Header  
 

About us > Chronicle > Page 2/5

The History Of The Record

A chronicle by Peter K. Burkowitz †

1901
  • Extension of the disc format from 17 to 25 cm; introduction of paper labels.
  • By this time, Berliner´s Canadian GRAM-O-PHONE has already sold two million records, established a Nipper-decorated shop in the Rue Sainte-Catherine (Montréal) and opened up a lavishly equipped recording studio as well. This offers many jazz musicians the opportunity of undisturbed (and highly successful) recording sessions due to the hate campaign launched in the USA by car manufacturer H. Ford against jazz as “Jewish machinations” [see Article by Lothar Baier in the German newspaper DIE ZEIT].
  • An advert by Deutsche Grammophon promises: “We offer you 5,000 records in all languages of the world!” (Thanks to Gaisberg – the author) “Strongest, most natural sound! Hard discs, no soft cylinders!”
1902 The first six records are made with the young tenor Enrico Caruso for a fee of just 100 £ (1 £ = 20 Reichsmark = a wage of ten days of work).
  The record industry´s first „star“: Enrico Caruso (1873 - 1921) Letter by Caruso to Deutsche Grammophon AG, Berlin: “I have just finished listening to the samples of my most recent American recordings, and I want to congratulate you sincerely. The utmost perfection of your reproduction of my new records proves the excellence of your recording system.”
 
  • This great success is followed by the first licensing agreement with contemporary star tenor Francesco Tamagno. Interest: 10 % of the retail price, which is 1 £ for each record.
  • For the first time the diameter of the recordmeasures 30 cm; the playing time is ca. 5 minutes.
  • 1901/02: The company pays a dividend of 25 %.
  • Owing to the dearth of space in the plant Kniestraße/Hannover, the company leases a site on Podbielskistraße. (Before this, the plant had resided in Celler Straße, Groß-Buchholz, Separatorenfabrik Franz Daseking.)
  Leased premises in Podbielskistraße Leased premises in Podbielskistraße
1903 DGG buys out its recent competitor International Zonophon Company, Berlin, and divides its supply policy into the upper-price bracket (DG Classics, emblem “the writing angel”) and the lower-price bracket (Zonophon, light and folk music, distribution by wholesale).
1904
  • Birnbaum moves to London as director general of all European gramophone companies. His successor in Berlin is N. M. Rodkinson from the St. Petersburg subsidiary.
  • The first double-sided records appear.
  • The retail trade of records is gradually transferred from toy and bicycle shops to those selling music instruments, then the specialist trade.
1906 200 presses are at work in Hanover with a daily output of 36,000 records.
1907 The Gramophone Co. acquires a site with railway access in Hayes near London, where a new, extensive plant is being built, because worldwide demand had turned the idea of producing records in Hanover alone obsolete.
  The EMI production plants in Hayes, Middlesex, around 1970 The EMI production plants in Hayes, Middlesex, around 1970
  The first cut of the spade for the head office, the plant and the studios is made by tenor Edward Lloyd in February 1907, the laying of the foundation stone is executed by singer Nellie Melba.
  The singer Nellie Melba at the laying of the foundation stone (Picture by courtesy of Tony Locantro) The singer Nellie Melba at the laying of the foundation stone (Picture by courtesy of Tony Locantro)
 
  • Rodkinson leaves Berlin for India. After him DG AG is directed by Leo B. Cohn. When he marries singer Elisabeth von Endert he changes his family name to “Curt”.
  • The newest fad at this time are concerts via gramophone performed in large halls. To enhance the sound volume, DG technicians develop an “Auxetophon”, based on pneumatic amplification, but the amount of background noise it creates renders it ephemeral soon.
  • The first machines without horns appear, integrating the sound guiding devices into the cabinet.
1908
  • The output before World War I is 6.2 million records a year.
  • The plant site on Podbielskistraße is now made the property of the company, no longer just a lease. The company is given back its original name (see 1900).
  • At this time, the workshop producing record players in Berlin employs more than 100 people, but drive mechanisms and sound boxers are still imported from the USA.
  • Arranger and producer Bruno Seidler-Winkler acquires lasting merit by writing instrumentation especially suited for recording.
1909
  • The emblem “the writing angel” is replaced by “His Master´s Voice”.
  • To provide business models for the retail trade, the Grammophon Spezialhaus GmbH is founded, opening subsidiaries in Berlin, Breslau, Düsseldorf, Köln, Königsberg, Kiel and Nürnberg.
1913 Beethoven´s 5th Symphony, played by a full orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic under Arthur Nikisch, is recorded for DGG on four double-sided records – a total novelty!
  The picture shows the BPO under Dr. A. Hertz on September 12, 1913 in the “studio” (the small factory building) of DGG in Berlin, offering the same conditions as Nikisch had. The picture shows the BPO under Dr. A. Hertz on September 12, 1913 in the “studio” (the small factory building) of DGG in Berlin, offering the same conditions as Nikisch had.
1914 When World War I begins, German assets are confiscated in Great Britain. In retaliation, British property is sequestered in Germany and offered for sale, among others the DG AG as subsidiary of a British company.
1917 On April 24, Polyphon Musikwerke, founded in Leipzig-Wahren on May 24, 1895, acquires DG AG. PML had produced only musical boxes and orchestrions before this.
1918 Both companies trade under the name Polyphon AG and establish their head offices in Markgrafenstraße 76, Berlin, enlarging the recording capacity to three rooms. Bruno Borchard is made director general, Hugo Wünsch former authorized signatory at PML since 1908, becomes head of the new subsidiary DG AG. Joseph Berliner remains a member of the boards until his retirement in 1921. Leo B. Curt, executive director of DG AG until 1918, takes the wheel at Grammophon Spezialhaus GmbH.
1919
  • The Austrian subsidiary Polyphon-Sprechmaschinen und Schallplatten GmbH is founded in Vienna.
  • Nordisk Polyphon A. S. is founded in Kopenhagen; in Stockholm the Swedish subsidiary is called Nordisk Polyphon A. B.
  • As large portions of the world-famous pre-war repertoire cannot be used on account of the divided rights of ownership between the previous British mother company and her German subsidiaries, a new repertoire has to be established as quickly as possible. Karl Holy, director at the Berlin State Opera House, and Hans B. Hasse, conductor and head of the recording department of the newly installed companies, work together with technician Walter Buhre and employees Blesche, Goile, Lehmann, König, Erich at creating a new, attractive catalog in a very short time. Nevertheless, it persists until the end of World War II. They are ably supported by Maria Ivogün, Emmi Leisner, Heinrich Schlusnus, Tino Pattiera, Wilhelm Kempff, Wilhelm Backhaus, Raoul v. Koczalski, Carl Flesch, Richard Strauss, Hans Pfitzner, Leo Blech, Herman Abendroth, and others. Recording sessions mostly take place in the music academy in Berlin-Zoo, in the Bach Hall, or the “Liedertafel”, Urbanstraße, in the Alte Jakobstraße, in the Beethoven Hall and in the Cinema Hall on Lützowstraße. These rooms are damped as effectively as possible by carpets and curtains. Until 1946, all insiders in this line of business are convinced that acoustically authentic records must contain no other sounds but those made by the instruments or the voices of the singers (direct sound). But then Keilholz manages to change this habit by introducing the lively acoustic atmosphere he had learnt to create during his years at the Reichsrundfunkgesellschaft by using modern broadband technology.
  • Robert Blanke is made head of the Hanover plant in his capacity of authorized signatory.
1922 Two years prior to the introduction of the electro-acoustic recording and reproduction technologies, engineers of DGG create wax records by using an experimentally developed electro-magnetic cutter head. Its source of modulation is not known. Perhaps they used test tone signals, generated by an electro-mechanical device, or even experimental recording methods, relying on one of the first carbon mikes extracted from telephones. Another detail from this period throws a bright light on the sheer unbelievable opportunities provided by our modern means of communication, although the names of the contemporary travellers are forgotten.
  The picture shows Walter Buhre´s arrival in New York harbour on a business trip. The screenshot is taken from the Internet. It needed just the name of the traveller to yield a result. Obviously all passenger lists have been scanned ever since logging has started. The picture shows Walter Buhre´s arrival in New York harbour on a business trip. The screenshot is taken from the Internet. It needed just the name of the traveller to yield a result. Obviously all passenger lists have been scanned ever since logging has started.
1924 Berliner sells his GRAM-O-PHONE Co., including the NIPPER trademark, to the Victor Talking Machine Co.
1925
  • DG engineer Buhre writes a lab report on the successful design of an electromagnetic cutter capable of recording 100 to 4500 Hz.
  • The acousto-mechanical recording and reproduction sysem is gradually replaced by the electro-acoustico-magnetic system in all broadcasting and recording studios worldwide.
  Electric recording with a microphone, around 1925. Electric recording with a microphone, around 1925.
 
  • The Gramophone Co. founds Electrola GmbH in Nowawes near Berlin to replace its sequestered subsidiary DGG. The new company´s name refers to the worldwide technological change occurring in that year. At the beginning the recordings are imported by HMV, but record players and music chests are produced locally. Electrola integrates the record production of Carl Lindström AG, Berlin. Soon after the companies merge, Lindström is dissolved. In 1953 Electrola transfers its head office to Cologne, trading under the name EMI Electrola GmbH from 1972, nowadays known as EMI Music Germany GmbH & Co. KG.