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Rudy Van Gelder and secrecy
Old 22nd May 2022 | Show parent
  #91
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kludgeaudio's Avatar
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by andrew montreal ➡️
What?!? That is a special approach. Very intrigued as I have never tried that.
It's an early van Gelder thing, it was one of his standard techniques. I don't find the effect natural and I am not a fan of it at all when a combo is playing horn and piano together but van Gelder loved it.
--scott
Old 22nd May 2022 | Show parent
  #92
Gear Maniac
 
Top thread!
Old 28th May 2022
  #93
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 10 years
RVG definitely changed techniques over the decades. He was not ever into minimalism just for minimalism's sake. He was not into trying to get the most natural sound, or the biggest sound. He was trying to get what he felt best represented the artists. Nowadays maybe we all assume that means "natural" but that's not always been true. It is funny to see photos of his sessions because you can absolutely guarantee that the photos do NOT show the actual set-ups. He made sure of that. He wasn't above using compression, outboard reverb of whatever was available at the time, multi-miking, whatever it took. I'm fine with his secrecy. That was his choice, and his only obligation was to please whoever was paying for the session, but it's clear from his interviews that he cared most about pleasing the artists.
It's funny to see Geoff Emerick mentioned as an example of someone who would freely share his techniques. He didn't start doing that until sometime in the 1980's or 90's. He was extremely secretive in the 1960's. He wanted very much to help create a unique sound for each artist he worked with, based on what they specifically wanted. In his book he mentions once in the sixties being called in to engineer a session with a producer he had not worked with before, and the producer asked for a "Beatles drum sound" and a "Beatles guitar sound" or something like that. Geoff was infuriated but didn't say anything. He just made sure the sounds he got were absolutely nothing like any sounds he had gotten on the Beatles. He loved working with the Zombies, for example, because they were a great band that did not sound like the Beatles and did not want to sound like the Beatles. I am grateful to Geoff for later choosing to share his techniques, at least in general form, though.
Old 28th May 2022 | Show parent
  #94
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king2070lplaya's Avatar
I just cannot fathom, in the course of getting ready for a session, musicians practicing, photographer and label people hanging around, that an engineer would get sounds, then literally move their mics from their optimal placements, announce it was ok to take photos, and then after some amount of time kicking the photogs out, putting mics back, checking sounds, all just before tracking. It would be a huge waste of time and not something I can see musicians, label people or photographers paying/hanging around for.

Maybe he was secretive in talking about techniques in interviews; I imagine that these photos for the labels were tightly controlled enough that RVG wasn’t worried copycats would be able to Google them and copy the placements. Maybe he had it worked out with them at the time not to use photos of mics for ads or album art. But given the sounds he got and these placements which seem to reasonably correlate (especially the piano placement/sound) I am pretty sure that all of these photos show his actual mic placement techniques.
Old 28th May 2022 | Show parent
  #95
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surflounge's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by king2070lplaya ➡️
I just cannot fathom, in the course of getting ready for a session, musicians practicing, photographer and label people hanging around, that an engineer would get sounds, then literally move their mics from their optimal placements, announce it was ok to take photos, and then after some amount of time kicking the photogs out, putting mics back, checking sounds, all just before tracking. It would be a huge waste of time and not something I can see musicians, label people or photographers paying/hanging around for.
yes, much agree with that
it costs time just to do playback for a recording take. clock is running. who is paying for the cost of wasting time in the studio to move photo-props
Old 28th May 2022
  #96
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Jazz photography at that time was backlit multi flash, this took time to set up
Perhaps it was just for stills playback paid for by the label.
Some of the pix are brill.
Old 28th May 2022 | Show parent
  #97
Lives for gear
 
🎧 5 years
Most of the photos I've seen inside the Englewood Cliffs studio are clearly available light, and have never struck me as staged.
Attached Thumbnails
Rudy Van Gelder and secrecy-vg.jpg   Rudy Van Gelder and secrecy-shorter.png   Rudy Van Gelder and secrecy-bigv.jpg   Rudy Van Gelder and secrecy-trane.png   Rudy Van Gelder and secrecy-wes.png  

Rudy Van Gelder and secrecy-trane2.jpg   Rudy Van Gelder and secrecy-drum.jpeg   Rudy Van Gelder and secrecy-blue.jpeg  
Old 28th May 2022 | Show parent
  #98
Lives for gear
 
🎧 5 years
Slight tangent - while searching for the VG photos I came across this gem showing a peek at the 30th St. console:
Attached Thumbnails
Rudy Van Gelder and secrecy-30th-st-console.jpg  
Old 28th May 2022
  #99
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Progger's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
That's great! I'm very curious what the closest modern equivalent of those custom Columbia consoles might be. I've heard it might be the Tree "Roots" system (or "Branch" single-channel), apparently one of the guys involved with that company may have had something to do with Columbia in past decades. But I'm very curious what happened to the original ones from 30th Street and Hollywood. Scrapped for parts? Salvaged by collectors?
Old 28th May 2022 | Show parent
  #100
Lives for gear
 
🎧 5 years
All I've read is that most of the major label consoles back then were either modified radio boards, or were entirely custom-built by their own engineers.
Old 29th May 2022 | Show parent
  #101
Gear Head
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by king2070lplaya ➡️
I just cannot fathom, in the course of getting ready for a session, musicians practicing, photographer and label people hanging around, that an engineer would get sounds, then literally move their mics from their optimal placements, announce it was ok to take photos, and then after some amount of time kicking the photogs out, putting mics back, checking sounds, all just before tracking. It would be a huge waste of time and not something I can see musicians, label people or photographers paying/hanging around for.

Maybe he was secretive in talking about techniques in interviews; I imagine that these photos for the labels were tightly controlled enough that RVG wasn’t worried copycats would be able to Google them and copy the placements. Maybe he had it worked out with them at the time not to use photos of mics for ads or album art. But given the sounds he got and these placements which seem to reasonably correlate (especially the piano placement/sound) I am pretty sure that all of these photos show his actual mic placement techniques.
I agree. I am affiliated with Van Gelder Estate and Studio and it is highly unlikely that Rudy changed mics for photos. Producer Michael Cuscuna, who worked with Rudy closely for many years, is on record refuting this rumor. I wrote about it on my website:

https://rvglegacy.org/personal-approach

I actually hadn't heard the myth that he simply moved the mics before photos until reading recent posts in this thread. I don't intend to offend anyone when I say this but that's a pretty farfetched theory as well. He used industrial mic stands, it would be impractical to move them all around then reset them to resume recording. These sessions costed people time and money and it wouldn't have been fair to everyone involved...it's just not realistic.

Last edited by 2xUeL; 29th May 2022 at 02:45 PM..
Old 29th May 2022 | Show parent
  #102
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
So did the myth arise simply from a perceived credibility mismatch between the photographed mic locations and the sounds resulting on the records….or was RVG notorious for vagueness or outright refusal to discuss mic use and placements, and thus the myth of intentional concealment and deception was conceived as a response ?
Old 29th May 2022 | Show parent
  #103
Gear Guru
 
Karloff70's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by princeplanet ➡️
Haha, very late to the party here (I stopped posting here years ago...), but being a longtime fan of Rudy's work I thought I'd chip in with some thoughts. RVG's legacy was (is) a triumph of attitude over technique, back in the day you either "got" his sound, or preferred someone with more respect for fidelity, or "naturalness" (like Roy DuNann). Whatever floats yer boat. But some of the earlier comments from years ago - which I'm still hearing now - make me feel certain that most are way off the mark if they think Rudy feared people would "steal" his sound if he gave his methods away.

He would have known all along that you cannot emulate his artistry by learning about his tools, any more than a young aspiring painter might hope to learn how to be the next Picasso because he was shown what paints, brushes and canvasses the great master used. It's about the ability to have a unique "concept" - It's how you hear it , and what you do to bring that concept to the fore, through thousands of little decisions (like every single brushstroke) in the course of each day at work. It's about "TASTE". It's way more than this mic in that position through this outboard pushed hard to this tape machine and pushed again into the cutting lathe. It's way more nuanced than that, to the point that all you flunkies that think you can pull that sound with his old rig are simply dreaming. He's pulling a "feeling", not just a "sound", and you can't teach that. Capish?

So why be so guarded about it then? Well, it's not because he thought people could do the RVG thing for themselves, but because he knew that they might "think" they can. How does this hurt him? Well, people who think they have the secrets will try to make records with said secrets and take years before realising they're not sounding quite right. They'll tell artists and labels they have the same equipment and techniques as RVG but will charge less, leaving some to feel that they could get the same sound for less money. Until they too realise they can't.

This realisation takes years, and can mean the likes of RVG must wait for years before artists and labels to return to him. Life is too short to lose customers for a decade or two while they chase a cheaper way to get "that sound". It's not insecurity that makes these guys secretive, but knowing human nature well enough to know that a fool will hurt the originator's business of working with the best artists by convincing people that the it's the gear that makes the sound.

Look, the artists don't know. The labels don't know. And the wannabe's may never know (despite years of trying). But Rudy, well, he always knew ...

Oh, and if you don't like the Blue Note / RVG sound, I have a theory about you guys too. A theory decades in the making, free of any confirmation bias (i promise) and so consistently unfailing that it's as close to a certainty as anything else I think I know , and it's this - if you don't dig the RVG vibe, it's because you're just .not. cool.

Sorry.
Thank you very much for popping back in to post that. Banging, resonant truth. Lovely. Exactemundo. :-)
Old 29th May 2022 | Show parent
  #104
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by M50k ➡️
Slight tangent - while searching for the VG photos I came across this gem showing a peek at the 30th St. console:
Certainly one of the consoles in the original 30th st control room. They did build another control room which went through a few changes in its long history. I don't think anyone who really knew those custom CBS consoles' design is around any more.

A long but detailed read on 30th st is on the Steve Hoffman music forum. Unfortunately for the TLDR crowd, many questions and misinformation gets corrected later in the thread, which is over 100 pages now.

https://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threa...ctures.388186/

It's odd how both Frank Laico and Roy Dunann ended up retiring in the PNW USA area. The local AES Section at least got to meet them and hear some of their recollections.
Old 29th May 2022 | Show parent
  #105
Gear Head
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 ➡️
So did the myth arise simply from a perceived credibility mismatch between the photographed mic locations and the sounds resulting on the records….or was RVG notorious for vagueness or outright refusal to discuss mic use and placements, and thus the myth of intentional concealment and deception was conceived as a response ?
1. He hinted about doing this in a 1957 Audio Magazine interview (though it surely was simply to make other engineers who might copy him doubt if the placements were correct), 2. He generally was indeed super secretive, covering up brand names and model numbers on equipment with duct tape (I have seen it first-hand), 3. He did not like to discuss technique with anyone, just an old-fashioned studio engineer trade secret thing I suppose.

This is all discussed on my site, rvglegacy.org.
Old 29th May 2022 | Show parent
  #106
Gear Head
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by princeplanet ➡️
Haha, very late to the party here (I stopped posting here years ago...), but being a longtime fan of Rudy's work I thought I'd chip in with some thoughts. RVG's legacy was (is) a triumph of attitude over technique, back in the day you either "got" his sound, or preferred someone with more respect for fidelity, or "naturalness" (like Roy DuNann). Whatever floats yer boat. But some of the earlier comments from years ago - which I'm still hearing now - make me feel certain that most are way off the mark if they think Rudy feared people would "steal" his sound if he gave his methods away.

He would have known all along that you cannot emulate his artistry by learning about his tools, any more than a young aspiring painter might hope to learn how to be the next Picasso because he was shown what paints, brushes and canvasses the great master used. It's about the ability to have a unique "concept" - It's how you hear it , and what you do to bring that concept to the fore, through thousands of little decisions (like every single brushstroke) in the course of each day at work. It's about "TASTE". It's way more than this mic in that position through this outboard pushed hard to this tape machine and pushed again into the cutting lathe. It's way more nuanced than that, to the point that all you flunkies that think you can pull that sound with his old rig are simply dreaming. He's pulling a "feeling", not just a "sound", and you can't teach that. Capish?

So why be so guarded about it then? Well, it's not because he thought people could do the RVG thing for themselves, but because he knew that they might "think" they can. How does this hurt him? Well, people who think they have the secrets will try to make records with said secrets and take years before realising they're not sounding quite right. They'll tell artists and labels they have the same equipment and techniques as RVG but will charge less, leaving some to feel that they could get the same sound for less money. Until they too realise they can't.

This realisation takes years, and can mean the likes of RVG must wait for years before artists and labels to return to him. Life is too short to lose customers for a decade or two while they chase a cheaper way to get "that sound". It's not insecurity that makes these guys secretive, but knowing human nature well enough to know that a fool will hurt the originator's business of working with the best artists by convincing people that the it's the gear that makes the sound.

Look, the artists don't know. The labels don't know. And the wannabe's may never know (despite years of trying). But Rudy, well, he always knew ...

Oh, and if you don't like the Blue Note / RVG sound, I have a theory about you guys too. A theory decades in the making, free of any confirmation bias (i promise) and so consistently unfailing that it's as close to a certainty as anything else I think I know , and it's this - if you don't dig the RVG vibe, it's because you're just .not. cool.

Sorry.
Hello! I agree with most of what you said here, although I do feel his secrecy may have in part been due to a little insecurity about not being formally trained in electrical engineering, as most of his contemporaries in his field were. Maureen Sickler gave me an off-the-record "nod" on this as well, just agreeing that it's possible this was the case.

Another reason for the secrecy had to do with the fact that he wanted everyone to focus on the artistry of the musicians and producers, and by constantly deflecting questions about technique, this was one way in which he demonstrated a selflessness that was at the core of his being...quite beautiful, actually.
Old 29th May 2022 | Show parent
  #107
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2xUeL ➡️
Hello! I agree with most of what you said here, although I do feel his secrecy may have in part been due to a little insecurity about not being formally trained in electrical engineering, as most of his contemporaries in his field were. Maureen Sickler gave me an off-the-record "nod" on this as well, just agreeing that it's possible this was the case.

Another reason for the secrecy had to do with the fact that he wanted everyone to focus on the artistry of the musicians and producers, and by constantly deflecting questions about technique, this was one way in which he demonstrated a selflessness that was at the core of his being...quite beautiful, actually.
Maybe in the early days, but I don't think he would have suffered any case of "Impostor Syndrome" for very long. Having massive success with the world's best Jazz artists would have helped overcome any feeling of inadequacy!
Old 29th May 2022 | Show parent
  #108
Lives for gear
 
🎧 5 years
A source of confusion about all of this is, people rarely make the distinction in these anecdotes between when he was working at his parents' house vs in his own studio in Englewood Cliffs; lots changed at that point, such as the move from LDCs to almost exclusively SDCs.
Old 29th May 2022 | Show parent
  #109
Gear Head
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by princeplanet ➡️
Maybe in the early days, but I don't think he would have suffered any case of "Impostor Syndrome" for very long. Having massive success with the world's best Jazz artists would have helped overcome any feeling of inadequacy!
I think it's important to keep in mind that this is all speculation, my comments included.
Old 29th May 2022 | Show parent
  #110
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2xUeL ➡️
I think it's important to keep in mind that this is all speculation, my comments included.
For sure. One might also speculate that by being secretive his intention was to ensure that people like us would be discussing him for perhaps decades to come. Mystique has a way of ensuring ongoing speculation...
Old 29th May 2022 | Show parent
  #111
Gear Head
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by princeplanet ➡️
For sure. One might also speculate that by being secretive his intention was to ensure that people like us would be discussing him for perhaps decades to come. Mystique has a way of ensuring ongoing speculation...
He was a genius of marketing IMHO, and never talked about it. That mystique is also part of why he is so famous, talked about, and controversial!
Old 29th May 2022 | Show parent
  #112
Gear Head
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by M50k ➡️
A source of confusion about all of this is, people rarely make the distinction in these anecdotes between when he was working at his parents' house vs in his own studio in Englewood Cliffs; lots changed at that point, such as the move from LDCs to almost exclusively SDCs.
He started using Schoeps M221B in late 1956 when he was still at Hackensack, but only had two by the time he left there. So yes, he didn't ditch the U47 until 1960, when he was at the new studio, around the time he also went crazy buying KM54a's...he had 8 of them at one time! (He did use other LDCs moving into the '60s and beyond but definitely preferred SDCs in the '60s.)
Old 30th May 2022 | Show parent
  #113
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kludgeaudio's Avatar
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by king2070lplaya ➡️
I just cannot fathom, in the course of getting ready for a session, musicians practicing, photographer and label people hanging around, that an engineer would get sounds, then literally move their mics from their optimal placements, announce it was ok to take photos, and then after some amount of time kicking the photogs out, putting mics back, checking sounds, all just before tracking. It would be a huge waste of time and not something I can see musicians, label people or photographers paying/hanging around for.
And yet, he did exactly that, much to the dismay of the people who worked with him and who were severely inconvenienced.

Susan Stamberg's anecdote about how he destroyed her cassette tape because she clapped her hands in an interview with him is hilarious. It doesn't get any more paranoid than that.
--scott
Old 30th May 2022 | Show parent
  #114
Lives for gear
 
kludgeaudio's Avatar
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2xUeL ➡️
Hello! I agree with most of what you said here, although I do feel his secrecy may have in part been due to a little insecurity about not being formally trained in electrical engineering, as most of his contemporaries in his field were. Maureen Sickler gave me an off-the-record "nod" on this as well, just agreeing that it's possible this was the case.
And yet, he talks and writes about being a young man and visiting studios and watching what they were doing and trying to learn their techniques... but then turned around years later and went out of his way to prevent others from doing the same to him.
--scott
Old 30th May 2022 | Show parent
  #115
Gear Head
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by kludgeaudio ➡️
And yet, he did exactly that, much to the dismay of the people who worked with him and who were severely inconvenienced.

Susan Stamberg's anecdote about how he destroyed her cassette tape because she clapped her hands in an interview with him is hilarious. It doesn't get any more paranoid than that.
--scott
If you provide evidence that he moved the mics, I will reconsider my position. I'm familiar with the Stamberg interview as well, I don't consider that evidence that he moved his mics for photos.

I think it's important to be clear when a claim is speculation. Of course, in the end, my claim that he *didn't* move them is not indisputable fact, though I have attempted to carefully look at all the evidence, including first-hand testimony from collaborators who knew him very well and worked with him for decades, in drawing my conclusion.

Last edited by 2xUeL; 4 weeks ago at 05:14 PM..
Old 4 weeks ago
  #116
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 10 years
This assumption that recording sessions in days past were like ones today, where random label people & photographers would just show up and hang around, is just not accurate. Professional photographers were paid well, and hired/scheduled well in advance. Often photo shoots were like video shoots today - pretend sessions for the cameras, not an interruption of actual recording. They might take place before or after sessions, or on completely separate days. But, especially in one-studio operations like Rudy's, there would rarely be any extra people allowed when serious recording was meant to be taking place. This was well before the era of rock stars treating sessions like parties that the producer & engineer had to tolerate.
And it's been noted in many places that Rudy preferred a dim/dark studio, which would not have yielded candid photos that are so bright while also having depth of field and lack of motion blur.
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
  #117
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king2070lplaya's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by dirker ➡️
This assumption that recording sessions in days past were like ones today, where random label people & photographers would just show up and hang around, is just not accurate. Professional photographers were paid well, and hired/scheduled well in advance. Often photo shoots were like video shoots today - pretend sessions for the cameras, not an interruption of actual recording. They might take place before or after sessions, or on completely separate days. But, especially in one-studio operations like Rudy's, there would rarely be any extra people allowed when serious recording was meant to be taking place. This was well before the era of rock stars treating sessions like parties that the producer & engineer had to tolerate.
And it's been noted in many places that Rudy preferred a dim/dark studio, which would not have yielded candid photos that are so bright while also having depth of field and lack of motion blur.
I mean… If you know the history of Blue Note, you know it WAS the label man Francis Wolff taking so many of the photos…. Using a Rolleiflex and handheld flash bulb.
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