Issue 90

Happy Landings!

Happy Landings!

Bill Leebens

Welcome to Copper #90!

By the time you read these, the 50th anniversary of the moon landing will have come and gone, and my landing in Oakland for the California Audio Show will also have come and gone. Next issue I'll bring some of the highlights from the show. I'm afraid I don't have anything to say about the moon landing that hasn't been said a million times before.

In this issue: Dan Schwartz looks at how we all shine on; Richard Murison notes some observations from his most recent trip to the UK; Jay Jay French expresses his appreciation for the Dave Clark Five; Roy Hall visits a totally unglamorous place, for once; Anne E. Johnson’s Off the Charts brings us hidden gems from Spandau Ballet; Woody Woodward continues his in-depth piece on Django Reinhardt with Act 4; Anne’s Something Old/Something New looks at recent recordings of works by Guillaume de Machaut. I examine the perils of overabundance of music in The Audio Cynic, and in Vintage Whine, we look at the short-lived '70s high-end brand, Quintessence. You may not know the brand, but it's a very interesting story.

I'm happy to bring you the first Revolutions Per Minute column from J.I. Agnew; this piece starts with the basics of record-making.

Remember Ken Fritz, who told us all about how he built an enormous listening room and five channels of mammoth speakers, all from scratch? Well, Ken needed a turntable to complete his system---and it probably won't surprise you that he devoted just as much attention to the 'table as he did to everything else. This amazing story will take a few installments to tell. We've got Part 1 in this issue.

Copper #90 wraps up with Charles Rodrigues as the life of the partyand a distinctive Parting Shot from our friend Rich Isaacs.

Finally, a sad note: music and audio industry veteran Jeremy Kipnis passed away recently in a drowning accident. Jeremy was the son of keyboardist/music critic Igor Kipnis, and grandson of the legendary operatic basso Alexander Kipnis. Jeremy was also a contributor to Copper, having written "Records as Time Machines", which appeared in Copper #76, and was reprinted by the German magazine Fidelity in their English-language edition. Jeremy and I had been in touch recently regarding an article he was writing for us about his grandfather, and I'm sorry that we won't be seeing that.

The greater loss, of course, is that of Jeremy himself. He was unique: talented, knowledgeable, and passionate, and yet--- a total goofball, with the energy and enthusiasm of a tweenager.

He will be missed by many---including me.


Abandoned in Occidental

Abandoned in Occidental

Abandoned in Occidental

Rich Isaacs

The Rise, Fall, and Resurgence of the Vinyl Record

The Rise, Fall, and Resurgence of the Vinyl Record

The Rise, Fall, and Resurgence of the Vinyl Record

J.I. Agnew

Two of the world’s leading chip manufacturers have recently announced moving on to 5 nm manufacturing. Nanotechnology and micromachining are becoming hot keywords in technical and scientific publications. Micro Electro Mechanical Systems are being built with tiny features of just a few dozen µm, finding application in highly specialized equipment “for the government”….With all this excitement, one would think we have only recently made such micro manufacturing possible!

When the National Association of Broadcasters first published their “NAB Audio Recording and Reproducing Standards for Disc Recording and Reproducing”, in 1942, they essentially called for exactly this level of manufacturing, which was routinely achieved since the end of the 19th century and had escalated into a large industry by the early part of the 20th century! Since the advent of electrical sound recording in the very early 1930’s, special machine tools, called disk recording lathes, were able to cut grooves 12.7 µm (0.0005″) deep, at a pitch of up to 300 LPI (lines per inch), modulated by sound. The faintest sounds, which could subsequently be audibly reproduced, were represented by amplitudes of mechanical displacement of a couple of nm! To put this into perspective, 1 nm = 0.000000039″ and the wavelength of visible light ranges from just over 700 nm at the red end to just under 400 nm at the violet end.

Not only was it possible to machine grooves on such a micro-nano scale, by traditional mechanical means, but it was already possible, in the 1930’s, to manufacture disk recording lathes and cutter head transducers, using good old fashioned traditional machining operations, attaining the required degree of accuracy, using the measurement instruments available at the time. None of that CNC, LASER, simulation software, micromachining, nanotechnology, ceramics, superconductors, additive picoalloys, blockchain…. Sorry, my random keyword generator just experienced a gap in the time-space continuum.

In fact, the Neumann VMS70, one of the most widely used disk mastering lathes of all time, introduced in 1970, was essentially the mechanical assembly of the Neumann AM31, introduced in 1931 as Neumann’s first lathe offering, along with a basic automation system to control the lathe’s cutting parameters. Likewise with Scully, who was already in business in 1920, making acoustic recording lathes prior to the invention of electronic amplification.The mechanical design of their lathe remained practically unchanged from 1930 to 1976, when the LS-76 was introduced.

Neumann and Scully, being the only two manufacturers remaining in business past the 60’s, are the better known names nowadays. But several other lathes had been and some even still remain in professional use, such as my modified Fairchild lathe from the early 1930’s, featured in the Vintage Whine column in Copper #89.

It is safe to say that the vast majority of the outstanding examples of vinyl records in existence, were cut on 1930’s technology.

Even motional feedback transducers had already been invented by 1937. The early design concepts proved so perfectly adequate, that no effort was ever expended in improving upon them. Even in the 70’s, the changes were mainly in the form of modern restyling, keeping the original mechanical features intact, while developing more advanced automation systems, allowing less skilled operators to cut functional records, lowering the labor costs, in line with the times.

By that time, there were several other sound recording technologies available, which were deemed more convenient (not to say cheaper) for many applications. With only two surviving manufacturers of lathes, the extreme accuracy required and the development of elaborate automation systems, a disk mastering system was by no means a small investment. These systems were unbelievably expensive, large, heavy and fragile. There were very few facilities in the world who could have one, very few skilled cutting engineers and almost nobody who could work on these machines, should repairs be required.

The situation was very different prior to the 1950’s. Jack Mullin had returned from the war with this most secret German technology, the Magnetophon, and it would still take a few years before tape machines would become widely available. Up until then, disk recording was generally seen as the most practical and viable form of sound recording for most applications. Not all applications involved music or any serious expectation of sound quality, enabling the use of simpler equipment. A major application for disk recording lathes was the requirement for radio stations in several countries to “log” their entire program. This was a huge boost for the lathe industry and a huge loss when this field eventually was taken over by tape recording equipment.

There was a time when nearly every industrialized nation of the world had at least one manufacturer of disk recording lathes. These were usually smaller and simpler systems, which were widely used in recording studios, radio stations, educational establishments and even in the homes of the more affluent, as “hobby” recording machines. There were several thousand people cutting records on a regular basis, although most of these were not intended for mass production. More commonly, one-off records were cut, rather than masters for subsequent processing. There were several facilities in every major city, offering to record radio jingles on to disk, copy the original disk to a few more disks, cut one by one and distributed to radio stations.

At the same time, there was the world of mass manufacturing by record companies, for sale to the general public. This again would start by cutting the “master” disks on a lathe. The bigger and more expensive lathes were generally reserved for “mastering” work. These masters would then be electroplated, to derive metallic “negatives”, which would still retain all the nano-scale groove undulations. A set of negatives, called “stampers”, would then be mounted in the molds of a steam-heated, water-cooled, hydraulic press, which would press multiple copies of the record.

In this sector, there were always far fewer lathes than presses and far fewer disk mastering engineers than press operators, since one set of masters could produce several sets of stampers and each set of stampers could produce at least a thousand records.

As magnetic tape recording replaced disk recording, the smaller and simpler lathes went out of vogue and their production ceased. The only sector where lathes were still needed was in the mass manufacturing of records, to cut masters. But there were many perfectly good mastering lathes already in use, built sturdily enough to run for centuries. The demand for lathes was, by now, rather small and the demand for new cutting engineers even smaller.

Aftermarket automation systems could be purchased from a few different sources and retrofitted to older lathes, keeping them up-to-date with the newest offerings.

All in all, there were probably around 150 cutting engineers remaining around the world. It went from cutting records being synonymous to sound recording, where everyone involved in sound recording was expected to know how to cut records, to it assuming the status of an obscure art, practiced only by very few behind closed doors in secret laboratories hidden deep under ground. As with anything of such rare nature, it became surrounded by hype and mythology.

The great paradox is that while vinyl records were seen as consumer goods, available in large quantities and at low cost, the tools and processes used in their manufacture were among the most accurate in existence, requiring considerable skill and expense. Even the final product itself was a precision instrument, similar in many ways to diffraction gratings for spectroscopy, though the latter were never intended as low cost consumer goods!

From this perspective, there were several “issues” with the vinyl record as a product for mass consumption. It was not actually that cheap to manufacture, due to the extreme precision required. It required skilled engineers to cut masters, who were in short supply, expecting a skilled engineer’s fee for the services.

The process did not lend itself to complete automation. The human factor could not be eliminated, as modern trends were dictating. The resulting product was large, heavy and sensitive, making it expensive to transport and store, taking up considerable display real estate in retail, making it impractical to manufacture at a convenient location (with a favorably inexpensive and preferably unskilled workforce) and ship all over the world from there.

While the engineers involved in their manufacture were really proud about the low product cost they had managed to achieve for such a complex process, the consumers and merchants were complaining about the “expensive” prices.

The times they did a-change and new technology was invented, making the consumer formats for the distribution of music progressively smaller, lighter, cheaper, less fragile, easier and faster to manufacture, more automated and less dependent on the human factor, up until the point when distribution formats entirely left the physical domain with its old-fashioned manufacturing processes behind… Easiest, fastest, cheapest, free…wait….what? Scully stopped manufacturing lathes by the late 70’s and Neumann stopped in 1985, shortly after introducing the Direct Metal Mastering system. Since then, nobody has designed or manufactured a new mastering lathe. The industry went the way of the dinosaur. Pressing plants either moved on to CD/DVD manufacturing or went out of business, or both. Lathes and record presses were sent to the crusher, or even in one famous case, dumped in the sea, where they still remain to date, appreciated by aquatic life forms keen on obsolete industrial machinery to breed inside.

Magnetic tape formats went the same way and even optical media are now fading out.

But then, magically, the vinyl record came back!

The author, inspecting a master cut on a heavily-modified 1940 Neumann-based system.

Some people were apparently immune to the general business short-sightedness at the time and had simply powered down entire pressing plants without disassembling them. These were promptly powered up again and were immediately overwhelmed with demand, running at full capacity. Presses and lathes were pulled out of barns, basements, yards, oceans, and deserts and repaired. A few years later, new presses were on offer. There are now at least four companies in different countries, manufacturing record presses and other record manufacturing equipment. Major audio equipment manufacturers are introducing new turntables and cartridges, while the “classic” brands are being bought up and the iconic models of yesteryear reissued.

But, what is up with lathes? No lathes yet. The entire industry is still running on 1930’s technology, which, in the hands of a suitably skilled engineer, can still sound unbelievably good. A new generation had to figure out, pretty much from scratch, how to make records. The knowledge and experience had nearly become extinct.

Compression molding (pressing) and electroplating (galvanics) are widely used in many other sectors for the economic mass production of consumer goods, so this was not as tricky to rediscover, hence the offerings of new equipment.

However, cutting micro-grooves to nano-scale accuracy, even in 2019, still remains quite a challenge. There are still very few disk mastering engineers around and the hype is hotter than ever.

Wizards and witches wearing pointy hats, complete with long cloak and pet dragon on shoulder, snow-white beard or long white hair, dragging on the floor of their cave (or was it a castle?) as they approach their medieval machines, smoking test tubes and little glass vessels containing fluorescent liquids all around, cauldron simmering over the fire, permanent fog even inside the alchemastering engineer’s laboratory, the occasional bat flying around at 78 rpm.

Poor Editor Leebs had to be parachuted off to the valley of eternal darkness, climb mountains, cross rivers and swim through the mote of my castle faster than the alligators, to then have to walk all the way back with this handwritten manuscript, if the vampire vultures don’t get him…

Ok, enough hype. You get the idea.

To dispel some of the hype, it is certainly not the case that there is no room for improvement. Engineers who would be capable of designing a new lathe, outperforming existing machines, definitely exist, even if usually found very gainfully employed in other sectors. It is not magic, just science, engineering, and craftsmanship. This is a perfect example of a process which has never actually reached a technologically-imposed limit. The limit to what can reasonably be achieved has always been and still remains economically imposed. The vast majority of commercial album releases on vinyl do not come anywhere near approaching the full potential of the medium, even to the limited extent in which this has already been explored, due to cost considerations.

But, this is not just about records. We urgently need a radical departure from the cheaper-cheapest-fastest-easiest mindset which has invaded the music industry, if we are to prevent technological, artistic, intellectual and even economic stagnation.

Spandau Ballet

Spandau Ballet

Spandau Ballet

Anne E. Johnson

The London punk scene was wearing some musicians out. People like songwriting guitarist and keyboardist Gary Kemp, who wanted to seem like a rebellious musician, but not in the same old Sex Pistols mold (much as he loved them). He valued Frank Sinatra and the burgeoning dance club scene equally. And that, it turned out, was his rebellious streak. Kemp and sax player Steve Norman started Spandau Ballet in 1979, becoming pioneers in the New Romantic movement.

In retrospect, it sounds niche, but they managed an impressive ratio: 23 hit singles in the UK and European markets from only six studio albums over nine years. That gives you some idea of the impact of Spandau Ballet in the 1980s. They were exactly right for their time and place.

Kemp recruited his brother Martin Kemp to play bass. They were joined by the genre-defining voice of Tony Hadley (more on this later), the drums of John Keeble, along with Norman’s retro sax stylings. Spandau Ballet played the London underground dance clubs and soon became the house band at The Blitz, where pop-singer-turned-producer Steve Strange periodically hosted a dance night that attracted a vibrant subculture of young people who wanted to pull music and fashion beyond the punk aesthetic.

While Spandau Ballet never had the impact in the US that they did in the UK, their work inspired some of the biggest stars of the Second British Invasion, groups like Culture Club and Duran Duran, who tore up the American charts.

Chrysalis records was the victor among several major labels intrigued by Spandau Ballet’s early cult following. They released the band’s debut, Journeys to Glory, in 1981. The first single, “To Cut a Long Story Short,” pre-existed the main recording sessions, and was put out before the record. It hit No. 1 in the UK. Not a bad start.

One album-only track that was probably a surprise at the time is the instrumental “Age of Blows,” which opens with a bona fide hard-rock riff before twisting out into the world of synths.


But New Romantic normally needs a smooth vocal; here’s Hadley singing “Toys.” One interesting thing about New Romantic singers is that, unlike the classic crooners they aimed to emulate, these young British men barely use vibrato.

This is an interesting song compositionally. There’s an unexpected half-step in the downward scale that repeats throughout and gives the harmony an off-kilter feeling typical of New Wave.


In 1982, Diamond came out, and the experimentation continued. “Innocence and Science” demonstrates two trends in New Wave: the celebration of the nerds (note the sounds of bubbling lab beakers) and a fascination with world musics. Mainly instrumental, this song relies on an Azerbaijani instrument called a chang (it sounds sort of like a koto), and a few vocal whispers.


“Pharaoh” uses more vocals, but not in the usual sense of melody. Traditional songwriting structure does not apply either. The syncopated, almost monotone chorus first comes in at 2:05, then recurs once. Hadley finally comes in with more at 3:42. A third vocal idea shows up at 4:20.

It says a lot about the New Wave consumer that an album like this sold well. It’s not so much a matter of patience on the listener’s part (contrasted, say, to the 16-minute speculative fiction ballads by Rush, which were listened to intently by fans), as it is a willingness to bathe in the atmosphere of the music.


Spandau Ballet finally hit the US jackpot with 1983’s True. That’s probably a result of the jazz and R&B influence on this one. The biggest hit was the song “Gold.” This album is not their most original sound, but it’s important to mark on their timeline the changes that widened their appeal and put them in the mainstream.

The upbeat song “Foundation” sounds more George Michael than Brian Eno. As for the R&B vibe, it’s easy to imagine that phrase “Build it up” at the end of each chorus belted out by a soul singer. Frankly, it would probably have more power.


By the time of their 1984 album Parade, there’s no other genre label for Spandau Ballet but synthpop. Hadley has that smooth, back-of-throat sound down. The only thing that sets him apart from lesser singers going for the same effect (Simon Le Bon, for example) is his considered use of dynamics, which is rare in all types of pop music.

Long remixes of songs were an essential development in the ’80s, fueling and fueled by the dance club industry. Here’s the extended version of “With the Pride,” which seems to be an anthem for the working class. That’s their British punk roots showing.


With the next album, Through the Barricades (1986), the band has turned unabashedly serious and adult, fully aware of the world. Its sound is now more on the rock side (although critics at the time complained that the guitar and drum playing were too refined for the material). The title song, which was a UK hit, was about the troubles in Northern Ireland, inspired by the death of a crew member there.

“Man in Chains” uses a different kind of retro touch, almost a Billy Joel feel, using up-tempo rhythms – led by a bright, snare-filled drum beat – as a vehicle for rousing (but vague) social commentary.


Heart Like a Sky (1989) was only released in Europe and barely made a dent there. The band had run its course, although it achieved some interesting sonorities on “Windy Town.”


They called it quits in 1990. The non-Kemps sued Gary Kemp in 1999 for shared songwriting credits; they lost. In 2009, they all got back together and started touring again, in support of the aptly titled Once More. Eleven of the 13 cuts were re-recordings of older songs. The two new ones are too sickly sweet to play here. So let’s end with the spirited and appealingly funky new version of “I’ll Fly for You,” a bit reminiscent of Steely Dan this time around:


In 2017, Hadley quit, and they hired Ross William Wild as their lead singer. That lasted all the way to 2018, when Wild announced that he, too, was quitting. They have apparently not found a replacement, which suggest that they’re not really looking. Has the Ballet done its final act? In these days of rampant ’80s nostalgia, there’s plenty of financial incentive to lace up those toe shoes again, lads.


Header image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Andrew Hurley.

We All Shine On, Redux

We All Shine On, Redux

We All Shine On, Redux

Dan Schwartz

49 years ago, in the first international worldwide television broadcast, John Lennon sang to us, “There’s nothing you can do but you can learn how to play the game – it’s easy. All you need is love.” It was an invitation that opened doors through which millions flowed. Many years later Nelson Mandela suggested that what frightens us most is not the possible darkness inside us, but how unbearably bright we might shine.

We perform all our actions along a scale that exists between our purest state, love, and our most perfect state of resisting that love: fear. You can see that in so many of our endeavors, and very much so in the world of music and its interaction with business. Music is one of the purest expressions of human souls, the language of love, the voice of longing for God. It’s seemingly part of the nature of many people in business to be fearful, to be conservative (in the sense of conserving). We can all easily understand and empathize with the impulse to hold on to what we already have. But no innovation, no strides, have ever been made through that sort of conservative behavior. It’s always fallen to those in pursuit of a vision to take the risks and reap the rewards. (For example, the mere survival, let alone the triumph, in the present moment of Apple Computer in an environment, which a Darwinian perspective on business suggests would have eradicated it, proves the strength of individual vision, of the determination to deliver something better. Apple existed for some time not out of acting on fear, but out of acting on the vision of a few men’s vision).

The explosive flowering of music 50 years ago came not from business but from people, from hearts and minds opening across the culture — and the existing industry responded, often in the same understanding spirit (e.g. Warner Bros./Reprise’s reputation for being nurturing and artist-friendly). Music lovers ran the labels. But of course, things have changed, as our friend Bob Zimmerman says. The current state of business in our society is deeply mired in fear. There is a prevailing sense that things are getting worse and are going to get even worse, and that if you’re going to get what you can get, you better get it now.

My brother Peter Schwartz (then of Global Business Network), writing with collaborators, put forth an idea in Wired magazine in 1997 that they called “the Long Boom,” specifically to counter the fear that runs through those concerned with the state of economics in the West. His premise was that whatever the ups and down, we were in the midst of an overall rising tide, and that there is only reason for optimism when one takes the long view. (Steven Pinker makes a similar, although more convincing, argument about violence in the world). The bursting of the tech bubble appears to run counter to this idea and disprove it — perhaps it does. But if one looks at real estate (and note the word “real”) the irregular dips and peaks in home values are seen in a steadily rising line, even in places that are currently enduring the more conventional real estate bubble. When the world of speculation disappoints, people put their trust in the real, the tangible. We come back to our essential values, the things we know, and the intrinsically human. Like music — one of the essential human expressions.

The remains of the music business as it exists today aren’t in any condition to nurture this value; the functionaries who seek employment in it, and what’s worse, seek desperately to hold on to that employment out of fear, have demonstrated no ability to promote the well-being of the very life blood of the industry they’ve invaded. We got here the same way we got to this state in many other industries: by democracy. The responsibility of corporate officers to produce shareholder value may work in some industries to keep behavior within the company in line (though we should ask – in line with what? This is one of the essential questions asked in the American business world today, as we all recognize).

But we should also ask, does it necessarily mean that such industries need to work out of fear? In the music business, greed alone hasn’t been the over-riding concern: it’s been the increasing fearfulness for more than 40 years. And since international conglomerates took over the industry in the early 90s, it’s been fear of not meeting those quarterly expectations. This is by its very nature opposed to risk-taking; opposed to acting out of vision, opposed to acting out of love. Protecting market share has nothing to do with music. It led to a monolithic culture. It’s indeed hard to imagine how much more narrow the permissible range of music might become, but the permissible range of music-making has been reduced to one method – a computer manipulated hallucination of “perfection.”

And, regrettably, as the visionary musician and record-producer Brian Eno has stated, “musicians have shrunk to fit” this demand. Producers in their 30’s now complain (to me) that the bands they produce that are their age or younger can no longer play through a song in the studio but can only perform a brief part of a song once – they expect the technical staff to simply “loop” it in their computers to simulate performance.

In the meantime, those who came of age and entered music as their life at Lennon’s invitation have been shoved aside. Those who can write, who can sing, who can perform without the aid of computer crutches are deemed un-market-worthy. This makes perfect sense. They are older. Wider. Grayer. They have less hair. They might not look so good on YouTube or in a Calvin Klein underwear ad, which make them less useful for marketing synergy. But they are now deeper, more experienced human beings and they know how to make MUSIC. And the industry, so obsessed with its terror of failure, won’t let them in. The engineers who know the skill of recording a group of musicians playing together are aging and their skills aren’t being passed on. Today’s starting engineers know only how to plug in computer cables. They can’t set up microphones for a drum kit or a string quartet. These days, in the rare moments when an older musician gets hired to play on something new, they have to teach the engineer how to record their instrument. Long ago, I took control of getting my sound recorded.

The irony of this situation — which has become a tragedy — is that the remaining labels primary value is in back catalog, in the ownership of recordings by musicians who are no longer allowed in, recorded with methods that are considered outmoded. Older, imperfect and very human recordings are and remain these corporations’ strongest sellers year to year and yet the companies fear to find and release such music now. This is short-sightedness to a suicidal degree.

In 2001 a band that broke up 31 years before was the number one band in the country — with recordings all made between 1963 and 1970. Pop and rock music of 40 and 50 years ago is our new classical music. And I fear we are stuck in a semi-permanent loop of nostalgia.

The recording industry is and always has been about preserving magical moments in time. The worrisome part is that, in recording at least, there seem to be so few new magical moments.

30 Years

Richard Murison

I am an ex-Pat Brit, living in Canada for the last 30+ years. During that time I have been back to the UK many times, but this year I spent a very solid and busy month on Albion’s shores, and spent a lot of that time reminiscing with some of my (literally) oldest friends. So I thought it might be interesting to note down – in a mostly random fashion – some of the observations that have crossed my mind. I spent a lot of that time driving, as you might come to observe.

Traffic Lights

I seem to have spent an inordinate amount of time stopped at red traffic lights. They appear to have cropped up everywhere, most notably – and most alarmingly – in the middle of roundabouts. How do you explain to skeptical head-in-the-sand North Americans that roundabouts are a far more efficient traffic management system than traffic lights and stop signs, when up and down the UK we now find roundabouts with traffic lights in the middle of them? I mean, how bizarre is it when, to drive once around a roundabout, you find yourself having to stop at two or three red lights?

Traffic lights in the UK also now have a Murison sensor, which enables them to turn red as soon as I approach. On one trip across the city of Leicester, I had to stop at every single set of traffic lights. I am not kidding here! If it should turn out that the British have higher rates of elevated blood pressure, it would not surprise me one iota.


Tea is such a British thing. Stopping for tea at 3 o’clock. Every home having a teapot. The first thing that happens when you cross any British threshold is that the occupant puts the kettle on for a good old cuppa. You’d have every right to think that Great Britain is the Mecca for tea. The trouble is, you’d be soooooooo wrong. While it is true that the British consume heroic quantities of tea, that tea is of unspeakably dreadful quality. British tea is made from the lowest quality teabags that can be purchased at the lowest possible price. It doesn’t matter how much you warm the pot, whether you put the milk in first, last, or half way through, whether you stir it clockwise or anticlockwise, or whether you serve it in a proper porcelain cup. You can’t make anything other than dreadful tea from it.

In my month here I have not found a single shop that sells decent loose leaf tea. I’m not talking about places that sell frou-frou flavoured teas. I’m talking specialist tea shops that sell selections of Darjeeling, Assam, Ceylon, African teas, black and green Chinese teas of infinite variety, and so forth. In Montreal I have a fairly generous selection of top-quality tea shops I can go to, but I haven’t found a single one in my travels across the UK, where high-end cafes offer a choice of “Tea” or “Special Tea”…where “Special Tea” means either English Breakfast or Earl Grey – in a teabag. Not forgetting Yorkshire, of course, where they serve “Yorkshire Tea”, an otherwise identical cup of common-or-garden teabag tea.


Roundabouts in general are a brilliant traffic routing device – provided they are kept free of traffic lights. Four cars – one coming from each direction – can approach a single intersection equipped with a roundabout, and all four can drive straight through without stopping, barely needing to slow down sufficiently to synchronize with each other. It is a thing of balletic beauty. You don’t even need to construct an actual roundabout – all that is necessary is to paint a while blob in the middle of the intersection. I call them blobabouts. And they work just fine.

In Canada I have been in traffic jams going back miles, all caused by a single 4-way stop sign at an intersection with ne’er a single vehicle on either cross-street. We could do with roundabouts.

Boaty McBoatface

I rented a car for my time in the UK. I wanted something I could pilot comfortably along some of Great Britain’s famously narrow and twisty country lanes, but at the same time it had to accommodate four adults, plus, on occasion, a fair amount of luggage or a wheelchair. So I reserved a Volkswagen Passat…“or equivalent”. Now, I understand that you might not get the same exact vehicle as the one you reserved. You might end up with a Skoda, or a Hyundai, or a Toyota, or whatever, but it would at least approximate a Passat in form and function. But no, what I was given was Boaty McBoatface:

For those of you who are not familiar with it, the Seat Tarraco is a full-size SUV, and is not at all the same thing as a Volkswagen Passat even though, as it turns out, they share the same engine and transmission. Not only was it not remotely the same vehicle, but it also came without an Owners’ Manual. Considering that this vehicle is something like 90% App and only 10% Car – it has an iPad glued as some sort of afterthought to its dashboard – this proved to be a huge and ongoing frustration.

While car rental itself is quite cheap, simple add-ons like having your wife as a second driver, and buying a simple insurance waiver, come close to tripling the price! It turned out to be cheaper to rent a second vehicle for my wife (for the one week she needed to drive) than adding her name to Boaty McBoatface as a second driver.

Boaty McBoatface, like almost all European vehicles, came with a manual gearshift. Although I have driven nothing but automatics since coming to Canada, I have never been fazed by stick-shifts (or by right-hand drive for that matter) when coming back to England. But Boaty’s six-speed (plus reverse) gearshift grew remarkably old, remarkably quickly. Not only did I spend half of my vacation changing gears, but due to the rubbery gear selector I found myself selecting the wrong gear far more often than I might have expected – including finding reverse on multiple occasions while struggling to locate first. In all honesty, with modern double-clutch automatics – of European design to boot! – there is no good reason to want to cling to those clunky old manual transmissions.

Getting Lost

While Boaty McBoatface turned out to have a SatNav (which I discovered on Day 3, hidden deep in its menu system), it came with an unusably annoying lag. Shirley (the name we gave to the announcer) was apt to shout suddenly at you “Turn Left!!!” as you approached an insignificant left-side junction…followed a moment later by “… in four hundred yards”. So we turned Shirley off. This leaves you relying on the visual display on the impressively large iPad mounted high on the center console. But its display had a habit of zooming in and out on a whim, and whenever you really needed some detail it would inevitably be zoomed out and sometimes even rotated.

So we were reliant a lot on following road signs. Following the road signs is an adventure unto itself. You want to go to Nuneaton? No problem – just keep following the road signs to Nuneaton. But at some point Nuneaton disappears from the road signs. Poof!…it suddenly becomes a non-place, as though it had been sent to Coventry. You have instead choices such as Hinckley, Tamworth, or Market Bosworth, and you have to decide which of those might be nearest to Nuneaton. If you choose well, then after a while Nuneaton might reappear again on the road signs. Aha!…the A47 to Nuneaton is the 2 o’clock exit on a 7-road roundabout with three sets of traffic lights half way round it, plus a spiral pattern of lane markings which are designed specifically to funnel you inexorably towards the wrong exit.


Good British bitter is, quite simply, the best beer in the world, bar none. And yes, a proper pint should be served at room temperature and be totally flat. Chilling and fizzing are marketed as being positive “refreshing” attributes, and on a blisteringly hot summer’s day there is an argument to be made for that. But, global warming notwithstanding, blisteringly hot summers days are the exception rather than the rule, and all that chilling and fizzing accomplishes is to take a bland and mostly tasteless brew and mask its unappealing flavor. I mean, seriously – take a Budweiser, shake the COout of it, and let it warm up. It is revolting.

40+ years ago, proper British beer was disappearing fast, and was being replaced by mass-produced bulk beer, chilled and carbonated, from the brewing conglomerates. Hands up any of you who remember Double Diamond! In 1971 a grass-roots movement sprung up, calling itself the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). It became an instant success, developing a huge and widespread influence long before the advent of Social Media, and within a very short time had a powerful and highly visible impact on British beer consumption. CAMRA laid down some clear yet strong guidelines for what was needed for a beer to be called ‘Real Ale’ and while there is still a fair amount of mass-produced beer on offer (mostly Lagers and other non-‘bitter’ brews) it is rare today that you come across a pub that does not offer a selection of proper Real Ales. And they are truly magnificent beers.

So Sad

I’ll just report this observation, and move on. It was quite depressing just how many young mothers you see pushing a baby around in a stroller – while smoking a cigarette.

A World on An Island

It is an amazing attribute of the British Isles that it manages to cram so much scenery – indeed so much dramatically different scenery – into its limited space. I’m not sure there is any other place on earth that can make such a claim, but please feel free to weigh in on that! Arguably, unless you live near to either Land’s End or John O’Groats, the whole of the Country lies within a comfortable day’s drive.

In most parts of the Country you will be at most a couple of hours drive from flat, arable countryside to your choice of rolling hills, majestic dales, mountains, lakes, or beaches. The city of Manchester, for example, is but a 1–2 hour drive from such attractions as the Lake District, the seaside town of Blackpool, the famous Yorkshire dales, the Peak District, or even Mount Snowdon in Wales.

Public Footpaths

Another wonderful attribute the UK possesses is its network of Public Footpaths, designated rights-of-way that cover most of the country at a very dense level. Although Public Footpaths pass through private land, common law requires that the landowner grant the public unfettered access in perpetuity, including means of access and egress, signposting, and protection from hazards such a grazing bulls. No landowner can ever build over a public footpath, and detailed maps (such as the popular “Ordnance Survey” maps) provide detailed routings for hikers and other enthusiasts. The Public Footpath network forms a unique and quite magnificent way to enjoy the highly varied scenery at your leisure, and what’s more, it is no coincidence that most of the paths wend their way past a conveniently located Country Pub or two en route!

It’s Expensive!

There’s no avoiding this, but the cost of living in the UK is punishingly high, especially for the North American visitor. For almost all of your incidental spending while in the UK on vacation, you will find yourself spending Pounds as though they were Dollars. That cup of strong, but cardboard-flavored tea in an everyday tea shop will set you back £1.90 – for a pot of hot water with a tea bag in it. Or £2.30 for “Special Tea”! Eating relatively ordinary pub food – served in American quantities – will set you back a small fortune. And where Indian restaurants used to be really cheap in my youth, that is no longer the case!

Petrol/Gasoline is also prohibitively expensive. This is why Diesel is so overwhelmingly popular. Boaty McBoatface, a full-size SUV, was equipped with a 2.0 turbodiesel engine, but managed an average of over 50 MPG for the duration of my trip, while at the same time having what seemed to be perfectly adequate reserves of grunt (sadly balanced by various inadequacies on the refinement scale). I was blown away by that, although none of my British friends deemed it at all worthy of note.

Please Come Again

My wife comes to England every summer to visit her 94-year-old mother. I don’t normally come, but this year I decided to tag along. I pigtailed onto it a one-week tour around Scotland with my daughter, which meant my wife’s stay was a solid week longer than usual. But at the end of it all we said our teary goodbyes, “this could be for the last time” being the unspoken undertone, as it always has been for the last decade or more.

Take care of her,” she told me, “she’s very precious to me.”

And to me too!” I replied.

I hope you come again next year” she added.

Wow, I thought. She’s never said that before. “I might” was the best I could manage.

She stays longer when you come.”

The Dave Clark Five

The Dave Clark Five

The Dave Clark Five

Jay Jay French

When writing this column, I frequently close my eyes and go back to certain times in my life – in this case 1964 post Beatles arrival – and try to channel my memory as to how the arrival of the Beatles and the entire British Invasion affected my life. It is nearly impossible to explain the incredible emotional disparity between the year 1963 (the year Kennedy was assassinated) and 1964 (the year the Beatles arrived).

These events, separated by only 2 months, took me, along with millions of my peers, from the lowest low to the highest high.

But it wasn’t just the Beatles arrival, it was the entire change of the music scene. Seemingly overnight, our AM radios were overtaken by new heroes.

The first post-Beatles band to hit the airwaves and come crashing into my consciousness was the Dave Clark Five with the song “Glad All Over”.

I remember watching the evening news every night after the arrival of the Beatles and listening for any Beatles news updates. Only 2 weeks after the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan, with 3 songs in the top 10 (“I want to Hold Your Hand”, “She Loves You”, and “Please Please Me”), bands such as the Searchers with “Needles and Pins”, the Swinging Blue Jeans with “Hippy Hippy Shake”, and the Dave Clark Five with “Glad All Over” were now in the top 30 on WABC, my local radio station.

The national news shows disregarded the Searchers & the Swinging Blue Jeans (I don’t know why) and concentrated on the Dave Clark Five: “The English rock ‘n’ roll band that can knock the Beatles off of the top of the charts!”

Perhaps it just made for good television, but I remember that newsreel footage showed thousands of young girls screaming at a Dave Clark Five concert in the UK and the announcer saying that the DC5 were going to be the next Beatles.

It certainly looked like Dave Clark Mania was coming!

And, why not?

“Glad All Over” was power pop at its most intense.

The song just drove through the radio like a jet engine, and the machine-like pounding of the drums along with the vocals by Mike Smith was so self-assured and commanding that it almost made you feel like you were at a parade and had to stand at attention! The Sax added yet another element to the powerful sound.

The song was mesmerizing as it poured out of my little transistor radio with the 1-inch speaker, and, in my memory, the song went to number one.

It had to have.

It didn’t.

Here’s the thing:

I don’t have a scientific study of the following analysis, but here it goes…

Today, if you asked my peers (those who were born in the early 1950’s and were most affected by the music of the British Invasion) to tell you which British Invasion band was the next one to reach number one in the US after the Beatles, my guess is that most would say the Rolling Stones.


Because most people, out of habit, mention these 2 bands (the Beatles and the Stones) together as a quick historical reference.

But the Stones didn’t have their first number one, “Satisfaction”, until the summer of 1965. That is a year and a half after the Beatles hit number one with “I Want to Hold Your Hand”.

A year and a half….

So, I’m sitting at my desk writing this appreciation of the Dave Clark Five thinking that “Glad All Over” had to be the first post-Beatles British Invasion band to hit number one.

When I researched and found that it didn’t, I thought for sure the follow up “Bits and Pieces” went to number one…nope.

Neither did (among others):

“Do You Love Me”
“Can’t You See That She’s Mine”
“Any Way You want it”
“Catch Us If You Can”
“You Got What It Takes”

I remember these songs like it was yesterday.

I would have bet the farm that many, if not all, went to number one on WABC in New York City.

To further illustrate the immense popularity of the DC5,the ani here is yet another example:

The Ed Sullivan show, the show that “broke the Beatles” in the US and remained the most influential outlet for almost all of the British Invasion bands, had the Dave Clark Five on 18 times (more than any other rock act)!

The Beatles only appeared on the Ed Sullivan show 9 times.

This only underscores how big the DC5 were from 1964-1966.

I went back to watch the videos for this article and what I saw was a band of incredible musicians with an almost militaristic and regimented single-minded approach to style and presentation that belied a professionalism probably unequalled by all (except the Beatles) of the other British Invasion bands.

Dave Clark, on the drums, seemed to preside over a machine, and he knew the results of that kind of performance discipline.

The bands stage choreography and dress code further underscored the detail that band leader Dave Clark imposed to create a monolithic impression.

I also now understand his effect on the E Street band’s drummer Max Weinberg.

Max sits on his drum throne, the same way Dave Clark did, and plays with that same kind of command and determination!

So, getting back to my memory of the importance of the DC5 in the chronological hierarchy of British Invasion bands, this is what I learned:

The next British Invasion artist to hit number one after the Beatles was Peter and Gordon with “World Without Love”, followed by “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” from Manfred Mann, and then “House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals.

Also hitting number one before the DC5 were Freddy and the Dreamers and Gerry and the Pacemakers.

Amazingly, the Dave Clark Five finally hit the number one spot (and they only did that once in the US) with the song “Over and Over” in November 1965, almost 2 years after the Beatles hit the US.

Unlike the Beatles, the DC5 never morphed into an album band, and because of that they have a limited historical impact on the music scene and the evolution of the British Invasion bands.

That is unfortunate, as they are certainly one of the greatest of all British Invasion bands that helped redefine the music of the ’60s.

I love them!

A Turntable of my Own, Part 1

A Turntable of my Own, Part 1

A Turntable of my Own, Part 1

Ken Fritz
Copper #72, #73, and #74. In that series of articles, Ken described how he cut down trees on his property, milled, planed, and cured the lumber, then built his listening room and five towering speakers. Well, Ken didn't have a turntable to go with that incredible system---so naturally, he had to build one himself, to the same standard as all his other constructions. This is the story of that turntable---Ed.> The first step in beginning a new project is constructing the pattern from which the fiberglass mold will be laminated. The above picture shows the various sheets of ¾” MDF (medium density fiber board), that is glued and clamped together. After the clamps are removed and the excess glue is sanded from the sides of the block, a layout is drawn on the top surface of the pattern. The next step is to cut the angles so that we can proceed along the lines of building up the pattern. Since a fiberglass mold will be pulled off this pattern, a two-degree angle is machined on all sides so the part can be easily removed from the finished fiberglass mold. If the two-degree draft is not cut on the sides of the pattern, the fiberglass mold will lock on and the two can never be separated. Shown above is one of the three blocks machined out to replicate the size and shape of the three arm pods. Two-degree draft is being sanded on all of the surfaces to ensure that the final pattern can be demolded from the fiberglass mold. Pictured above is the overall design of the table plinth with the 3 arm pods correctly positioned before being glued together. The arm pods, as you may be able to tell, have also been cut with two-degree draft on all sides. This photograph shows the application of a thin sheet of slate textured formica on alternating edge surfaces of the three arm pods and center pattern section. This is being applied just for aesthetic reasons so that the final part does not have an antiseptic, industrial look to it. Here we see the three tone arm pods being glued to the center section of the pattern. This shows the finished pattern temporarily bonded to a glass plate. Then clay is put in the joint between the glass plate and the pattern with a 1/64” radius. This will prevent the epoxy gel coat from seeping under the pattern. A production mold can now be made from this pattern. Before the pattern can be sprayed with a grey surface coat, it must be coated with a mold release agent so that the two pieces can be separated when the lamination is completed. Here we see a polyester gel coat being sprayed to all surfaces of the pattern. You will notice dark areas around the edges and corners of the part being laminated. This is a mixture of polyester resin, cotton flock, and glass beads to form a paste that is brushed on all of the rough surfaces, inside and outside edges, and corners of the pattern. This is applied in order to prevent air bubbles from being formed in these areas during the first lamination of fiberglass, which you see depicted in this picture. In a few days, multiple layers of fiberglass and resin have been applied over the pattern to a thickness of approximately 3/16” of an inch. This becomes the performance surface of the final mold. In order to rigidize and stabilize all of the fiberglass surfaces that have been applied to the pattern, we will bond ¾” MDF pieces to all surfaces. The final step in finishing the production mold is to apply a box that is bonded with a polyester paste to the wooden reinforcement pieces that were applied to the 3/16” thick fiberglass laminate. The mold is now completed and the molding will be the next step. Here we see the pattern around which the production mold has been laminated. The glass plate has been removed and we are now ready to separate the pattern from the production mold. Here we see the production mold after the pattern (light grey color) has been removed. The production mold (dark color) will now be sanded, polished, and prepared to laminate the plinth for the turntable. Above you see the picture of the fiberglass part that has been laminated off the prepared master mold in the previous picture. It was laminated with the same fiberglass materials as was the production mold, but to a laminate thickness of ¼”. It was then trimmed out, polished, and placed on the board you see above so that it can be used to produce a replica shape of what will be machined from solid aluminum. The MDF sub-plate you see pictured above will be sent to a machinist who will duplicate this part 1 ½” thick type 6061 aircraft aluminum. Ed.>

Django, Act 4

WL Woodward

In 1940 the Nazi war machine engulfed France and Paris in a cloud of black smoke. Misery came to freedom lovers everywhere, not just the continent. The silver lining was jazz. The Swing Era arrived in full force at the same all over Europe, including German households.

Joseph Goebbels, ever the master puppeteer, personally hated jazz and especially Swing but he understood its power. He knew better than to ban this music that had swept people everywhere, including Germans. He also knew he had to control it. The possibility of displacing the idolatry for the Fuehrer in the hearts of the people with a love for a music worshipping freedom was a dangerous subversion that had to be controlled. He created the Propagandastaffell to censure anything cultural, including literature and music.

Somehow Django Reinhardt, despite being a hated Gypsy, was vetted and approved for playing in nightclubs. This was helped by his overwhelming popularity and demand. Hitler wanted to show the world Paris remained the City of Lights and to showcase the Nazi occupation as a beacon of natural order. So Django slipped through this crack and began what was ironically one of the more lucrative periods of his career.

Reinhardt reformed his band without Grappelli, adding a drummer, Pierre Fouad, and clarinetist Hubert Rostaing to replace the violin. The Nouveau Quintette du Hot Club de France. They started a long stint at the Cinema Normandie and Django suddenly had more money than he’d had in his life. He and Naguine settled into a plush apartment on the Champs-Elysee.

The new setup suited Django very well. He was already famous in French jazz circles and all his musicians were in awe of him and followed him faithfully. As wonderful as the musical brotherhood created with Stephane, Django always chafed at not always being the center of attention and petulantly angered when at times the old quintet would be introduced as Stephane Grappelli and his Quintette. Having his own devoted group inspired him and spurred his creativity to new levels.

Rostaing would speak later about the sheer improvisation of this period, Django tapping his foot and the band having no idea what they were going to play or in what key. Reinhardt would launch into a song and by the end of four bars you had to be on the bus.

There is a wonderful story of the quintet playing at La Doyen and Django was wistfully looking over the lights of the city when he suddenly comes to a new song. He turned to the band and explained the rudiments and launched. The result, “Lentement, Mademoiselle”.  By the way, this video states Grappelli and the old quintet but that’s obviously Rostaing on clarinet.


Magnifique, n’est pas? Hey! That’s French!

Despite his success Reinhardt lived in continuing fear his days were numbered and one day the Nazis would wake up and put him and his family into one of the dreaded camps. It wasn’t as though he was working in a vacuum. There were German officers and soldiers at his shows in abundance. His band, like all others, still had to submit each night’s playlist to the Propagandastaffell for cultural approval, so the watchful eye never slept. To deal with the censors Charles Delauney of the Hot Club, who would always be a central figure in Django’s journey, would change the names of the songs to non-descript French titles to slide past the Propagandastaffell police.

In October 1940, Hugues Panassie brought Andres Segovia back for an engagement in Paris and decided to get the Spanish classical master to meet Django again. This time Segovia was enthralled. It’s amazing how notoriety can get a man’s attention and make him listen. At the last encounter, Reinhardt was a dirtbag itinerant musician with a banged-up guitar. This time Django was the toast of Paris and Segovia was impressed. Go figure.

October 1, 1940, The Nouveau Quintette debuted at a large concert hall and they played a new composition “Nuages”. Meaning clouds, the song carried a sense of dreaming in the clouds and of surviving hardship which everyone understood. The audience went crazy and made the band play it 3 times. The song became a hit and made Django a national hero, which just made Reinhardt more nervous. Notoriety he craved with a passion and feared continually.

Recorded in December 1940, “Nuages”.


Ironically, 1941 through 1944 were great touring and recording years. Django was experimenting with rhythms and accompanists as can be heard in “Nuages”.

On June 6, 1944, the Allies landed at Normandy and headed towards liberating Paris. As the Allies advanced the Nazis laid explosives all over Paris waiting for an order from Hitler to burn the city to the ground. When the Allies were about to take Paris Hitler gave the order. But the head of the Wehrmacht General Von Choltiz ignored the order and instead surrendered Paris. Good on ya Von.

But once again, everything changed.

Charles de Gaulle, who had spent the war in London, came back in triumph to a war worn city, exhausted and hungry. There was a pushback on anything that reminded of the war, including the music. De Gaulle closed dance halls and nightclubs, Swing became regarded as reminders of the bad days, and “Nuages”, along with Django, lost popularity.

Paradoxically this post war period found Reinhardt and the Quintette free but broke.

They were saved by the US Army Air Corps.

The German officers and soldiers were replaced by American officers and soldiers, all clamoring for jazz and, specifically, Swing. Glenn Miller had convinced the Special Service office during the war that playing for the troops was important to morale and now a lot of these musicians were stationed in and around Paris. The Special Service wing, influenced by Miller, hired Reinhardt and his band to play for the troops all over Europe. Hired for a special jazz concert at L’Olympia, Django and company were waiting their turn backstage. A GI in uniform walked by Django, did a double-take, and rushed up to him grasping his hand. The GI gushes “I saw you in 1939 in Paris!” Fred Astaire, who was also on the bill.

Swing Records was still in business and Reinhardt was able to record with some of the best swing musicians around, as these bands were over playing for the troops. From 1944 we have “Artillerie lourde”.  Because of Special Service rules, the musicians were not allowed payment for recording or playing nightclubs, so they changed their names for the recording. But there is no doubt which band these guys came from.


The Miller musicians played with Reinhardt at Bal Tabarin in early 1945. Mel Powell sat in and gave up, finally closing the lid on his piano to listen to Django.

On January 25, 1945, recording with a small group of Miller guys and Mel Powell, Django recorded “Stompin at the Savoy”.


In October 1945, Stephane Grappelli telephoned Delauney looking for Django. Reinhardt was in the office and Delauney handed over the phone. What ensued was laughter filled conversation and plans to reunite the old Quintette. Reinhardt traveled to London to rehearse for 6 shows at the BBC. Django got sick and had to return to Paris, but not before the two recorded together. From the EMI Studios on Abbey Road on January 25, 1946, “La Marseilles”.


This recording caused quite a stir, especially back in France, and was denounced as being anti-patriotic. Nothing could be further from the truth, to which Jimi Hendrix could attest.

In September 1946, the Nouveaux Quintette was on tour in Switzerland. An agent from William Morris tracked Django down with an invitation from Duke Ellington to join him for a tour in America. This was a dream come true for Django. America was home turf for jazz, and Reinhardt was sure he would take the country by storm and end up in Hollywood making movies with Dorothy Lamour.

[We’ll conclude Woody’s epic saga of Django with Act 5 in Copper # 91—Ed.]

Guillaume de Machaut

Anne E. Johnson

His poetry was admired by Geoffrey Chaucer, he survived the Black Death, and he wrote the most-recorded Mass of the 14th century. That’s a decent thumbnail bio of the multi-talented Guillaume de Machaut. Add that he lived in Rheims, France, when he wasn’t traveling with one of his noble patrons. Oh, and he invented new ways to write counterpoint for voices.

History has a wry sense of humor. During Machaut’s life, he was quite famous for his secular songs and poems. Today, his only surviving Mass — a work that was only performed once, if at all, when it was new — is now described in every college music history book, yet his songs have become a footnote. Happily, there are recent new recordings of both parts of his output.

Messe de Notre Dame

The first thing to understand about the Messe de Notre Dame (often spelled Nostre Dame) is that it has nothing to do with that famous cathedral in Paris. Machaut wrote this Mass in about 1360 for the Rheims Cathedral. The Mass got its name because the church was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, AKA “Our Lady” (Notre Dame).

Machaut’s Mass is important to music history as the earliest known polyphonic setting of the complete Ordinary (those texts sung at every Mass service). Although there’s no record of the details, Machaut’s Mass would have been performed with Propers (texts that change daily with the liturgical calendar) inserted between the Ordinary movements, either as Gregorian chant, or in settings by other composers.

That’s what the ensemble Diabolus in Musica, directed by Antoine Guerber, put together on their Alpha Records album. As you can hear in Machaut’s Agnus Dei, the all-male ensemble has taken a meditative approach in terms of tempo, tuning, and articulation. The sound is smooth and without texture, the aural equivalent of a matte black surface so intensely dark that you can’t see the shape of what you’re looking at.


Contrast that with another new recording, by the Vienna Vocal Consort on Klanglogo Records. For one thing, there are women in the mix (almost certainly not the case in Machaut’s day). But the articulation and phrasing make the substantive difference. Here’s that same movement, the Agnus Dei, available on Spotify. The music has shape and motion, not to mention the sense that they’re singing words with meaning rather than just painting a backdrop of sound.

Rather than interrupting the Mass Ordinary with other works, the Vienna Vocal Consort puts Machaut’s six movements back to back, then follows them with works by other 14th-century composers, including Pierre de la Rue and Guillaume DuFay.

There’s a completely different approach to that issue on Azahar (Alpha Records), performed by the ensemble La Tempête under the direction of Simon-Pierre Bestion. They went for old-meets-new programming: Mixed in among the movements of Machaut’s Mass are those from Stravinsky’s Mass (featuring sopranos Anna Reinhold and Clair Lafilliâtre). Plus there are Spanish some sacred songs (cantigas) by 20th-century composer Maurice Ohana and medieval cantigas by the 13th-century Spanish king Alfonso X.

As for the Machaut, the group is clearly influenced by the chant-performance sound established by Marcel Pérès and his Ensemble Organum in the 1980s and ’90s, which draws from the ancient traditions of microtonal ornamentation and vocal placement of Greece, Israel, Eastern Europe, and elsewhere. It’s not as “pretty” as the other recordings discussed here, but the closer you listen, the more you’ll be rewarded.

Here’s the Kyrie. The source of the unusual groaning sonority in the lowest register is not identified in the liner notes, but it sounds like a bass viol or vielle or other medieval bowed instrument.

Secular Songs

As a skilled poet, Machaut never lacked for words to set to music. And it was for his non-religious songs, arranged for two or three voices, that the composer became quite famous throughout 14th-century France.

The Hyperion label has just completed a six-part project that features the Orlando Consort singing this repertoire. Started in 2012, the series discs are as follows:

Songs from Le Voir Dit

The Dart of Love

A Burning Heart

Sovereign Beauty

Fortune’s Child

The Gentle Physician

The most recent is The Gentle Physician. The only examples available without paying to stream are a set of samples put out by Hyperion, but it will do for illustration.

The clip starts with a setting of the song “De Fortuna,” which is a great introduction to Machaut’s distinctive three-voice sound. The Orlando Consort, with decades of experience with this material, knows how to emphasize the dissonances and passing of notes from one singer to another (hocket) while keeping the motion fluid and natural. At 0:36 there’s “Quant ma dame,” a more obvious demonstration of hocket, plus Machaut’s characteristic syncopation. “Dame, comment qu’amez,” starting at 1:10, is a wistful number of two voices of very different ranges. Machaut’s masterful, complex polyphony is on display at 1:59 in a 4-voice setting of the same “De Fortuna” that started the clip.


The album Ars Nova – New Music (Neos) explores Machaut and his contemporary, Philippe de Vitry, as innovators. Alongside their works are pieces by the living German composer Wolfgang Schweinitz, whose music is heavily influenced by late medieval compositional and tuning methods. These new arrangements of Machaut and de Vitry focus on intonation.

The duo is Helge Slaatto on violin and Frank Reinecke on bass. Their playing is designed, as the program notes put it, to “show how closely the power of this music was connected to the common intonation system of the time, based on pure perfect fifths, which lead to highly tense thirds.”

Here is Machaut’s two-voice ballade “Riches d’amour et mendians d’amie” (Rich in love and begging for a lover), arranged for two bowed string instruments that can phrase like singers. The mournfulness and longing of the sound come not only from the slow tempo, but also the tuning mentioned above, with pitches pushing against each other to cause acoustic tension that’s lost in modern intonation:


Speaking of surprising arrangements, a Machaut song got a very unusual treatment on the new album Whispered Wishes (Prova Records). In addition to Michel Bisceglia on piano–an instrument that did not exist in Machaut’s time—Didier François plays a rather astonishing stringed creation called a viola d’amore a chiavi, better known as a nyckelharpa and related in construction to a hurdy gurdy. And to make the arrangement more distinctive, percussionist Trilok Gurtu joins on the pot-shaped Nigerian udu drum. Eventually an Indian-sounding female voice comes in as well.

I expected to despise hearing a modern piano in this repertoire, but Bisceglia’s contribution is so subtle that it provides only the gentlest support of the other instruments. Here’s “Dame, ne regardes pas,” turning Machaut into an amalgam of musical sounds that only the 21st century could produce. And maybe experiments like this are how he’ll live on for another few centuries:

Issue 90

Issue 90

Issue 90

Maggie McFalls




Bill Leebens

Sometimes you encounter stories where it turns out that the story you think you want to tell, is just a very small part of a much bigger story.

This is one of those stories-within-stories.

Back about 1972 I encountered the brand Quintessence, at J.C. Gordon Company in St. Louis. J.C. Gordon was already a well-established company then, having started in the ’50s, I think. The owner was a gent named Robert Shaw (“No, not THAT Robert Shaw”, was his standard opening); if memory serves, he was a retired General from the Air Force Reserve. At any rate, he worked in live orchestral recording a lot, knew the audio biz well, and was an early dealer for Audio Research and Magnepan. His store was the first place where I heard an ARC/Tympani system—and I wasn’t really sure what to make of it.

Hearing “You’re So Vain” on a big boy multi-amped ARC/ Tympani system, I said, “I think it’s kind of a jukeboxey sound.” What I meant was that it was big and tubey and spacious, and I didn’t know how to describe it then. Shaw immediately said, “oh, I think it’s a GREAT sound”—and it was, really. It just wasn’t at all what I was used to.

As a 16-year-old longhair in wrinkled denim, I often encountered a lack of enthusiasm in audio stores, if not outright hostility. Not so with Bob Shaw: he was genial, if watchful. He listened to the questions I asked, and nodded approvingly enough times to indicate that I passed his “test”. The final question came when we approached a display of Quintessence gear: “Do you know what ‘quintessence’ means?” As I recall it, my answer was, “The ultimate, the epitome. the best.”

Again, he nodded approval—and we moved on to look at the gear. The preamp had a beautiful golden faceplate (as you’ll see in the pics on this page) and Mr. Shaw indicated that Quintessence was the best-sounding solid state gear they had. I don’t recall that I actually demoed the gear: stints w/ B&O gear and the Bozak Concert Grands preceded the move to another building with the ARC system.

Nonetheless, the brand of Quintessence made an impression upon me. When I recently decided to write about the brand for this column, making the leap of faith as usual that I would be able to find enough info to actually write a sensible outline of the company’s history, I found—nothing. —Okay, a few ads and one magazine review provided the info that the company was based in Sacramento. Beyond that—no names of prncipals, nothin’.

Turns out, there may have been a reason for that. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

When in doubt, I ask folks who have been around audio even longer than I have. They were able to provide a sketch, if not the full picture.

Walt Stinson’dealership Listen Up has been a mainstay in Denver and the surrounding areas for many years. In fact, the company was started around the same time that I saw that Quintessence gear in St. Louis—1972. Walt was a Quintessence dealer and provided the pics of the gear on display, along with this snippet: “Of course [I remember the brand]. Very beautiful and unique. Purist approach, minimalist design, good sound. Not long in the marketplace. Very rare (I’ve never seen a used piece). I don’t recall meeting the principals. Took this photo [the close-up image] for an ad.”

The Quintessence preamp on display at Listen Up, back in the day The Quintessence preamp on display at Listen Up, back in the day---far left, under the Phase Linear amp.

Sacramento-area designer Richard Marsh said,  yes, the people there were also part of ESS and then Pass labs. Barry Thornton I believe was running the Quintessence brand at that time. And after ESS folded also, N.Pass opened his own business.”

That at least provided the name of Barry Thornton. ESS? Pass Labs? Maybe Nelson Pass knows something.

Nelson wrote, “ESS and Quintessence were in Sacramento and did some business, but I am not very certain of its history. I know that they did an active crossover for ESS, and there was some hanging out together. In 1971 or so ESS acquired the talents of Peter Werback, and they went into the business of amps and preamps. I knew Peter from UC Davis, and followedhim to ESS where I did R&D in speakers, arriving about a month before Oscar Heil.

“At Quintessence, Barry Thornton [there’s that name again!—Ed.] seems to have done the electronic design. He subsequently went to work for SAE (Morris Kessler) to do a “non-switching” amp in the late 70’s.

“He once showed me the preamp circuit which I recall was an LM709, which is perhaps the most ancient of the popular monolithic opamps, and he biased its Class B output stage with a resistor from output to negative rail.

“He also designed their power amplifier, and was kind enough to show its schematic, which was interesting – an LM709 (one of the earliest monolithic op amps) for the front end,ultimately driving a stack of Push-Pull Common-Emitter power devices, 2N6031’s and 2N5631’s as I recall, which had a sort of totem pole arrangement where the first pair were biased up at idle, and successive pairs came into play as output current increased. I am not certain how well it worked, but I thought it was quite original.

“Barry ultimately became an electronics rep in Arizona, and I haven’t heard from him since.”

The tech info is a little over my head, but Nelson’s comments again pointed to Barry Thornton as the guy.

The usual search of period issues of Audio, Stereo Review, and High Fidelity magazines, courtesy of the amazing American Radio History website, yielded very little. No mention of the mysterious Barry Thornton at all. Early ads presented a company that appeared to have sprung forth fully-developed, with a strong sense of maturity and self-assuredness. Here’s an Audio ad from 1973:

This brief feature in High Fidelity, also from 1973, provided more details:

All those products sound like a fairly ambitious launch for a new company. I never found any indication that the control module or electronic crossover made it to production.

That same year, an Audio ad listed 20 dealers, a few of whom are still around (pardon the image quality):

  The 1973 Buyer's Guide of Audio provided full details of the Preamp, Equalizer, and Power Amplifier (in two variants). By the way---while the Quintessence preamp was $329.50, the Audio Research SP-3 was $595.00. By the time those products were listed in the 1975 Buyer's Guide, the Preamplifier was priced at $500, at the same time that the Levinson JC-2 was $1050.00. 1975 ads in Audio described the Power Amplifier and Equalizer in unusual detail:

The single product review I unearthed ran in Audio in 1976. The venerable Len Feldman put he Equalizer 1 through its paces, and was impressed by its performance and build. The review concludes with Feldman sniffily saying of the $500 price—the EQ’s price jumped from $329.50, as did the price of the Preamplifier—“We do have to raise an eyebrow at the rather high price the company asks for this add-on unit, though for many it may well be justified by the device’s excellent design and fabrication.”

Not exactly damning with faint praise, but not exactly a rave, either. It’s the kind of thing that gives manufacturers and PR guys stomachaches—believe me on this.


This is all well and good, and gives some sense of what Quintessence did. But who was Barry Thornton, and what happened to Quintessence, a company that seemed to have such potential?

A little Googling led me to Austin Audio Works, a small company whose principal is a guy named Barry Thornton—and reading the notes on the company’s website made me pretty sure that this was indeed the same Barry Thornton. After the usual back-and-forth that seems to precede getting anyone on the phone these days, a lengthy conversion with Barry assured me that, yup, he’s the guy,

Quintessence, it turns out, is just a small part of the much bigger story of Barry Thornton. Based on our conversation, here’s how it went:

In the late ’60s, Barry attended Sacramento State. He and a group of cohorts/unindicted co-conspirators realized that if they formed a club or organization sanctioned by the school, said school would underwrite them with funding and other resources. And so, The Society for the Advancement of Electronic Music was born ( contemporary printed accounts and the poster below refer to the group as SFTAOPM—the Society For The Advancement Of Pop Music. Memories fade, and morph.) And what does one do with such an organization?

According to Barry, what they did was go to visit Bill Graham at the Fillmore in San Francisco, and convince him to book acts for four nights, instead of three. The Fillmore would get a better deal, and the Society would get the acts for a fourth show at the school in Sacramento. As if that weren’t ambitious enough, the Society’s first two concerts in 1968 were Jimi Hendrix and Buffalo Springfield.

Image result for jimi hendrix sac state 1968 poster

The Sac State show: $2.75 in advance, $3.00 at the door.

At some point the school (>cough<) took issue with the considerable funds brought in by the concerts promoted by the Society. The group disbanded, and having built what he called a “hi-fi PA system” for the group’s shows, Barry hit the road and did live sound. “First I did Jethro Tull, then all the Chrysalis Records acts.”

Having started with tweaked Dynaco amps for power, Barry designed and built “amps that wouldn’t break”. Word got around, and other touring groups wanted the amps. So— an old schoolhouse was rented in Sacramento, and the amps were built using “hippy slave labor. They were basically hippies, but they showed up for work on time.”

At some point—dates are a tad shaky— Barry crossed paths with the local company ESS, especially Stan Marquiss, one of the company’s four founders. Barry was tasked to design an electronic crossover for ESS, then got the idea to design a sophisticated phono preamp. The decision was made to create a company to market the preamp and other products, and the schoolhouse and its crew of hippies became the Quintessence Group, and products were designed, built, and sold under that brand name.

When I asked why there such limited print coverage and advertising, Barry said, “that was by design. We put our efforts into visiting and training dealers, evangelizing and creating a tribe, rather than relying on the old ways. And it was very effective for us.”

In time the schoolhouse became too small for Quintessence, and 4,000 more square feet was added to accommodate 14 “ex-hippies”, a full chassis-building shop, an anodizing facility, board production, assembly—“we did everything in-house. And we were really proud of that.” The company grew to have 50 dealers, according to Barry, was profitable, and reached a few million/year in sales.

As well as producing Quintessence Group-branded products, there was still consulting work. Barry again: “[we were] active in the development of Quad. We worked with CBS labs to do subjective performance of FM-transmitted Quad using live sources and its changes through the distance of the receiver to the transmitter. We had a line of precision compressors, portable recording and broadcast mixing desks, line equalizers and monitor amplifier. Fun days.”

And then, as often happens, the shit hit the fan.

“I got a divorce. My dad was a judge, ” said Barry, ” and he advised me that unless I wanted to fight over my future earnings forever, I should just give my wife everything, and be done with it.

“So that’s what I did. She had no interest in the company, wouldn’t have known what to do with it. I sold the company and gave her all the money. And that was it.”

That wasn’t quite it for Quintessence. A local group of investors bought the company, and sold sub-shares to others…and may have oversold the shares, as in The Producers. The only press coverage I could find about the company post-sale was in a 1976 article in High Fidelity, a hard-hitting look at the then-current trend towards black faceplates (!). It read: “Quintessence (like SAE, devoted to high-performance separates) has re-emerged under new ownership with all its gold faceplates changed to black.”

Barry laughed when I read that to him. “Hell, we’d always done black, as well as the gold. We did all our own anodizing, so it was no big deal.” So much for accuracy in reporting.

One final appearance in print: Stereo Review’s 1978 Stereo Directory & Buying guide listed the the Equalizer and “Studio Preamplifier”, both now priced at $550. Two amps were listed: the 1-R, 90 watts/channel, at $650, and the II, 200 watts/channel, with “dual feedback loops and separate power supplies for each channel”, at $1300.

From all appearances, Quintessence the company vanished shortly after that. But Barry?

Barry Thornton was just getting started. Discussing the Austin Audio Works headphone amp on Head-Fi in 2014, Barry summarized his career:

“My first time in Austin was with Jethro Tull, I did the sound for them, had a big hi-fi sound reinforcement system I designed and built in college (Physics and Anthropology) using hippy slave labor. I then started the Quintessence Group AudioWorks, high end preamp, equalizers, amplifiers, went on to Chief Engineer at SAE (Hypersonic Class-A Series), Hasbro Electronic Toys, Monster Cables Techno-Evangelist, then Director of MC’s Professional Products, somewhere in between I did products for Parasound, Fostex, Audionics, Star, the interior electronics design for the PlayBoy Mansion, SF Ballet and Opera, a bunch of other big deals, and some more that will come to me. 5 Starts, 30 patents, I was VP OptoDigital Design, a Div of Monster, came to Austin through the Technology Incubator doing OptoDigial (professional digital and video over fiber for venues, Disney, Alamo Dome, Bulls Stadium, baa, blaa, we designed and built the hardware and software). My biggest gig was founding ClearCube (Blade computers, virtualization, what you now call the cloud) in my garage and going to 250 people, then retired. I was VP OptoDigiatal Design, a Div of Monster, came to Austin through the Technology Incubator doing Optical (professional digital and video over fiber for venues, Disney, Alamo Dome, Bulls Stadium, blaa, blaa, we designed and built the hardware and software).

“Boring – And by the way, what I did doesn’t mean crap, it’s where my dreams are going that count, the rest is the dead past, never to be done that way again. As is said, don’t look back.So I started Austin Medical Research, and in a couple of years was making pain go away with EMP and growing hair with lasers. That is now called ManeGain Inc. and is in public stock sales.”

Barry’s now working on developing still more ideas, and does Austin Audio Works more or less as a hobby, for fun.

Barry’s 75, still active and looking towards the future. I hope I can follow his example.

[Thanks to Walton Stinson of Listen Up for the header pic and the image of the Quintessence pre on display. As mentioned, Walt was a Quintessence dealer, back in the day. And of course, thanks to Nelson Pass, Richard Marsh, and Barry Thornton for their time and stories—Ed.]

The Jewish Cemetery

The Jewish Cemetery

The Jewish Cemetery

Roy Hall

The Jewish cemetery in Shettleston, Glasgow is a miserable place. Not because of what it is but because of its location. For some reason it is always raining in this cemetery. Glasgow is known for its bad weather but Shettleston has its own microclimate. This results in flooding and erosion of the graves. There have been reports of body parts, exposed by the elements, being eaten by rodents and foxes. This sogginess causes tombstones to fall over and as the local Jewish population declines, less money is available to maintain these graves. My whole family, with the exclusion of my sister, is buried there, so my family visits—if one-sided—are easy. I recently visited Glasgow and true to form, it poured cats and dogs.

One summer we took a trip to Europe. An unveiling for my uncle’s tombstone in Shettleston was coming up and we decided to do a European tour before ending up in Glasgow. Our first stop was Paris. The weather in Europe that summer was spectacular. Hot days, clear skies, and no rain. Paris actually was too hot and, in those days, hotels didn’t have air conditioning. One sultry night, unable to sleep, I stared out the open window of our hotel in Rue Verneuil. We had fans running but all they did was move the hot air around. Suddenly, a light appeared in the window of an apartment facing my room. A woman, totally naked, rose from her bed and moved to another room. She was so graceful and self-assured that I couldn’t help but stare at her. A vision of loveliness, she returned a few moments later, eased herself under the sheets and turned off the light. Ahh…Paris!

London was next and the heat wave continued. Hyde Park was so dry that the grass turned brown. This was so unusual as London usually has too much rain.

We took the train to Glasgow, which is 400 miles away. It is a picturesque ride that cuts through the center of the country. It takes about 5 hours and if you are ever out that way, it is well worth doing. I was convinced that the weather would change as we approached Scotland, but it didn’t. It was hot and dry and on arrival in Central Station, Glasgow; the sun was shining and the temperature was about 75 degrees. The unveiling (or as we call it, Stone Setting) was arranged for the next day. My children who had oft heard me tell of the rainy cemetery started to rib me about the weather.

“Just wait.” I told them. They snorted and called me a liar.

The next day sparkled with a clear blue sky and a yellow sun. The light in Scotland, because the country is quite far north, is particularly clean—unlike the yellow summer sky in New York where I live. We arrived at the cemetery and the temperature was rising. My kids were snickering and pointing at the sky. Friends assembled, the service started and almost imperceptibly, a breeze sprung up, the wind suddenly quickened, and a cloud that seemed to come from nowhere emptied on top of us. We were immediately soaked and as rain is always ice cold in Scotland, we soon started to shiver. The service was quickly moved indoors and when it was over I looked at my kids who were full of a new appreciation of their father. As we returned to our car, the skies cleared and the sun reappeared.

Life of the Audiophile Party

Life of the Audiophile Party

Life of the Audiophile Party

Charles Rodrigues