Where Are You Edna Kantor?
Unknown Artist Where are You, Edna Kantor (Audiodisc, no date)
There is a fellow who I see several times a year at record sales. Our individual obsessions often lead us to the same boxes. I am looking for the odd 45 & 7". He is on the hunt for acetates. Over the years we have come to recognize each other and know what the other is looking for. So when I find an acetate, I hand it to him. When he finds a box of rare punk 7"s, he slides it over to me. It works out fine and I will honor our unspoken arrangement, though, I gotta say, I've been finding more acetates while hunting around and there have been some good ones, so when I run into this chap, handing over acetates will come with a moment of hesitation.
Acetates are a total crap shoot. Because they are pretty much one of a kind, if you score a good one, you have found something that is unbeatable. Before I go further, perhaps I should explain what an acetate is for those who don't know.
In the 1940s, electronic manufacturers wanted to come up with some kind of home recording device. Since the vinyl record was established as the recorded medium most people enjoyed, they decided to devise a way for a person to make records at home. The first home recording machine of this ilk was the Recordio. It looked like the turntables of the time, however the needle on it was a vibrating needle designed to cut into disc, making grooves that generated sound when played on a standard record player. Most recording machines were designed to record sound off the radio or via a microphone. The recordable discs were made of glass, aluminum, or cardboard discs coated with lacquer that was turned into a plastic with the help of castor oil. Those discs once recorded on are generally referred to as acetate.
Recording an acetate is a one shot affair. Those who use the microphone to record generally record something that was going on live. I have acetates with people singing Christmas songs, kids doing drama, a child speaking its first words, speeches recorded off the radio, and people playing music. Because the castor oil makes the acetate unstable and pretty fragile, the recordings do not age well. Most of the time acetates have a lot of surface noise. I have some in which the lacquer has separated from the cardboard. Of the handful of acetates that I have those recorded on Audiodiscs tend to be the most hardy (probably because the base is aluminum). A lot of acetates were recorded at 78 rpm, which is the speed that most machines were designed to record at. As record players at the time played 16, 33, 45, & 78 RPM listening to them at the proper speed is not problem. I have close to dozen that are recorded at 78 but right now lack the means to listen to them.
Due to the lack of sound quality and when these things were recorded, when you stumble upon a song, it sounds other worldly. Many regular records do not sound like they came from a different time and place. Acetates always do. The one that you get to hear today has no name to credit it to. The only thing that identifies it is the title. The song is played by a man on a piano. The song is about a lost love. It sounds like if was recorded a long, long time ago.
Originally posted 3/26/06 (I usually do not go back and repost things but I stumbled across this one again so I decided to give it another go)
Byron enjoying the crud betwixed the grooves. Thanx Scott !
Thanks so much for this and all your shares. This is a great blog!
The one caveat is that you've got to be sure your turntable is running at exactly 45 RPM. A slight shift in pitch becomes very noticable when you speed things up.