Via the excellent Mike Lavocah, a beautiful film (in three parts, all three linked below the embed) depicting exactly how a record was made in the 1940s.
Part One (as above) | Part Two | Part Three
I'm just delighted with the brilliant ingenuity, the precision, and in some ways the simplicity and directness of this process, obviously the result of a long evolution yet to be continued. It's genius.
I also love the film itself, with the first-person narrative of its unseen narrator, and his innocent joy at the pure wax smoothed with flame, the electroplating, the giant glooping shellac mix machine, and the unexpected way the labels are put on. And as the sort of social-historical matter which would interest my mother, notice how the sex of the workers changes through the process. You can't draw any conclusions, as you can often only see one worker at a time, and some of the roles may well have been mixed. But it tells you something about how each job was perceived at the time.
What really struck me was how the finished record – being an analog process – contains an imprint of the vibrations made by the musicians at the time of the performance. In some sense, you are connected directly back to that time. This is something that digital music – especially with our attempts to “improve” the music with filtering and other kinds of post-processing – can never capture.
I'm not sure I agree that the connection is more 'direct' in any literal sense. And I'm not sure that I know what that notion of connection means or in what way whatever it means is important. But I sympathise with his sentiment about the physicality of this process, all the same. I once went to a public lecture on human biology, after which I approached the lecturer with some question or other, and was privileged to hold in my hand, briefly, a hand-axe 250,000 years old. A thing that was made by someone's hands, a quarter of a million years ago.