Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Manny Albam, February 9, 1999

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Recording studios in the 1950s

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Partial Transcript: --past the leader.

Segment Synopsis: Manny Albam talks about some of the recording studios he worked at during the 1950s, as well as other studios around New York City including Liederkranz Hall, Pythian Temple, and 30th Street Church. He tells a story about recording during a blizzard.

Keywords: 30th Street Church; 799; Blizzards; Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS); Columbia Recording Corporation; Columbia Records, Inc.; Decca Records; George Avakian; Interviews; Liederkranz Hall; Manhattan Center; Mathis, Johnny; Musicians; Pythian Temple; RCA Victor; Radio; Recording studios; Saxophone; Snow; Webster Hall

Subjects: Sound recording industry; Sound recording industry--History; Sound recording industry--History--20th century; Sound recording industry--United States; Sound recording industry--United States--History; Sound recording industry--United States--History--20th century; Sound--Recording and reproducing; Sound--Recording and reproducing--History; Sound--Recording and reproducing--United States

GPS: New York (N.Y.)
Map Coordinates: 40.7127, -74.0059
00:07:07 - Background in music

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Partial Transcript: So that session, tell me what you recall about--

Segment Synopsis: Born in 1922, Albam got his start in music playing the saxophone at age 14. Having graduated early from high school at the age of 16, he immediately took his passion for music out on the road. Immediately he began touring with jazz bands who played for artists like Mugsie Spanier and Dizzy Gillespie. After years of touring and being on the road, in 1951 Albam took time to take a break and focus on honing his skills as a composer. Being self taught proved a level of difficulty; as he was becoming very clear about what the requirements were for what he calls "studio guys" and touring musicians. As a composer, he broke into the field working with musicians in Webster Hall, Pythian Temple, Columbia Records and RCA Records.

Keywords: 20th century music; Albam, Manny; Columbia Recording Corporation; Columbia Records Inc.; Composers; Decca Records; Decca Records (UK); Dominican Republic; Gillespie, Dizzy (Artist); Jazz bands; Jazz musicians; Liederkranz Club Chorus; Liederkranz Hall; Manhattan Center; Muggsy Spanier & His Ragtime Band (Artist); Music composition; Musical arrangement; Pythian Temple; RCA Institutes; RCA Victor; Saxophone players; Spanier, Muggsy (Artist); Webster Hall

Subjects: Arts--Dominican Republic; Composition (Music)--History--20th century; Saxophone

GPS: New York (N.Y.)
Map Coordinates: 40.7127, -74.0059
00:16:20 - Albam's opinions on Stereo Action records

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Partial Transcript: Well you gotta, you, you, have to realize that first of all, they're going on one track, mostly.

Segment Synopsis: Discussing his involvement with stereo action in the late 1950s, Albam states his general dissatisfaction and annoyance with the musical recording technique. Popularized in the '60s, the "sound you can see" had a signature technique that oscillated the music from one speaker to another. Giving the illusion of the sound traveling back and forth through your head. Albam critiques the series for its lack of stability and how it disrupted the compositions he would write.

Keywords: Gardener, Richard; Music composition; RCA Institutes; RCA Victor; Sound engineering; Stereo Action; Stereophonic sound systems

Subjects: RCA records; Sound engineers; Stereophonics,

00:19:48 - Multi-track recording

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Partial Transcript: How much--

Segment Synopsis: Albam talks about how the advent of multi-track recording changed the recording process. He talks about how it made recording times shorter but post-mixing times longer. He talks about untrained musicians taking longer to record.

Keywords: 3-channel; 4-channel; 4-track; Ampex Electric Corporation; Bell Sound Studios; Boards; Building; Discs; Editing; Equipment; Homemade; Liederkranz Hall; Manufacturers; Microphones; Post-mixing; Producers; R&D (Research and Development); Ramone, Phil; Recording studios; Reverberation; Sound engineers; Stereo; Takes; Tape; Time; Training; Weintraub, Al

Subjects: Sound engineering; Sound recording industry; Sound--Recording and reproducing; Sound--Recording and reproducing--Equipment and supplies; Stereophonics

00:30:25 - Rudy Van Gelder and other engineers

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Partial Transcript: Uh, I can go through some more, some more stuff that--

Segment Synopsis: Albam talks about some of the studios he remembers, including Nola, A&R, and Clinton. He talks about sound engineer Rudy Van Gelder and tells stories about some of his eccentricities.

Keywords: A&R Recording Studio; Anderson, Jim; Capitol Records; Clinton Recording Studios; Composers; Eccentricities; Gleason, Jackie; Italy; Jazz; Master Sound Recording Studio; Musicians; NOLA Recording Studios; Personality; Recording sessions; Recording studios; Sound engineers; Van Gelder, Rudy; White gloves; Wong, Herb (Producer)

Subjects: Sound engineering; Sound recording industry; Sound--Recording and reproducing

00:37:52 - Change in the studio recording process

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Partial Transcript: Uh, now, I think I'm still kind of jumping around from place to place.

Segment Synopsis: Albam talks more about some of the studios and engineers he worked with. He talks about when big record companies began to reduce their use of in-house production. He talks about the changes that occurred when the record companies began to be run by businesspeople instead of music people.

Keywords: A&mapR Recording Studio; Accountants; Atlantic Records; BMG; Business people; Changes; Copyists; Corporations; Dowd, Tom; Elliot, Don; Fine, Bob; Great Northern Hotel; Hit Factory; In-house production; Mastering rooms; Musicians; Olmstead, Dick; Overtime; Problems; Procedures; Processes; Producers; RCA Victor; Record companies; Recording studios; Regent Sound; Rock 'n' roll; Rock and roll; Sony; Time; WOR (radio station)

Subjects: Sound recording industry; Sound--Recording and reproducing

00:46:45 - Phil Ramone, Walter Sear, Bob Fine and recording studios

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Partial Transcript: You know, Phil did stuff that, that, uh, I couldn't believe.

Segment Synopsis: Albam talks about several engineers he worked with throughout his career, including Phil Ramone, Walter Sear, and Bob Fine, among others. He also talks more about studios in New York.

Keywords: A&R Recording Studio; Bacharach, Burt; Bell Sound Studios; Boards; Capitol Records; Changes; Control; Film sound; Fine, Bob; Hyman, Dick; Institute of Audio Research (IAR); Listening; Mixing; Moog synthesizer; Museum of Sound Recording; New York University (NYU); Post-mixing; Producers; Ramone, Phil; Recording studios; Reeves Sound; Regent Sound; Rockefellers; Sear, Walter; Solid State; Sony; Sound engineers; Taylor, James (Artist); Tiers; Tuba; Weintraub, Al

Subjects: Sound recording industry; Sound--Recording and reproducing; Sound--Recording and reproducing--Equipment and supplies

GPS: New York (N.Y.)
Map Coordinates: 40.7127, -74.0059
00:58:19 - What the studio was like for a composer pre and post rock & roll

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Partial Transcript: Um, I know, this is really hard to, you know, recall a recording session.

Segment Synopsis: There was a shift that occurred for both the role of the composer but also the role of the recording studio in the creation of music. Albam discusses how in the 1930s-1940s music production was more efficient because bands would go on the road and tour with songs before they recorded it. Composers would write songs to be taken on the road by the bands. By the time the group came into the studio to record, they had already had months of practicing so naturally, the recordings were much more efficient. With the popularization of rock came the prevalence of less trained musicians. With less training came a necessity for multiple takes which cost more money. This was also the time of the independent producer and sometimes artists would come to the studio with music to work with. Record labels began to outsource labor for cost efficiency and did away with the pricey in-house music production of the past.

Keywords: Arrangement; Costa, Bob (Artist); Fitzgerald, Ella (Artist); Independent music producers; Independent producers; McRae, Carmen (Artist); Music composition; Musical arrangement; Sight reading; Vaughan, Sarah (Artist)

Subjects: Jazz Band Ball Orchestra; Record Company (Musical group); Rock music--1961-1970; Sound recording industry; Sound--Recording and reproducing; Stereophonics

01:11:43 - Good and bad recording sessions

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Partial Transcript: Do you recall, uh, sessions in which you worked with specific people that you either strongly liked or respected, or strongly disliked and didn't respect because of the way they worked in the studio?

Segment Synopsis: Albam discusses his ideal environment for collaboration, as well as the importance of friendly dispositions and a willingness to engage. In this segment, he also discusses the type of collaboration and character that one has to have when making the best product. Along with environments conducive to collaboration, Albam reflects on his most grueling sessions and projects, including West Side Story, as well as his most rewarding ones.

Keywords: Albam, Manny; Broadway; Broadway scores; Music producers; Musical collaboration; Musical composition; Musicals; Producers; Sound engineers; West Side Story

Subjects: Broadway Theatre (Organization : New York, N.Y.); Broadway Theatre Orchestra; Sound engineers; Sound recording industry--History--20th century

GPS: Broadway Theatre, Manhattan (N.Y.)
Map Coordinates: 40.763, -73.983