"Moore on Moore" is a somewhat misleading title as there isn’t much known about Ray Moore. An online search of his name will give you a lengthy discography and only reveal one picture of the man from fifty years ago. For someone who has six Grammy awards with 18 nominations and multiple Gold records, it is a surprise that Ray is a "virtual" ghost. In the music engineering world, however, Ray Moore is a giant. As a staff engineer at Columbia Records for 38 years, Ray worked with everyone from Pierre Boulez to Johnny Cash and was a student of composer Karol Rathaus. I knew about Ray because he was the mixing engineer for Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew, an album I wrote a book on [Listen to This: Miles Davis and Bitches Brew]. Through contacts with the engineering group, Friends of 30th Street (30th Street Studio was a studio Ray worked at and spent a great deal of time trying to save), I was able to get in touch with him for help with my project. Then in the summer of 2018, a few years after my book was published, his son Tom got in touch with me with an idea about a memoir on his life.
The biggest obstacle was Ray's failing health. At 86 his hearing and eyesight were deteriorating, and in September 2018, a week before we started work, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. A decision between surgery and chemotherapy, along with his overall mortality, was weighing on his mind. We spent many hours collecting his thoughts on his career as well as going through session logs that he kept while working at Columbia. It was a therapeutic experience for him, and an honor for me, to document this man's incredible life's work. It also created a friendship.
On February 8, 2019, Ray passed away. With help from Tom, Ray's son-in-law James Rodgers, producer Tom Frost, and engineer Don Puluse – people who had worked with Ray at Columbia for many years – we were able to put this project together, set the record straight, and preserve Ray's legacy.
Ray spoke much about the "golden age," a place where this piece begins, where classical music dominated. Ray lived through this era as a listener, musician, and engineer, and getting the inside view of these historical sessions, from a life lived session-by-session is at the heart of the matter. So, here is the heart, in Ray's own words.
I should define my view of the golden age. For me the golden age is the 20th century with all its accomplishments, events, performers, composers, writers, artists, and culture.Moreover, I feel the peak of the golden age for the classical segment of the music industry was 1960 to 1980. That peak diminished as we approached the year 2000 for a variety of reasons.There were critics who maintained that the classical segment was dying out, if not dead already. I am reminded that Allan Kozinn's article in the New York Times ["Check the Numbers: Rumors of Classical Music's Demise Are Dead Wrong", May 28, 2006] stated that the classical music scene is alive and well and still in its golden age. Indeed, he maintains that the increased attendance at classical concerts is greater than in the [peak of the from] golden age 1960 to 1980. He also cites the increased number of classical music venues that are on the scene now, particularly in the New York area. He did not mention that big record labels have dropped exclusive recording contracts with symphony orchestras and [with] many artists for new recordings, only keeping classical repertoire alive with reissues. Smaller labels have continually looked for classical repertoire to add to the recorded legacy. It's true that much of the repertoire I could only read about in college, I can now hear. I can't argue with attendance figures or the robustness of the classical scene, varied though it is, but I can say this: There is a lack of marquee names that the media can nurture into stars in the classical music scene today. No names like Horowitz, Rubinstein, Heifetz, Stern, Serkin, Gould, Walter, Ormandy, Bernstein, Szell, Ozawa, or Stokowski dominate the scene anymore, making it difficult for the media to focus on individuals [within] this diversified scene.Hence, few heroes.
I was born in 1932. Sometime in 1936 we moved from Astoria, Queens, to South Ozone Park.We lived there until after World War II. By this point, music was a moving force in my life. Either on the radio or [through] records I'd hear Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, and Ella Fitzgerald songs and ended up singing the likes of "Goodie, Goodie" and "The Music Goes Round and Round" not just at home, but to the neighbors as well, especially the 17 and 19 year old sisters who lived three houses away.Even now the younger sister still remembers "the crazy six-year-old" who sang to them.
In 1937-38 I was fascinated by Artie Shaw's "Frenesi" and "Begin the Beguine." I wanted to learn the clarinet, but a trip to a music store in Jamaica, Queens, ended up with me taking saxophone lessons. The sax was easier, and I could always switch to clarinet, the owner maintained. I did fairly well with the sax, but I developed a respiratory problem after several months and the doctor suggested I stop playing.
So, in 1939 music took a back seat in my life. Life was filled with school, the 1939 World's Fair, and stickball. When the War [World War II] started in 1939, I began getting interested in airplanes and aviation. After Pearl Harbor [was attacked in 1941] I looked for air war movies and I remember my mother taking me to Radio City Music Hall to see Air Force. It was my first movie in New York City. The air war movies trend led to Suicide Squadron, which was as much about piano music as it was airplanes. I fell in love with Richard Addinsell's "Warsaw Concerto" and decided to take piano lessons. In 1943 my parents took me back to Jamaica [Queens] to purchase an $88 piano, and my life in music got underway.
My movie interests switched from air war pictures to music pictures. Song to Remember, a film about [Frédéric] Chopin, had a big impact on me. I vowed to learn every composition of Chopin's that appeared on the soundtrack album of the movie. During the six years of piano lessons that followed, I did just that. There were about 15 compositions of Chopin's on that soundtrack, including some of Chopin's most difficult. I was also working on other Chopin pieces along with Liszt, Beethoven, Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Ravel, Debussy, Mendelssohn, Grieg, and all the other greats. My hero was the virtuoso Vladimir Horowitz. He was the main pianist on the scene during World War II. My father would say, "How are you ever going to be a Horowitz if you don't practice your classical stuff?" I never became a Horowitz, but I recorded him 30 years later. Horowitz was a character. I can remember at that session he played one of the pieces and at the end made a comment saying, "Not bad for an old man." I said, "Maestro, not bad for a young man." His wife was sitting in the studio and he said, "Wanda, Wanda, did you hear what he said? Not bad for a young man!"
While I did well in junior high school, it afforded no musical outlet. High school was no different. I had the opportunity to study music theory and harmony, but there was no outlet that would allow me to test any musical togetherness. Once I graduated, I decided to study music at Queens College and figure out a career path. Could I become a concert pianist? I remember thinking about it on New Year's Eve, 1949, listening to Eugene Ormandy's performance of Rachmaninoff's Symphony #2 and [Cesar] Franck's D Minor Symphony. Although I didn't have the knowledge then that I have now, I made the correct decision not to try to become a piano soloist. Instead, I would work toward composing.
When I began college, I returned to taking piano lessons with a teacher in Queens Village.After six years, I stopped taking lessons from my first teacher when I had to prepare for high school finals and Regents exams. This second teacher was able to record in her studio. She recorded my performance of the Chopin G Minor Ballade (Op.23) [Ballade No.1 In G Minor, Op.23] in one take.It had to be one take, because there were no options of subsequent takes. There was a short pause at a page turn, which I realized in later years could be edited out, but that is another story.
Besides my college work and piano lessons, I began writing what I hoped would be popular songs with a high school buddy named Al Swenson. He would write the lyrics and I would put them to music. Over a period of a year, we had written about ten songs.Then the question arose: What to do with these songs? Neither of us knew any popular singers or had any connections with tin pan alley folks. Since Al had a day job, it fell on me to make a trip to New York City to try to sell our songs. What a harrowing experience. I must have actually gotten in to see five publishers who basically thought I was crazy to try to sell these songs this way. I even tried to sell them some of my own piano instrumentals. One of the publishers even joked, "Maybe if you add lyrics to your instrumentals and make instrumentals of your songs, we could talk." When I told Al of my day in the big city, we both realized this was not the way to go. Al gave up and went back to his day job completely, and I went back to school.
The most important event of my college career was a conversation I had with Professor Karol Rathaus, who was my guidance counselor as well as my music composition and orchestration professor. Rathaus fled Germany and eventually landed in Queens after the Nazis declared his work "degenerate art." If he stayed, he would have been executed. Professor Rathaus wanted to talk to me about what I intended to do after graduation. I told him I would like to go to graduate school but couldn't because I had to serve two years in the Marine Corps Reserves during the Korean War. He said I could go to graduate school when I returned and he would help me with that course of action, but he wanted to know what I wanted to do in the music world. I told him I'd like to write music for movies, TV, radio, or write a Broadway show. He had come from Europe in the mid-'30s and went to Hollywood to write music for movies, but he didn't like it because the pace was so fast and the style was too commonplace for his tastes, so he decided to come instead to Queens to teach.At this point he looked down toward his desk at the paper which had my college record on it and said, "You have a great many math and science credits here, would you ever consider looking into how phonograph records are made?" I told him I would, but I would like to keep the graduate school option open with his help. I kept in contact with Professor Rathaus until the end of that year when I received a letter in which he indicated he was very ill. The following year I attended his memorial concert.So much for keeping the graduate school option open.
I graduated from Queens College in February of 1954 and went right into the military. I went to naval radio school in Washington, DC for three months to prepare for active duty in the Marine Air Wing Reserve. After completing this training, I married my wife, Barbara Leigh, and as we were returning to New York City from our honeymoon trip, my uncle, Marine Major Joseph Angyal, was killed as his plane crashed on a training weekend at Floyd Bennett Field, Marine Air Wing Reserve Squadron VMF132. He was breaking in on Tigercat jets, which were replacing the Corsairs, the mainstay of VMF132.I was in VMF313 at the same base (Floyd Bennett field) so my active duty service was delayed by two months until September 1954.
I went on active duty at Cherry Point, North Carolina which was a Marine Air Wing base.I was placed into the Overhaul and Repair squadron, where many of the Marine Air Wing plane fleet were maintained and repaired.I found myself in the radio shop there, but not for long. Colonel Lameroueax, the Commanding Officer of the squadron, told me to report to him one morning.It seems, since I had a college degree, he wanted me to think about becoming an officer or a pilot and making the service a career. Well, at five feet five [inches], I was too short for pilot training and not interested in staying on active duty any longer than the two years I was required to do for my Reserve commitment. He went to plan B then and asked me if I would be willing to attend a civil service training course in motion and time study. He wanted there to be a Marine presence in this course and was looking through the rest of the squadron for college graduates to attend this training, so I agreed to take the training course. I completed the six-month course and became a member of the motion and time study department of the Overhaul and Repair Squadron. This squadron had many civil service employees integrated with Marines. I worked in that department for the remainder of my two-year tour of duty.
Before reporting to duty, I wrote to Columbia Records to try to find out [how] to work in phonograph record production.The letter I wrote to Columbia must have kicked around from office to office because I received an answer from Mr. William S. Bachman although I hadn't addressed it to him. But he kindly advised me on getting a science degree, or an engineering degree, and getting in touch with him when my military service was completed.
I made arrangements to enter Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute in the fall of 1956 and got off active duty two weeks early and began this course of study. I informed Mr. Bachman of my completion of active duty, but I didn't hear from him until the summer of 1957, when he said he had an opening as his assistant if I was interested. In the meantime, I was working at Kollsman Instrument Co. as a time and motion study man while going to school at night.
In September of 1957, I began working at Columbia with Mr. Bachman in the phonograph design area.When he lost his budget for an assistant, he steered me into a job at Columbia Record's Recording Operations Department, which was a union shop. At first, I worked in disk mastering.I cut the acetates which were sent to the plant to be processed into LP records. I started first cutting mono records, then graduated to stereo records. It was 1959 and stereo was beginning to grow, but the Recording Operations department had other plans for me. When a job for tape editor/mixer opened up, they moved me into that because of my music background. That really was the beginning of my 35-year career in the recording business. Although I still had aspirations as a classical pianist, Professor Rathaus had given me a suggestion for my possible career future and he was correct.
Early Career, Columbia Records
1960 was the beginning of my editing/mixing career at Columbia Records. We were on the fourth floor of 49 East 52nd Street in New York. There was a supervisor's office and around that office were [about] ten editing rooms. Their equipment was plentiful and extremely well maintained, but I wouldn't say it was top of the line. Sometimes there was some jerry-rigging going on. You'd [ask for] a 30-inch per second tape machine and they would come up with one. They wouldn't necessarily go buy one. They would doctor one of their 15-inch machines to accommodate 30-inch, and sometimes it wasn't the proper way to do it. We would run into some problems, like the tempos wouldn't quite match from one machine to the other. So, there were times when they tried to be too creative when they could have easily bought something that worked.
In the shop, no non-union workers were allowed to touch the equipment, so the producer wasn't allowed to move you over and mix part of the recording. Even sitting next to you touching some of the faders, they just were not allowed to do that. That was a union restriction. We were determined to make [as] great [a] record as anyone else.
My primary tasks as an engineer were tape editor and mixer. Tape editing is physically cutting the tape, and in some sense, putting it together. Splicing is done for various reasons, either to correct mistakes – which no artist ever makes – or to change interpretation, which is a possibility. Sometimes it's done just for continuity. For instance, things were recorded piecemeal for a reason, and they had to be put together later. But, by and large, it's to get a clean performance. Sometimes in a recorded concert there may be a cough or noise, which can actually be spliced out if there is another take. But splicing is something that's not supposed to be done, from what I can gather from talking to many people. It is done, however, just as it is in the movies. I think many people know that a movie's put together that way – that there are many takes, and that certain things are pieced together – but I don't think they realize that the recording industry works pretty much the same way. Once decisions were made on the edits, it was my job to mix down the performance in preparation for the album's release.
Along with post-editing, I was part of many recording sessions. In the early '60s and throughout the '70s, I was on crews for remote sessions – sessions in studios away from our main studios in New York. We had the work divided between a control man – a fellow who takes care of the control board – and people who maintain and run the recording machines – stop and start for various takes and for playbacks. We also had a supervisor. So, we had a crew of at least two, sometimes three.
My responsibilities would vary from producer to producer. For a recording session, the producer is the "majordomo." It's his responsibility to run the session to "get the performance." He's there, if not to get involved in the technical aspect, certainly to be involved in the musical aspect – the one-to-one relationship with the conductor and/or soloist.
Some producers don't get involved with the technical aspects, either because they don't want to be bothered, or because they have enough to do just keeping the music straight and talking with the conductor about how the performance is going and what they want to redo. We had other producers who had technical backgrounds, and while they didn't get involved in technical aspects during the session, except if a problem arose, certainly they had something to say about how the session was set up.
The funny part of it is, if you listen to any series of records from any company, you begin to see some of the producer showing through, regardless of the engineer involved, because some producers have a set way of doing things through which, by a little arm-twisting or a little persuasion, they achieve their goals. There are producers who just don't really care as long as the sound is decent, [giving] the engineer free rein. During the years that I was involved, we had producers from both ends of the spectrum.
I have worked with producers who allowed me more of a free hand as an engineer and others who were more controlling. Let's put it this way: if you have a free hand and a producer that's satisfied, it can be a good experience. At the other end of the spectrum, if you work with a producer who's very meticulous, both in the engineering and musical sense, that can be helpful if you are in agreement with his method, or at least his results.
In the early days, we were using 3-track machines. We called the track that would appear on the left side of an audio space, the A track. The C track [is] what would appear in the center of an audio space, and the B track [is] what would appear on the right side of an audio space. In order to conform to the 2-track stereo configuration, the center channel had to become a ghost channel in that half of its signal level would be added to the left track and half of its signal level would be added to the right track. The result would be a ghost center channel that would appear exactly between the left speaker and the right speaker. Hence, this mixing of the 3-track studio tape has afforded us only audio space placement.As a musical performance is achieved, adjustments are made on the three channels governed by musical considerations to make a 2-track stereo mix which is copied to a 2-track tape machine, so that the mix is captured and can be played back. In this procedure, no recorded levels are changed on the 3-track, because it acts as the source, and the amount of each track's level as it appears in this 2-track mix is recorded to the new 2-track mix.Finally, equalization, echo, reverb, and other goodies enter into the picture. This was our basic procedure.
We did Bobby Vinton's "Roses Are Red (My Love)" as a 3-track studio tape, where the C split was accomplished in the studio session half on A and half on B so C could be devoted to Bobby's voice only. Then 4-track recording gave us the option of having A, B, C, for instruments and four [D]for a soloist. Had Roses Are Red been done [on] 4-track, Bobby's voice could have been placed on four [D]and the instrumental background spread among A, B, C without needing the split of C at all.That could be done in the 2-track mix. 8-track and 16-track can be seen as extensions of 3- and 4-track mixing. The Glorious Sound of Christmas, with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra [and Temple University Concert Choir], was a remote location at Philadelphia's Town Hall building, also done on 3-track, [and] mixed using a pop music mixing mentality rather than a more straightforward classical approach. Tom Frost was the producer for Glorious Sound, and Bob Morgan for the Vinton album.
Premixing was part of my job too. There wasn't much to do back when it was only two or three tracks. We could manipulate three tracks and get certain little nuances. But later, with 16 tracks, what we were doing was really recreating the whole orchestra. If we use many microphones on a piano recording, we get certain ambient sound fields, depending on what microphones we chose. We had to exert discretion in achieving what we wanted, and what we thought the artist wanted, in his recorded piano sound. Of course, 16 tracks could mean 50 microphones. For Carmina Burana [Michael Tilson Thomas, Cleveland Orchestra and Boys Choir], which is the largest project I worked on, we used 50 microphones.
The mixing aspect is hard to explain without going into lengthy procedures. The minute we went to 4-track, all the compromises that had to be made with two or 3-track by many of the producers could be worked out. Say you had an orchestra with a piano. In 3-track, that used to be handled one of two ways: (1) We would have a piano mic which would be superimposed over the woodwind track and the balance had to be right between the woodwind track and the piano, because the other two tracks would be the rest of the orchestra. (2) Some producers would split the woodwind track and bring it to the sides so that we had an orchestral balance side to side, with the piano or other solo instrument by itself.
The minute we had four tracks, we stopped making those compromises. We put the solo instrument on one track, the orchestra on the other three. When we went to 8-track, it became a whole new ballgame. We could break down the orchestra if we wanted, or maybe better, we could have two tracks for the piano, and the rest of the tracks for the orchestra. So, we could get a stereo pickup on the piano to give it breadth. The 16-track is an extension of 8-track, where we could go completely wild. It takes longer to mix down 16 tracks. If the producer wants to take the pains and say, "Look, at this particular point. I don't like the way it sounds," he has a good chance of being able to fix that sound with [an] 8- or 16-track. With 4-track, we were limited, 3-track, even more so. 2-track, forget it. Mono, that was it. So, with fewer tracks, the recording had to "be right" or it was "wrong," depending on the producer's or artist's outlook. In theory, the more tracks we had, the better chance of being able to do what we wanted to do.
In the late '60s, I began working with producer Teo Macero and Miles Davis. One of these projects was as editor and mixing engineer for Bitches Brew. Teo told me that Miles never spent any time in an editing room. He would let Teo take care of the editing function most of the time. With Bitches Brew, however, Miles spent three afternoons with me (Sept. 24-26, 1969) removing sections of music from the edited selections that Teo and I had put together. I didn't realize it immediately, but as we removed sections of music, I began to notice that Harvey Brooks' bass solos were the target of the removals. That was a surprise. Teo would normally have taken those out, but Miles was hell bent on editing these tapes before I mixed it. He wanted these things out. After the third afternoon, Miles must have been satisfied because I didn't see him in the editing room ever again.
At first, I didn't realize whose solos we were taking out, Brooks or Dave Holland, until I found out about the politics; Brooks was a producer at Columbia Records and wormed his way onto the recording sessions somehow. I don't know how Teo let that happen, but it did. I guess Miles okay'd for him to come onto the recording session and do something, and after the fact he didn't want any solos on it.
Artists rarely came into the mixing room, making the occurrence with Miles all that more peculiar. The only other person in my experience was Gunther Schuller, who came in to help mix and choose balances for a march album that he had done [Footlifters: A Century of American Marches. Columbia 33513]. He was also there for the last thing we did, 100 Years of Century Dance [Columbia M-33981]. But most artists stay away from mixing completely. Occasionally, they'll get involved with the splicing; they'll be there to pick the takes that they want, or actually stay there and do the work. Organist E. Power Biggs [Edward George Power Biggs] spliced. He would come in, pick his takes, and actually work with one of our engineers. But to edit out another artist's complete parts, like Miles did, was unheard of to me.
Bitches Brew was recorded live to 8-track. There were no overdubbed tracks. With the number of instruments included (trumpet, saxophone, guitar, bass, two drum kits, two keyboards, and one track for miscellaneous), and the relative closeness of the instruments in a rather small studio for these forces, it was unavoidable to escape the appearance of instruments on tracks not intended for those instruments, or in other words, leakage. Hence, the guitar track, by virtue of the guitar being near the trumpet in the studio, had a great deal of trumpet sound on it. What to do in mix down? After deciding instrument placement in a stereo sound field, a method was needed to prevent the instrument placement to be clouded by the leakage of other instruments on the track involved. This was something we dealt with for years on a 4-channel mix. We had a piece of electronic equipment back then called a Kepex [Noise Gate, manufactured by Valley People], which prevented sound from a track to enter into the mix unless the level of the sound was of higher level than a preset amount. For instance, [if] the level of the recorded guitar was higher on that track than the leakage level of the trumpet, [the] guitar sound would be allowed to enter the mix as well as the trumpet leakage, but when the guitar is not playing, the trumpet leakage level was prevented from entering the mix because it should be below the preset level chosen. This arrangement of level control made the trafficking of sound bearable in the mix. Of course, equalization of each track, echo deployment, and treatment of special effects when required all had to be decided upon [for] each selection on the album. After Teo and I set up each selection with these parameters, Teo let me mix each selection subject to his approval upon listening to my mix in playback.
One of the special effects that appeared in several of the selections was a tape playback of a repeated note at a time interval governed by the placement of playback heads on a device Teo had our engineering department design just for this purpose.It was a wild rig, and the recorded noise in the chain was cleaned up somewhat by using Dolby noise reduction in the loop. Miles must have liked the effect, because he frequently used it in concerts after Bitches Brew. I never did find out how he accomplished the effect live.
In recent years people who have revisited these Bitches Brew 8-track tapes – for the purpose of remixing the performances for new CD mixes – have made analyses of musical splices and musical repeats that puzzle me. Without the analog 2-track tape of the original mix playing, and seeing where the splices in the music are, it is difficult to know what purpose the splice served in the musical scheme of things, be it level correction, musical purpose or so on. I guess all history has its revisionists.
At the beginning of 1970 I was mixing the album for the 4-channel version, more popularly known as quad [quadraphonic]. During the mixing I was paid a visit by Bill Cosby, of all people.It seems he was visiting Macero in another mixing room, and Teo mentioned to him that I was working on Miles's new album. Cosby, a devoted Davis fan, couldn't pass up an opportunity to hear some Miles, so he poked his head into my room to hear what I was doing.To say he was surprised to hear Miles playing from four speakers is putting it mildly. I was at the point in the mix where Miles's notes were repeated through the tape delay around the room in a sequence. Cosby was fascinated. Pity is that this would be the only time he would hear it that way, because the version that was released to the public was the encoded stereo version, which even [when] decoded properly never quite worked well. The 4-track tape version was released but was not pushed as a product by our label.
Back then, all the sessions were staff assigned, but I just happened to start working with Teo and the next thing I know, we were doing The Graduate soundtrack, as well as Miles's Sorcerer, Nefertiti, and In a Silent Way. So, when Bitches Brew came around, he had me do that, along with Live/Evil the following year. What happened was that a producer would work with an engineer at Columbia and start to make a team. Usually, he would try to get the same people, if it was possible. All in all, the relationship I had with Teo was professional and we certainly got the results we wanted, but it was not always so rosy. For one, he liked to listen to playback at extremely high levels, and I couldn't stand it. I told him, "I'll mix it, but I can't work with you at these levels without earplugs." In this case, he backed down. Because of the complexity of the mix he knew he needed me, and this would be the best way to handle it. I knew he had trust in me because of my musical background. It ultimately worked out, since the album [Bitches Brew] won a Grammy for Best Jazz Performance and went Gold.
I guess you can say there were also times where my job responsibilities could be labeled miscellaneous. The Graduate soundtrack, which Teo and I collaborated on before Bitches Brew [released in 1968] was a case where we had to get creative.None of the producers at Columbia wanted to work on the project, because they felt there wasn't enough music to create an album. They also probably did not want [to] step on Simon & Garfunkel's toes.But for some reason Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel didn't want to bother with producing the soundtrack. So, Teo and I jumped in. How could Columbia not have a soundtrack album for a blockbuster like The Graduate? Well, Teo is a master at extending music composition and he put all his talents to the task. There were sound effects on the tapes sent to us by the film people. We utilized everything we could. The song "Mrs. Robinson" existed only as 30-second clips, one with voices and one without voices. That's all we had. On "Scarborough Fair" they took a flute solo from the film people and inserted it into the middle of the extended double version, transforming it from the 3:07 original into the 6:25 version that appears on the soundtrack. In total, we added about nineteen to 20 minutes of program material to make an album of reasonable length.
I remember The Graduate album especially, because it posed a technical problem, which I was able to solve. I had just discovered that a mono signal if delayed (in time) and played in a speaker other than the original mono's speaker, does not show up as a mono in a ghost center channel, but rather shows as a signal spread between the two speakers in a space (artificial stereo). If you add a different equalization to each of these mono signals, you increase the effect of stereo. Of course, the amount of delay is critical (40 to 50 milliseconds). The technical problem was instrument and voice deployment on the tape sent to us by the film people. The voices were on one track and all the instruments on another. There were sound effects which we didn't want for the song mix. Normally, in the song mix we would put the voices in the center and the instruments on either side. So, the technical problem was to separate the instrumental into two entities. The solution was this time delay just mentioned, plus appropriate equalization to bring what seemed like two instrumental tracks instead of one. If you listen to the album, I wonder if you can tell which song is not really stereo? I won't go into detail on how it was done, but I will say that it required the original source, three mono machines, and a stereo 2-track machine to accomplish the solution.
We created that album, Teo and I. Nobody knew what we were going to do. When we first got it, it was only about 20 to 25 minutes of music from composer Dave Grusin. We ended up with about 40 minutes of music and a Gold record.
Although The Graduate is arguably an exception, there's little difference between engineering a pop or classical recording. There really is no such thing as a "star" engineer. If an engineer knows what he is doing, he can do anything because all he's doing is either creating a sound, copying a sound, or getting a sound. Now, if someone wants to make a piano sound like a kazoo, I'm sure there's even a guy who can turn around and figure that out. If you've got a jazz trumpet player, how different is his sound from that of an orchestral trumpet player?
For various reasons, sometimes you have no choice but to make certain edits. Sometimes there are mistakes, sometimes in a concerto the orchestra and the soloist aren't quite together. But then again, I've heard a lot of 78s where things weren't together, and no one seemed to mind. If the people who recorded from 1900 to 1948 had been afforded the same technical advances – to be able to splice their performances – would they have done it or not? You can't go back to Liszt and Co. There's no record. But if they had the ability to splice back in 1877, they probably would have "cheated" the public then. I really wonder how letter-perfect Liszt, Chopin, and Beethoven were.
This may be surprising, but the musician himself usually has nothing to say about the engineering beyond, "I like that sound," or, "I don't like that sound" – and that may or may not be valid. I have been surprised that some artists are unable to realize what good recorded sound is. Some of the artists get involved in "sound" because they are accustomed to hearing their instruments in a certain way, and they want to hear it that way on discs. No one ever sits in the same relationship to a piano, a fiddle, or any other instrument, as does the player. Therefore, it's very difficult for them to know what they sound like 15 rows from the stage.
If the artist doesn't care about mistakes and wants the performance to go out that way, it can [be released] that way if he's strong willed enough. If somebody is contracted to do a performance and he or she is satisfied with the performance even with mistakes, and the artist is big enough, I don't think any producer in the world could force a correct performance.
Remember one thing, though: it's not the engineer's decision as to what should be spliced. There have been occasions when I actually acted as an A&R man or producer and spliced things after the fact, but these haven't been many. If [the artist or A&R person is] working with a producer who wanted certain things, and I knew what he was looking for, [but] he wanted to do something which rubbed me the wrong way musically, or is going to make a bad splice, I might say, "I know what you want to do, but if you do it my way we'll have a successful splice versus not having one."
As engineers, we would usually work with producers. The producer had overall responsibility, except for the technical aspects such as making sure there were no flaws, and that things weren't phased, or there were no noises that could distract a listener. The engineer is really responsible for these things, but the producer had the final say. If someone came in and said, "I'd like to take the first four bars of take two," you wouldn't say, "Why are you doing that? The first four bars of take three are better." Generally speaking, you didn't override the producer. Also, the producer had to communicate more with the artist. And the producer was responsible for [communicating with] the record company.
Although splicing becomes very impersonal, an engineer tries to put himself within the frame of reference and splice within that framework. If an artist is not that zeroed in on wrong notes, you might approach splicing differently. You know that the artist may not mind as much if a wrong note exists, so long as the feel is there. If you know that about the artist, you probably will splice the way the artist wants.
Splicing and inserts are a way of life with many recordings. Along with correcting mistakes, better performances of sections of a selection are preferred over ones equally correct but lacking in urgency. Not all musicians, however, wanted to cut and splice recordings. Artie Shaw came in to work with me on some recordings that he had done with his group, and maybe the label he was on didn't want to [release the recordings], or something, but they gave him the tapes and he wanted to hear them to see what was useful for an album. I said to him, "If you don't like a certain section, but like it in another take, we can splice it." I mean, that's how I made my living for years. Splice the good one in and no one's going to know. But he wouldn't do it. He said, "No, we can't do that. It's got to be one take. We can't cheat. I'm going to pick the best complete one if I do anything." That was a big surprise to me, but that's where he was coming from.
There is, of course, a basic difference between recording performances on 78s and the LP stereo era. Having to play accurately for a full 78 side at a time is a little bit different than being able to stop and start anywhere. When I was studying to be a pianist. I knew what the problems were and thought in terms of a live concert situation where you should be right at least ninety-five percent of the time. I didn't know tape would be coming in 1948, so I just decided it wasn't for me.
In terms of ethics, everyone has his or her own mind to make up as to whether splicing and editing is valid or not. Personally, I could be a purist. Certainly, I was brought up at a time when those 78 RPM sides were supposed to be right; I listened that way, and I've heard enough good recordings that way, performance-wise. Let's face it, the way some of those performances were recorded, there were obvious mistakes made. But what difference does it make? Since then, the whole idea is everything has to be letter perfect. I have heard the flair, the actual interpretation. I would appreciate that more than having something letter perfect note wise that doesn't go anywhere.
Not to sound subservient, but it is the role of the engineer to join with the producer to make the artist comfortable, not so much to make ethical decisions for the artist or producer. If you are editing a big orchestra or a jazz band, 20 pieces, and someone says, "I don't like the sound of my trombone," the producer should be dealing with that. He'd say, you're hearing the trombone, I'm hearing the overall project, so that's what it's going to be. But as engineers, we set up the sounds, and in reality, we made a lot of decisions that we hoped would put the producer in the right direction.
The engineer is also not responsible for reading the score. There's always a producer or assistant for that. The conductor is interpreting a composer. He is following to the best of his ability what the composer had in mind. An engineer can read the score, but that's not his job. His job is listening deeply. I've seen it in the pop field where engineers have been known to push their producers out of the way and become producers, but I never did that. If it happened for classical music, it was pretty rare.
Once, engineer Don Puluse and I were in a room and arranger Don Costa came in. He was used to working with the people who did jazz records. I was setting up some equalization, and he said, "What are you doing?" I said, "I'm making a record," and he said, "I thought we did that in the studio." I never forgot that. I knew what I was doing, and I was contributing to that record, but he was correct. It was my job to read around a producer and an artist to get what sounded best technically. I never neglected what an artist or producer was trying to do; what I'd do was an enhancement. I wasn't fooling around with the product or trying to be a rock star.
Mid-Career, Columbia: The 1970s
During the '70s at Columbia, I won five Grammys for Best Engineered Recording (Classical), and one more in 1981:
1970: Stravinsky: Le Sacre Du Printemps. Boulez, Cleveland Orchestra
1973: Bartok: Concerto for Orchestra. Boulez, New York Philharmonic
1975: Ravel. Daphnis et Chloe. Boulez, New York Philharmonic
1976: Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue. Michael Tilson Thomas, Columbia Jazz Band
1978: Varese: Boulez Conducts Varese. Boulez, New York Philharmonic
1981: Isaac Stern's 60th Anniversary Celebration album, Zubin Mehta, New York Philharmonic
During much of this time, I worked with producer Andrew Kazdin. I had 13 nominations in that decade, 11 [of which] when Andy was producing.The other two were with Tom Shepard and Jay Saks. There were four years (1972, 1974, 1975, and 1976) where we had two nominations.It is difficult to win a Grammy when you are running against yourself, but in 1975 and 1976 we managed to win even though we had two nominations. Besides the four double Grammy nomination years, we had nominations in 1970, 1973, 1977, 1978, and 1980. When I look through the list of titles that are included among the Grammy nominations from that decade, that whole decade passes before my eyes again. There were two nominations with the Columbia Symphony Orchestra, one with Aaron Copland conducting, and one with Michael Tilson Thomas conducting.We got a nomination for an original cast recording of Candide [(1974 Broadway Revival Cast), Leonard Bernstein Conductor] and one for Zubin Mehta conducting the LA Philharmonic with Pinchas Zukerman as soloist [Béla Bartók, Pinchas Zukerman, Zubin Mehta – Violin Concerto No.2, CBS Records, 1979.]. The repertoire these nominations covered was Bartok: Concerto for Orchestra, Dance Suite, Wooden Prince, Violin Concerto; Stravinsky: Rite of Spring, Petrushka; Orff: Carmina Burana; Bernstein: Candide; Copland: Appalachian Spring; Ravel: Daphnes & Chloe; Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue; DaFalla: Three Cornered Hat; Varese: Ameriques, Arcana, & Ionisation. I also worked on a great many other projects that didn't receive Grammy nominations and with several other producers during this decade, including Richard Killough, Steven Epstein, David Behrman, Richard Einhorn, and John Corigliano. The last three are composers who worked for a while as producers at Columbia.
Some of my most successful work was with Pierre Boulez and either the New York Philharmonic or Cleveland Orchestra. In total, we had eight Grammy nominations and three awards together. Boulez was a private man, tightly guarded, and almost unknowable. For all the time spent in the recording sessions together, we barely spoke. My relationship with the maestro was unique in the sense that I was the one physically handling his work, and there was an unspoken trust in me. He was a taskmaster and was very good at what he did. His musical ability – to make a score live –was great. He was one of the best conductors ever.
In those days I also worked a lot with producer Tom Frost. The two of us worked well together because of our musical background [Tom had studied music at Yale] and we both appreciated the music. Not everybody did, and not every engineer had the same music background as we did. It was never mechanical. It wasn't just a dry process. I knew what I had to do with Tom's edit choices and was able to carry it out. Knowing the music allowed us to work more efficiently in the editing room together. At times, I may have interjected opinions about an editing decision, but I never overstepped my boundaries with Tom. I didn't need to. One of the reasons I loved working with Tom was because our ideas coincided most of the time.
Tom started before me and taught me a lot about getting a good room sound in the studio. When he started out, everything had to be close-mic'd. When you go back to the late-'40s and early-'50s, the sound was established by the engineers because they were looking for efficiency, and closer mic placement seemed to be better, they thought, to efficiently catch the sound. But then the tastes changed, primarily because of certain producers and their aesthetic ideas. It was less of an engineering problem, because in the early days there was always a concern of hiss. Hiss was created from the sound travelling through different electronics, amplifiers, microphones, wires, and so forth before it got to the recording machine. They call it the signal-to-noise ratio. In order to avoid a lot of hiss, you got closer to the source, or the instruments themselves, allowing a better ratio. But gradually as the equipment got better, people like Tom urged them to move the microphones farther away, because now the sound had a better signal-to-noise ratio and you could now get away with that. Things gradually changed with the tastes of producers and engineers, although many engineers continued to favor close-mic'ing.
There are different recording philosophies. There are engineers who go overboard with zooming in, and others who layback 30 rows and just let the microphones pick up any balance the conductor wants. I'm somewhere in the middle ground. Many European recordings aim for "concert realism" – having two microphones 15 or 20 rows back and letting the conductor balance. Back in the days of the old Mercury Living Presence records, it was, "Let the conductor balance." The trouble is, if you use two microphones and the hall has any kind of quirk, as Philharmonic Hall does with no low end, you're not going to hear the cellos and the double basses if you're 30 feet back. I was sitting in that hall in the early days watching these fellows just sawing away, and I couldn't hear them! What kind of realism have you got compared to what the conductor really wants and hears on the podium? But if he comes back to you and says, "Where are the cellos, double basses and violas?" and you say, "They got lost in the hall," how valid is that for a recording? That's the other side of the coin.
By recording this way, we could create a performance that was just as valid as a concert performance taking place in a hall. In fact, to my way of thinking, many times more valid. Because if there's anything I hate, if there's anything that puts me to sleep, it's attending a performance I can barely hear. If I can barely hear the singer, the enunciation, or I can't hear the soloist versus the orchestra, I lose interest.
During this time, I worked with Richard Killough on Leonard Bernstein's recordings of the complete Sibelius symphonies. Editing the original Lincoln Center recordings, and mixing the result to stereo 2-track, was a memorable undertaking because of the sound qualities of Avery Fisher Hall and trying to please Bernstein's concept of sound, but we got the job done and the collection was released.
Killough and I also worked on the complete symphonies of Carlos Chavez, which Dick [Richard Killough] had recorded on location in Mexico. In this case there were six symphonies we had to try to match in terms of sonic continuity although they were not all recorded in the same location or the same time frame.Chavez visited us in our New York studio to hear what we had done with the six symphonies. But what amazed me most was Chavez's businesslike approach to getting performances of his more current compositions, I realized then that there was more to being a composer than I ever imagined.
Killough got me in the studio to record Vladimir Horowitz on several dates near the end of Horowitz's time on the Columbia label, including his last session. We actually shipped his Steinway from his New York apartment. I had worked with Richard on quite a few Horowitz recordings over the years but this one was special. We had recorded Horowitz in four-channel format. Why record a piano in four-channel? You need only to hear the difference in the four-channel playback for the answer. But the powers that be above Richard never listened to the recordings and didn't allow this product to be released in the quadraphonic format.
Horowitz would make suggestions if he wanted to improve something, and he knew exactly what he liked and didn't like. This is also something Tom Frost recalled when working with him on all those Grammy sessions the two made together. There were times where he felt he over or under emphasized a note, or two, and he wanted to have it corrected. If he was playing a lyrical section and he made it a little too percussive, and when you put it together, it didn't quite work, he wanted us to counteract that kind of effect. We could either adjust the loudness levels on one take or another, or with equalization, we could make it more or less bright. You could get quite a bit of difference on the piano in terms of tone production. It was really his suggestions more than mine or Tom's we had to carry out.
Horowitz had strong feelings about studio recording. He felt that recordings really didn't give a true picture of him, and I basically agree with him. I think that's true for a number of reasons, whether you're talking about splicing, piano sound, or the ambiance of the place in which he was recording. The ambiance of the hall or the studio affects the artist. If he can't hear what he wants, and he starts making compensations for what he wants to hear, it affects his playing just as it would if he were playing on a bad piano, or a piano he's not really happy with. For all those reasons, yes, it's hard to say that you've got the real Horowitz on disc.
When I recorded him, I had four microphones 15 feet away from his piano, and I had two more practically 25 feet away from the piano. I felt that the people from our company who had done his work before got too close, whereas Horowitz felt that they surrounded his piano "like tanks." You don't necessarily want to overload the piano that much, but he was strong enough to actually overload the microphones. The piano has got to breathe. If someone is playing very forcefully, and you have the microphones right on top of him, that, to me, is not a true picture of what he's doing. You must go back to the 15th row in this particular case, not because you can't do it the other way, but because you want to hear a different sound.
If you have one instrumentalist, it's probably better that you're farther away so that he can blend as he would in a hall rather than to be on top of him, and then try to rebalance later, because you can't do it. With orchestras you can't do it. If you're close enough on one instrument in an orchestra, that's a whole different ball game than trying to get a pianist's sound on an instrument and regulating all those things. Besides, in orchestral recordings we use mics specifically for ambiance for the overall effect.
I don't know whether it's the microphones we used, the placement of the mics, the pianists we had, the pianos, or the 30th Street studio, but most often pianists seemed to be left hand heavy. Usually it's very difficult to subdue a left hand enough to get a melodic line out. In the Concert of the Century, where Horowitz play the Rachmaninoff [Andante from Sonata for Cello and Piano in G Minor, Op 19, with Rostropovich] and the trio [first movement from Tchaikovsky Piano Trio in A Minor Op. 50, with Isaac Stern and Rostropovich], we had many microphones set up in various places. In mixing that 16-track recording down, even though it's three instruments, I tried to carry through the certain way Horowitz projected the melodic line in his right hand because with the microphone placement we had, we could very well have made him sound left-heavy.
In 1974, I was in one of the largest recording sessions ever, with Michael Tilson Thomas conducting Carl Orff's Carmina Burana with the Cleveland Orchestra at Masonic Hall. The forces involved here were a 400-piece group including an enlarged orchestra, two choirs, and several vocal soloists. Usually Andy [Andrew] Kazdin, the producer on this session, would use 8-track 30 ips tape machines for an orchestral recording, but here he used 16-track 30 ips because of the forces involved. There were 25 different audio setups for this composition. One and 25 were the same and in fact we used the same performance for both. To expedite time during the session, we had extra people there to make the changes in microphone connections to the recording inputs for each of the audio setups. We had 52 microphones available.At the end of each number, our human switching system for changing microphone inputs was deployed. It was quite an effort. So, while Richard Nixon was stepping down as President, we were putting the finishing touches to the session. The editing and mixing of the recording into the 2-track final was extremely lengthy due to the forces and the 25 selections within the piece, but it was fun. We received two Grammy nominations in 1975, one for Carmina Burana and one for Ravel's Daphne and Chloe. We won for the Ravel, but for my money Carmina Burana should have won.The people who vote never know what is actually involved in a project.
Most of these sessions throughout the '70s were on remote as opposed to the studio. We would record in Town Hall in Philadelphia, Masonic Temple in Cleveland, or Philharmonic Hall in New York. It was a straightforward process. At least two tape machines, a console, microphones, and cables. There's no ironclad way of doing a record. All you need is patience, a certain set of ears, and knowing what you want to get. It takes a producer and engineer with ears to get these things right.
One of the things that Andy did at Philharmonic Hall, because of the hall's lack of reverberation, was take took two tracks of his 8-track and [make] them reverb tracks by taking two sets of microphones and placing them [onto] the back of the hall so he could get reverberation from the walls. We would use that in our mix. So, our 8-track was really a 6-track. There were times when he took one track of the 8-track and hoped we could get enough reverb. Philharmonic Hall is not a good hall. It's dry and brassy. It doesn't do strings well. But the New York Philharmonic wanted to record in its hall, so you had to find a way to make the hall sound like something. It was not so much I didn't like recording there, you just have to find a way to do it. At Manhattan Center, Town Hall in Philadelphia, or especially the Masonic Temple, you can put microphones down and you can just record because the room is good. Manhattan Center is a big ballroom with parquet wooden floors and fancy balconies. In other words, a lot of uneven surfaces, instead of a regular rectangular place. However, 30th Street was a large rectangular place, but it did have a parquet floor and was a good size. Any floor that [is] not just a single, uniformed surface – like linoleum or cement – will reflect sound better. It gives variety in the sound's reflection. Unfortunately, when it got around that Manhattan Center had such good acoustics, everyone tried to record there, so it got expensive because of its demand and we didn't use it so much anymore.
Live recordings can still have a good deal of editing, but usually not as much as studio recordings. Many times, the liner will notes say, "From either live performance or performances." Now, if an artist goes around the country with a certain concert that he's doing, [and] it's recorded three or four times, and these things are intermingled in a final product, is that a live performance, or not? If it's taken from live performances, but not the same live performance, is it a live performance? Let's put it this way, that sort of thing is done. Sometimes corrections are recorded after the concert and spliced into the performance, and by and large, only the producer, engineer, and artist would know for sure. If you have the same concert done in four different places, the artist will usually choose which one he wants it to be. If he prefers the way he plays [on multiple performances], he'll choose and leave it to the legal department, or the packaging department to decide what it should be called. If the artist says, "I like the first half of Chopin's "C-Sharp Minor" on September 21, but the second half from December 2," it's possible to splice the performances. If you're going to say "live performances" it doesn't much matter that it's not the whole thing which has been taken, but rather half. Obviously, this sort of thing does happen.
Any live concert recording that we did at Carnegie Hall was going to be just the way it was there, without all the applause at the end of sides, because the producers felt that applause is disconcerting on a disc.
A recording and a live experience can have their differences. Sure, the microphones are picking up different things than your ears. But again, it depends on how you listen to a recorded performance. What are you looking for? The hall noise, the performance, the piano sound? Of course, the microphones may paint the piano sound. They're going to hear, maybe, more of the high frequencies than you are. Forget about sound. Performance-wise, what you remember of a concert and what you hear later can sometimes be startlingly different. It depends, too, on how you approach the concert and how you listen to a recording: no matter how critical you think you can be at a performance, there may be certain times when you get diverted from listening to everything.
Some artists realize that they don't have to play quite the same way for a studio recording, but most of them seem to feel the minute they get in the studio they're going to play a certain way. It's difficult to play two different ways; one for concert and one for the recording studio. The idea is to get the artist to feel comfortable performing in any way that he wants. If he acts like he's playing to an audience, we get far enough back so he'll be projecting out to the microphones. There are people who say, "No, you get in close. You'll get a better piano sound." That's subjective. Some pianists like to hear a close-recorded sound because they're accustomed to hearing the piano right in front of them. Many times, with the music rack out, they're getting the sound right at them. That sets their point of view as to how a piano should sound. It's very difficult to play a piano and at the same time imagine hearing what the piano sounds like 15 rows back. They have to assume that they're projecting in a certain way, and they develop that after a number of years. If you get very close to Horowitz with microphones, you are not giving him his just desserts. Maybe he's not playing to those close microphones but sending out that sound to the 15th row.
As for fiddle players, there are some who like to hear a fiddle the way they hear it, whether you agree with them or not. The fiddle's next to the player's left ear, and no one else in the world hears it that way. Now, if he wants to hear it that way, we can make the recording sound that way, but I don't think the rest of the world will want to hear it. At least I wouldn't want to hear it [that way]. It's a funny frame of reference. Players get so involved with their instrument and the way they hear it that it's hard for them to think of anyone else hearing it another way.
Singers can't really hear themselves quite well in the studio because the sound comes from inside them. They find it difficult to know what they think they sound like. They're usually surprised at what they hear, as we are when we hear ourselves talk on a tape playback. Many times, we say, "I don't sound like that!" or "I didn't think I sounded that good." But I have noticed that artists will push for the way they hear themselves play – if they're of a strong mind – that it has to be that way, and it may not be in the interests of good sound. To me, being two feet from a violin has never been the greatest sound, let alone eight or ten inches, because the violin doesn't have the chance to breathe. It's a very bright sound, which is not really a fiddle sound.
When you record pop music, getting a good mix is fairly straightforward. Typically, you put a lead singer in the middle and you put the other instruments on the side. It's pretty straightforward stuff. It became a little more complicated when you had four tracks where you had a lead singer on one track and [the band on] three other tracks. You had to be a little more resourceful with what you did. Classical is a different ballgame, because if you're doing an orchestra, you have to get all the instruments to 2-track. We eventually went to eight tracks in classical and then sixteen. For something like Bitches Brew, I put a set of drums on the left side, a set on the right side, I had Miles all over the place and in the center, the bass player sort of centerish, [and] pianos are on either side. For classical 8-tracks, you'd fill in one track with strings. The right-side strings you'd put on another track, and you might be covering them with two microphones each. If you had woodwinds, depending on how many tracks you have, you might have those as a group. If there's a lot of say, oboe, you might record that to one track to get the oboe out. The brass you would usually pick up on a couple of microphones and designate them to one or two tracks.
The biggest change to how pop music was recorded was that many producers wanted to get as many tracks as possible, so they could manipulate the latest group of instruments. In classical, multitrack was not used unless you had a big orchestra or chorus. It wouldn't really affect a solo instrument or duet or quartet. We often recorded to 2-track stereo right away. The engineers would measure everything, the height, and make diagrams; otherwise you'd get in trouble with the editing. By the time it came to the editing studio, it was too late. Sometimes we had to pull tricks to make the sound match the different takes if it wasn't done carefully in the studio or hall.
Multitrack recording was a new skill. At first, people balked at that, saying, "How are you going to keep track of 16 different things at the same time?" We were used to 3- or 4-track recordings, and that was just a skill we picked up. Being a musician certainly helped dealing with multitrack recordings and mixing, but it did demand a higher skill. You can be skilled at mixing three or four tracks to stereo, not that it's a no brainer, but it's pretty straightforward. When you start adding other elements, it requires learning the music a little bit more.
By the late '70s, I got into more producing, and also became president of the New York chapter of the Recording Academy [National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), now The Recording Academy] for six years, from 1977 to 1983, and again in 1989. The Recording Academy is something that was created to give out awards of importance (Grammy awards). Unlike the RIAA [Recording Industry Association of America] whose job it is to give out Gold records, the Recording Academy wanted to do something about the different categories of music and give out awards for excellence. They did not have a rock category before 1979, and one of my first orders of business was to get one. Once we got it, we decided to throw a celebration at Madison Square Garden and give an award to The Who. I gave the award to Pete Townsend and his statement was, "Why are you blokes doing this for us?" It's funny, because none of the other members said a word.
As for producing, I spent a lot of time with the pianist Ruth Laredo. I did four recordings with her as a producer in the '80s. And the reason for that was because Columbia kept promising to do a certain repertoire that they never fulfilled, and she finally got fed up with them. Through 30th Street I was friendly with Keith Holtzman from Nonesuch Records. I asked Keith if he'd be interested in having Ruth on their label, and he said of course, so he had me produce her three times with program material featuring Chopin, Samuel Barber, and Tchaikovsky. We also did an album called Such Good Friends with music by Brahms, Schumann, Mendelssohn, and Clara Schumann. They were very straightforward sessions. She knew what she wanted and was very good and very prepared.
Producing should be a hands-off experience, which was the case with Ruth. You're sitting there with the score, she does a take, you mark the take indicating if everything was fine with it or if there's a problem. Then you decide to do another take to see if the problem gets cleared up, and if not, you try to do an insert. That's what a producer does: he rides shotgun with the artist. Ruth would say, "Is it that bad?" Then she'd say, "Yeah, right. Let's do that again." The producer's the groundskeeper, keeping things right. It's much the same as producing a conductor. Let's put it this way, the producer works in conjunction with the conductor as to what should appear on the record. They pick takes, the producer comes in with the editing engineer and puts that together. They'll take a score and say, "Take three was good here, until here." So, we have to [find] something [for the other sections]. That may be an insert, or another take. But the producer marks off his score so that when he comes into the editing cubicle, we know exactly what we need to do. None of the conductors I ever worked with ever came into the editing cubicle. That's what the producer is for. The producer acts as the conductor's liaison. The conductor will put a lot of faith in his engineering staff. He gets a copy of the 2-track to see if it's to his liking. There could have been times when something needed to be a little louder and that would call for a slight remix and a splicing job, but nothing unusual ever happened in my experience.
Mixing, on the other hand, is a hands-on experience. You have either a 4-track or an 8-track tape, depending on the hall you were working in on the road. Usually, Andy Kazdin, for example, opted for 8-track and mic'ing each section [of the orchestra]. The producer and/or the conductor decide on what takes that they want of the score. What the engineer does in post-production is find those performances that they want and splice them together into a performance. You splice the performance and then you'd mix it. The session tapes would not be in a form that could be played back in 2-track, in stereo, because they're not weighted [mixed]. For instance, you may have strings on one particular track and that has to be blended with the other instruments in the orchestra. That's what entails mixing. That's what gets the performance into the coherent mass in stereo that you hear when you listen to it. If a conductor would come in to hear the original recording before the mix, he would never be able to hear his original performance by listening to those 8-track tapes. There would be some things out of whack or too loud or too soft. You're trying to fill a concert stage with a 2-track recording between your left and right speaker; you have to tweak the levels of the instruments between left and right. That's what we were constantly changing when we were mixing.
The last Grammy nomination for Best Engineered Recording (Classical) I received was for Glenn Gould's 1981 Bach: The Goldberg Variations. It was the last recording made at the 30th Street Studio. I was not at the session but worked on the material in post-production. When Gould worked with Andy Kazdin, he would habitually want to get in touch with Andy, and he knew he worked in my cubicle, so he would call a lot. When he called and didn't get Andy, he would talk to me for 10 or 15 minutes, but nothing to do with music. Either he was having trouble seating at a restaurant, or medical problems, anything but music. And I'd hear this litany of things he had a problem with until he talked himself out. He was a very strange, finnicky guy.
The session started off as a 2-track, very straightforward. In the studio there was no room to change the soundfield because you had nothing else to work with. Andy may have recorded it with four microphones. But if they were doing digital, they wouldn't necessarily do a multitrack with a piano. They would use a 2-track digital recorder.
Putting the microphones in the proper place and getting a good instrument to start with was the key to getting a great sound for Gould. What we used to do at 30th Street was put two microphones on either side of the piano, fairly close and aiming at the strings. Then we'd take two microphones and put them further back from the piano to get room sound. Four mics. That's how we recorded Gould in the past. If you're going to a 2-track recording, you need to find the blend with the four mics. It's all in the ears. Glenn wouldn't come back and say, "I don't like the piano sound." I'm a pianist and I know the kind of sound that I want for the piano. I fool around with it until I get the sound that I want.
Gould did not participate in any of the post production. Years earlier, when we recorded him in New York, he was never there for mixing. I'll say this: all these artists have the right of disapproval if they don't like something. So, in a sense, they don't have to be there. They can hear what the final product is, and they either buy it or want changes in certain spots for one reason or another. So, they really have [some] control over what does go out. If they're vehemently against what we've done, the thing gets redone until it's to their approval, musically or sound-wise. Gould picked his takes. When I spliced for him, he would actually not only pick his takes, but pick splice points, where he thought they would work. If he wanted to change a performance from within, say, a fugue or a prelude, he had this uncanny knack of being able to dictate where it should be changed within a 98 percent degree of accuracy.
Gould would also do takes several times in the studio in radically different ways. It wouldn't be a matter of "getting the right notes" with Gould. It would more often be a matter of a concept with him, and, perhaps, mixing the concepts, if he wanted some kind of effect. He might play it through and say, "Okay, I'll combine these two and do another take." Or he might actually say, "What's the point of doing that? We can splice the two." There was a difference in concept from many years ago, when he would write it off and do it all over again, as opposed to his later years when he knew what splicing could do.
I think many times a lot of artists are afraid of what's going to happen when they splice, that tempos will change or that the interpretations won't be what they would want at a given time. They would rather redo things, like in the 78 days: "I'll get the full side right." But when they see what can be done, they change their style of recording. When the producer says, "You don't have to do that; we can take it from here," the artist begins to realize what can be done, and it starts to affect his or her way of recording. I've seen that happen with a good number of artists. I can't think of any soloists at the moment, but I can think of some orchestras and the different philosophies that have been adopted. Years ago, with the Philadelphia Orchestra, it was a lot of "Go from here to here, here to here, here to here." In many instances, depending on the nature of the piece they were doing, it would be continual inserts. In other words, with a collection of, let's say, 13 dances, they would do each one. Rather than perform them all straight through, they would start and stop, whereas other orchestras would do a full take, or maybe two takes, and then make the corrections.
The late Gould recordings were some of my first experiences with digital recording and the beginning of a shift in the recording industry. When digital came in it was experimental. We had different equipment; the mastering system changed. The typical album in those days allowed about 20 to 25 minutes of music per side. If you wanted to put more, you really had to lower the volume and you had to worry about the stylus skipping. If you had too much bass, the stylus could skip out of the groove. You had to be aware of all this stuff while you were editing or mastering. When it came to compact discs, you had 74 minutes' worth of music. It was a whole different perspective. We thought about that 20-minute [LP] side. We were very careful of what we put together to make that side exciting and interesting and have different tempos and key signatures to make it flow. When you got to 74 minutes, it was a different consideration. Now you were filling the space. You had different decisions to make based on the format.
In the '80s, the recording was digital, but the mixing was still done analog. The music came from a digital source but went to an analog console. We didn't have digital consoles yet when I was there. Then it was sent to a digital machine for the final recording. We used digitized tape, so there was no more splicing and cutting tape. It was different. The tricks that you learned from splicing tape were no longer applicable. I think the quality was better. I never noticed any better aspect in analog. Digital is more consistent. You could get the same results twice. With analog, a fly could get in the ointment. Also, the frequency response for a digital system is flat. The analog is not flat at 20,000 cycles. Just by that alone it's theoretically more accurate. It was a new world. Things were really starting to change when I left. If I went into a studio now, I would be lost.
I stopped working at Columbia in 1995. I was there for 38 years. Columbia began to change once Kazdin was cut from the staff and he became freelance. Then Boulez left the New York Philharmonic to go to Europe. We did some recordings with Zubin Mehta, who took over, and we had some nominations with him, but the magic was gone. Four of the Grammys I have are with Boulez. When you get nominated for a certain kind of program, like Philharmonic and Boulez, then the magic name is gone, you have to get new nominations and have the Recording Academy members realize that you're still the same person. You had to do it all over again. As I mentioned before with the Tilson Thomas record, we should have won the award that year, but we were also nominated for a Boulez record of a Ravel program, so that's the one that won. I was still mixing the Philharmonic in the '80s as part of the engineering team with Mehta, but at the time he didn't carry that kind of image. Let's face it, the Grammys are well meaning, but it ends up being a popularity contest.
Columbia was also starting to downsize. At one point they had at least 95 engineers, including maintenance people, mastering, editors, and studio people. Then it dwindled down. They had transformed Studio B into their publishing house, and sometimes recorded outside of CBS at other studios. Times were changing.
Beginning in the '80s, Columbia was doing a lot of refurbishing of old stuff to put out digitally on CD. They stopped carrying an orchestra. They didn't have the New York Philharmonic [NYP] anymore and stopped recording orchestras altogether by the late-'80s. The NYP used to be under contract. They went freelance with any label that wanted to record them. So, by then, we were trying to get a better mix or a better sound than what we had originally. When we used to do things for LP, we would mix things that would accentuate the high end because we knew that it got rolled off when it was mastered. We knew there was a problem with the high frequencies in mastering. When we finally went to a digital situation, we didn't have to equalize the high end. We kept it more even as it was originally done on the recording. Fixing what we did for LP in the digital age, so we did remixes on some of that program material.
At Columbia we had a union contract that didn't require retirement at age 65, but the industry had been changing, and Columbia was bought by Sony. Sony had no reason to stay with the status quo of how Columbia was set up, and made it well known they wanted to get rid of their older people. So, if you could retire, you would retire. I was 63, and I could have gone until I was 70, but there was nothing left of what used to be. The working model of Columbia was changing anyway, even before Sony bought it out. Once Sony bought us out, although we were a well-knit group, we splintered even before I retired.
I never considered taking another stab at being a concert pianist – a Horowitz – not so much because the golden age had passed, but because performing for me now occurred in the studio, behind the scenes, and I'm more than fine about that. After I left, I wrote a hell of a lot of music and taught piano for 17 years at a music school in Ridgefield, Connecticut. I started in 1997, two years after I retired.
On May 25, 2019, the Moore family held a service celebrating the life of Raymond L. Moore in South Salem, New York, where he had lived for 57 years. For the occasion, Ray's son Tom, daughter Sue, daughter-in-law Melissa, and son-in-law Jim Rodgers all performed music that Ray had written and arranged throughout his life. Surprisingly, none of this music was ever formally recorded or heard outside of his family. While going through his belongings, Ray's family found all of his sheet music, meticulously notated, in boxes. His music, and the performances by his family, were fantastic. Like the music he recorded by other musicians for most of his life, Ray's style was eclectic, emotional, original, and highly professional. It was a fitting finale for Ray, who began his life with aspirations as a composer and performer. On the back of the service's program, the family added a quote by Jackie Robinson (Ray was an avid baseball fan): "A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives." This can be said for Ray, who devoted his talents to fulfill the aspirations of many artists and create joy for countless listeners.