Sunday, June 30, 2013

The end of the road for two old patriots in 1826.....John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

By the end of June in the year 1826, there were two very old men on the verge of death. One was named John Adams and the other Thomas Jefferson.

 Adams was always the more healthy and robust of the two. Though even now as Adams was nearly 91 years of age he was aware of all around him. He was read to as was his pleasure. He met some old friends and young folks who were wishing to touch a piece of history. He lived in a calm loving atmosphere, surrounded by his family save for his son John Quincy, who was President of the United States.

In contrast, there was Jefferson. He had for the last year suffered from many internal problems and much arthritis. His keen mind was not as clear as it had been, and his household or what was left of it was in great need of repair. The truth was that Jefferson was broke, he had been for many years and now as his life started to fade into the darkness. He was truly at an end. A lottery had been organized to try to help Jefferson out of his dreadful financial distress. But that stress at 83 was as deadly for him as the rest of his infirmities. His slaves were there to look after him. His mistress who he owned, Sally Hemmings was there. One would wonder if because of love, or because he owned her. The children produced by them were still slaves at this moment. They would be freed at his death.

As these men faced the last few days of life, what thoughts were going through their minds. I am sure Jefferson was thinking of his greatest moment when he took John Adams advice and wrote the first draft declaration. It was a continuation of the declaration written the year before by Adams in 1775.

I am sure each thought of Franklin, seeing him in their own view of his actions. Remembering Washington fondly, or not too fondly as Jefferson was not a great fan of him. Adams I gather thought of Washington, and perhaps had one last jealous urge to set the record straight. Feeling that Jefferson's writings on the revolution would be followed more than his own of which he felt he had been more honest.

Perhaps Jefferson finally had remorse in what he had done to many people. His actions and his back stabbing was remembered by many and perhaps now as he lay in his bed and breathed with some difficulty he thought of Aaron Burr and what he had done to him, or perhaps to his old friend John Adams.

Each was invited to Washington DC, or Washington City as it was then called, but it was an impossibility for either to venture far from their chair or bed.

Each man knew in late June that the glorious 4th of July would be the 50th anniversary of the great Declaration. Although as each man knew it was actually declared and voted on July 2nd. But even the stubborn Adams had finally given up on the 2nd and now was waiting and striving to live to see the glorious day.

Adams went about his life as usual, although weak, he showed no signs of dying in these last few days of June. But for Jefferson he was already on the way, It was not really certain he would make it.

By July 3rd Jefferson was in his deathbed and delirious, he asked his slaves several times if it was the 4th..

Adams spent much of the day in his beloved library, surrounded by his books and his imagination that went soaring past the Milky Way as he liked to put it.

The 4th came, and the sun rose on to Jefferson and Adams at the same time. It was their day, it was to be for both their last day of life.

Jefferson was in and out of consciousness and did learn it was the 4th and he allowed himself to die.  Adams started his day like all the others he had in these last years. A little breakfast and he was carried up to his library where he would spend his day. One can only imagine what went though his mind in the last morning. But I am sure he took more than one trip beyond the Milky Way.

In the early afternoon he was taken ill in the chair in which he was sitting by the window of his library...If death was to find him ....It was there.

On July 4, 1826, the two major writers of the declaration of independence died .. It was it's 50th anniversary.

An Amazing moment of history.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Putting Francesco Tamagno at the right speed on his Gramophone and Typewriter records.

                    A 1904 Victor pressing of one of Tamagno's records.

I recall as a kid I had an LP of great singers of the past. It had a number of singers on G&T records singing. Tamagno sounded so ridiculous on this record. Caruso sounded like a little boy and a few others sounded rather strange. The fact is that they played those original records at 78 RPM and transcribed them to the LP at that speed.  The album of mine made by RCA just took it for granted that a 78 record played at 78. Well few did! The sad part of the early years of recording is that 78 was an objective, or a suggestion as to a speed to use. Most recordings made from 1900 to 1925 fail to be at this speed. What is worse the really early days 1900-1905 find records going from 64 to 82 RPM's often. There was no true regulation. Even recording engineers felt that certain speeds were good for certain singers!  I have found a large number of G&T recordings hovering around the upper 60's and rarely are they at 78.

This has caused a lot of problems for historians, music lovers, and those who wish to allow new generations to hear the voices from the past. By 1926 the speed issue was pretty well handled and all electric phonographs had the speed of 78 factored in it. But what of the earlier recordings? Many forgot that there was a great discrepancy in speeds, so by the 1950's when LP records came into forefront and there were lots of reissues of these early recordings, sadly played at 78.

Play a recording of Caruso at 85RPM and it sounds stupid and not correct. But play it at 75RPM where most of his recordings were made at and it sounds natural.  The same can be said of Tamagno. For ages we have played his records at 78 RPM and they sound laughable. But at a proper speed  his voice sounds as it should.

 Listen to the recordings were he does a spoken introduction and see where it sounds right. Plus we need to remember that he was not in the best of health when these recordings were made. So instead of trying to pitch these recordings to a certain piece of music we must remember he pitched many of the pieces down. Nothing unusual about that, Caruso did it with several of his recordings as well.

We have learned over the years that Caruso's early G&T's play at 67RPM. Suddenly he sounds correct and not causing everyone to wonder how did his voice change so.  With Tamagno's recordings I listened and used several factors.

1. All the music was pitched down at his request

2. The pianist for the recordings was Landon Ronald, who was very adept at changing keys.

3. They were recorded by the same people who did the Caruso recordings

As I played the records keeping all of the issues in mind I found that Tamagno's voice sound reedy and weird at 78 RPM. If I brought it down to around 68 RPM  his voice sounded amazing and rich. Keeping in mind that he was singing at a lower key and was in rather ill health. He would die in 1905

I brought some people over to the house and played the records at this speed and people were amazed at the sound of the voice and how natural it sounded. Not every recording was done at the same time and there are variations. But the major bulk of the 1903 sessions seem to me to be very good and make sense around the speed of 68 to 70 RPM's

I found his voice to be very attractive, and pleasant to listen to. Not like that RCA recording I had as a kid in which I could hear him singing ever so shrill. Through this I have found a new admiration of his voice and the quality of his singing.

I was reading an article saying that many think that his records should be played at 77 RPM. Some said 73RPM. I truly believe it is the slower speed I found, that shows off his amazing voice to it's best advantage.

So I enjoy his singing now at what I believe is close to the proper speed.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

TANK MAN ..The man who changed the world.

I have asked for years who this brave man was?  No one knows, nor will we ever know. He is as unknown as anyone from a distant past. But, he is not from the distant past. These images are from 1989!

This young man who was probably far younger than I changed the world by simply saying to a gathering of tanks.......ENOUGH!!!!!

 But both the man with his shopping bags, and the man in charge of this tank are unique parts to this story.

The China of 1989 is not existent anymore. Much due to the image of this man. Who was willing to stop not only a tank, but a squadron of them. Saying most probably, get out of my city. This image has inspired people all over the world, except China. Where it is still not very well known.

The riots in Tienanmen Square shook the world to it's very core. The results of the riots have changed China and improved it greatly.

I showed this photo to a Chinese Graduate from Beijing University in 2007 who had just arrived in the United States. He had never seen it before and was inclined to think it was a fabrication. This is how well this iconic image has been cloaked by the Chinese Government.

This image gave strength to the East Germans and to the Russian people as they faced down the crumbling communist government. While no one knew his name, or if he was alive was there with them. The spirit of Tank Man walks with us all. He faced the greatest force and stood up to it all. He is the inspiration of the word change.

To see how many tanks he was holding up see the image below.

One has to say something about the tank commander. He did not run over the young man, he did not try to shoot him, and he tried to get around him. When he saw that he could not, he shut off the tanks motor.

There are just a few images of this brave young, unknown man. There is no information on the tank commander either.  All is lost to us. In a way both are heroes in their own way.

I always dreamed that by the 25th anniversary of this massive riot, we would know who he was. But today this man who walked among us and did what none of us could is lost to us in history.   He was young, far younger than me I am sure at that time.

I often think of this young man and who he was.  He was probably a common man who had done a days work and saw this advance of the tanks. He had his shopping with him, he had no plans to stop the tank. But at a certain moment he rose beyond the ranks of a mere mortal and faced the greatest challenge. Who of us will ever be so noble or far advanced to do such a thing. He had no idea he was being filmed. The only film of him was stored in a toilet tank to hide it from the Chinese authorities.

This tells us one thing. There are many Tank Men and there will be many more.

But, this brave young man's image will be known when tanks are obsolete. When the communist government of China is no more and will inspire others to show that one person can make a difference.

To who ever you are, Tank Man, you have inspired me in ways I cannot put into words. You have changed a world and moved it forever forward.. More than you ever dreamed!

Thank you.