguing purposes. A very few companies used the matrix number as the issue number. After double-sided records were introduced in 1904, some companies assigned a new issue number to identify a specific coupling of formerly single-sided records, while retaining the single-sided issue number as well. Also called a catalogue number.

L

label
A paper label, usually circular, affixed to the centre portion of disc records and containing identifying information about the provenance and contents of the recording. Before paper labels began to be used, circa 1900, information was etched or stamped onto the surface of the disc in the same area.

label name
A name or logo featured prominently on the label used to identify the corporate owner or seller of the series of discs to which a particular record belongs. The largest companies used various label names to designate issue series, prices and generic contents. Archives and collectors commonly classify and shelve their holdings by label name, grouping sub-series into label "families". This database uses three levels of label name classification: the generic label (usually the name of the company), the transcribed label (the primary label name as it appears on the disc) and the sub label (the subordinate label name or series variant name as it appears on the disc).

lateral recording
Lateral recording refers to the method of cutting a recording groove at a constant depth with a sinuous side-to-side motion of the stylus. See also vertical recording.

M

magnetic recording
A recording which, instead of cutting a physical analogue of the original sound wave into a disc or cylinder, imprints a magnetic analogue of the sound wave onto a ferromagnetic surface such as steel wire or, more commonly, oxide-coated tape. See also analogue and digital recording.

matrix number
The number that identifies a specific recording of a selection by an artist, as well as later re-recordings of the same selection by the same artist, or sometimes a recording of the same selection by a different artist. It was used to facilitate bookkeeping and to enable the record company to locate master recordings. As well, some companies used the matrix number as the issue number for single-sided records, or as the side number for double-sided records. The number was stamped or inscribed by hand under the label, on the label, or in the run-out. See also control number

P

Photograph of Léon Scott de Martinville's phonautograph, 1857

Source
Léon Scott de Martinville's phonautograph, 1857

phonautograph
A machine invented in 1857 by Léon Scott de Martinville, a French experimentalist, which traced a visual analogue of a soundwave onto a lampblack-coated cylinder by means of a hog's hair bristle. It was the first sound recording device, but could not reproduce the recorded sound.

phonograph

Drawing of the phonograph from Thomas Edison's Canadian patent no. 9282

Source
A drawing of the phonograph from Thomas Edison's Canadian patent no. 9282

The sound recording and playback device invented by Thomas Edison while he was working on the repeating telegraph in 1877. The first phonograph was constructed from Edison's sketch of the instrument by his assistant, John Kreusi. It consisted of a cylinder covered with tinfoil mounted on a hand-cranked screw, and a rigid stylus which made vertical indentations in the groove. Note: although the distinction between the gramophone and phonograph (and the recordings played on them) continued for many years, by the time of the demise of the Edison cylinder in 1929, the term phonograph was regularly used to refer to disc-playing machines. See also gramophone, graphophone and vertical recording.

primary label
Refers to the original issue of a recording. There is usually only one primary issue of a recording. Note: in this database, a first release in Canada is considered the primary label. See also contemporary release, reissue, and secondary label.

R

reissue
Refers to either a reissue of a recording on the original label using a different issue number, which was usually pressed from the original matrix, or a reissue of a recording on a different label, either dubbed from an existing recording or pressed from the original matrix. Note: recordings issued by the same label with the same issue number, but a different style of label, are properly called re-pressings, not reissues. See also contemporary release, primary label, and secondary label.

run-out
Refers to the smooth or lightly grooved area between the recording groove and the outer edge of the label or label area. Information was often stamped or etched here.

S

secondary label
Refers to a recording issued on a secondary or sister label by the parent company at approximately the same time as the primary label. See also contemporary release, primary label, and reissue.

side number
The single-side issue number retained on the label or run-out when two single-sided discs were coupled on a double-sided record to which a new issue number was assigned. After the introduction of multi-disc albums, the term also came to refer to the designation used to indicate the sequence in which a given side was to be played.

T

take
Each recording of or attempt to record a selection by the same (or sometimes different) artist was designated with an identifying "take" number or letter (unless given an entirely new matrix number), sometimes stamped or inscribed on the disc.

transducer
A mechanism which converts energy from one form to another. For example, a diaphragm converts soundwaves to mechanical vibrations, while a microphone converts them to electrical current, and a loudspeaker or earphone converts electrical energy into soundwaves. The diaphragm, microphone and loudspeaker are all transducers.

U

unseen / non vérifié
If a record in this database is designated "unseen" or "non vérifié", it signifies that the cataloguers did not see a disc or label of the record, but derived the information from other sources. These sources are listed in the authority field.

V

vertical recording
Refers to the method of cutting or embossing a recording groove at a varying depth with an up-and-down motion of the stylus. Often called "hill-and-dale" recording because the incision or indentations made on the recording surface look like a series of hills and valleys over which the playback stylus travels. See also lateral recording.