In spring 2012 I enrolled in a sound art course created by Professor Jay Needham at SIUC. During this course, we were given the unique opportunity to make sound recordings using Professor Needham's own personal vintage Meissner phono lathe. As a long time collector of vinyl and shellac records, I was excited to be given this opportunity. During the course, Professor Needham also introduced us to the work of SIU alum Alex Steyermark and his fantastic documentary film "The 78 Project." I was inspired by my experiences in the sound art course and I decided that I'd like to pursue a deeper understanding of the art of cutting phono discs. After taking the course, I purchased a Meissner unit identical to Professor Needham's and set out to restore it to working condition. I did some research and found an electronics guru named John Gunther in St Louis Missouri who was able to replace all of the electronics components that had failed in the unit over the past half century or more. After successfully restoring the Meissner unit, I conducted a long series of experiments and research. It was then that I became aware of the limitations of this consumer grade piece of sound recording equipment. I then set out to locate and purchase a recording lathe of higher quality that is capable of cutting phono discs of a much higher fidelity and amplitude. Professor Needham and I co-purchased a vintage 1940's Presto K8 recording lathe that is identical to the unit used by Alan Lomax when he made his famous excursions across the United States capturing various styles of American music onto phono discs. I then conducted an independent study under the advisement of Professor Needham to learn about the vintage technology of electronic tube circuits in order to teach myself to restore, repair, and maintain these often fickle and quirky old sound recording machines. After completing my independent study, I was able to restore the Presto K8 unit to perfect working condition. In the meantime, I also purchased and restored yet another, even higher quality Rek-o-kut Imperial II unit, which is a larger and more precise phono recorder, yet not nearly as portable as the Meissner or the Presto K8. Since then I have been using these relics of sound recording history to document a number of the resident musicians of Southern Illinois. Below is a selection of the phono disc recordings I've collected thus far. All were recorded direct to phono disc at 78rpm. I have digitized them here for your listening enjoyment.
To be continued...
Randy Hill and Tyson Connor: "I Wish I'd Gone To College"
Recorded in March 2014 in the anechoic chamber at SIUC
The Whistle Pigs: "Lighten Up"
Recorded in April 2014 at Misunderstudio in Murphysboro, IL
The Well, Well, Wells: "Hold That Train"
Recorded in March 2013 at Billy Dan Langley's home in Murphysboro, IL
The Flowers of Evil: "Dreamhead"
Recorded in March 2014 at Dan Tejada's home in Murphysboro, IL
Jenny and the Johnsons: "Bluebird"
Recorded in March 2014 in the anechoic chamber at SIUC.
The Swamp Tigers: "Lost, Lonesome, and Alone"
Recorded in May 2014 at the Track One art gallery in Nashville, TN