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Posts tagged ‘CMU’

Rolling Stones

February 9, 2015


Here is a quick story about the 1969 Rolling Stones Tour. I was working for the CMU Computer Science Department in Porter Hall and living with two engineers Bob Nickau and Roland Findlay. We knew Chris Langhart from the CMU radio station WRCT and when he was picked to do the sound for the Stones tour he called on Bob to handle the amplifiers because they were using solid state amplifiers for the first time. Five days into the tour, Bob called and asked me to join the crew. He said there was a ticket for me to Phoenix at the airport for the next morning and to travel light because I was carrying the oscilloscope. Since the banks were already closed, Roland opened the Porter Hall Coke machine and lent me a few rolls of quarters for spending money. I packed my things in my attache case and left for a really fun tour. The night I arrived the Stage Manager told me he was leaving the tour to work for Country Joe and the Fish and I would be in charge of the stage miking. That was my total apprenticeship for the tour. Chuck Berry and Ike and Tina Turner were also on the show. We got very little sleep because there was only one sound crew and a new concert in a different state each night. I didn’t care, this was the tour of a lifetime. The button in the photo was our back stage pass.

2015 02 09 blog 1969 Stones Tour

CMU Fine Arts Studio

February 5, 2015


By 1973, the CMU Fine Arts recording studio was recording 100 recitals a year as well as producing records for CMU’s amateur theatrical group Scotch and Soda known for the debut of the musical Pippin. Some of our best memories were recording a CMU Kiltie Band concert at Carnegie Music hall in New York and being part of the sound crew for part of the 1969 Rolling Stones Tour. For Scotch and Soda we designed a home made six track recorder using three sets of quarter inch stereo heads (nine heads in all) and half inch tape on an Ampex data deck. In its original incarnation for the musical Something Personal we only had two channels of record electronics which we would manually replug to switch between heads. Also pictured is a Revox two track recorder and a Teac four track recorder. We used Advent dolby units and Stan Kriz designed a special system that could encode 90db of audio on standard Scotch quarter inch tape and also control the speed of the recorder using a huge tube amplifier for pitch adjustment.
2015 02 05 blog 1973 04 00 00 NRL Studio2015 02 05 blog 1971 04 00 01 NRL Studio

Transicap Microphones

February 4, 2015


The Transicap condenser microphone was designed in the early 1970s by John Hain and Stan Kriz, engineering students at Carnegie Mellon University and members of the campus radio station WRCT. The mechanics were hand lathed by my father in his shop in Baltimore, Maryland. The diaphragm was made of vacuum spattered mylar stretched over a brass backplate mounted in an epoxy resin body. The backplate was threaded into the epoxy body so that it could be adjusted to the correct capacitive gap. The bodies were made of silver anodized aluminum. We developed special tooling for stretching the mylar and adjusting the capacitive gap. Two special black anodized Transicaps were built and subsequently dissapeared from Exhibition Hall at CMU. The core of the electronics was a small metal bodied nuvistor tube which required an external high voltage power supply. For this reason, the microphones used a four pin cannon connector between the microphone and the power supply. A standard three pin cannon connector was used between the power supply and the mixing board. We recorded Stephen Schwartz’s (Wicked) New York audition tape at CMU using Transicap microphones and a hand made mixer. My favorite story from the session was Stephen putting thumb tacks in a CMU upright rehearsal piano to make it sound like a harpsichord.

2015 02 04 blog Transicap 50842015 02 04 blog 1970 00 00 00 Transicap


February 3, 2015


WRCT is the campus radio station at Carnegie Mellon University and in the late 1960’s Ken Lutz, a music major, decided to do a radio show based on recitals given in the Exhibition Hall of the College of Fine Arts. Since I was a technical drama major, I was familiar with the glass ceilings of CFA and I helped Ken by hanging the microphones to record the recitals. This entailed walking out over the two story glass ceiling on the mullions between the glass panes. In the process we discovered a way from the ceilings into an old fan room off the practice hall that had been locked for years. After some research and discussions with the Dean and the head of Physical Plant, both of whom thought the room belonged to the other, we were given a key and it became the music departments first recording studio. The picture with the record turntables is the WRCT studios in Skibo. The picture with the tape recorder was our first setup in CFA. In the 1960s, WRCT was mostly run by engineers and drama students. Between them they designed and built the equipment and created the content for the shows. Both the studio console and the small battery powered mixer shown were designed and hand built by the members of WRCT. Tomorrow, I will tell you about how we designed and built our own condenser microphones.

2015 02 03 blog WRCT DJ small2015 02 03 blog WRCT Exhibition Hall

Studio in a Grain Bin

February 1, 2015


My son, David, suggested that I write a blog about the Emlenton Mill and since this is February I thought I would start by writing about sound and recording, which I love. February, you see, is the month of FAWM (February Album Writing Month). For more information check out I figure that writing a blog every day is a little like writing a song every other day, except much easier. So, welcome to the Emlenton Mill blog. I’ll try to work in the Mill along with my love of recording.

The Emlenton Mill, built in 1875, houses a mill museum, an ice cream shop, a bunkhouse hostel, an Emporium that sells antiques, crafts and books and a number of secrets. One of these secrets is a recording studio in a gain bin.

Hidden away in a converted grain bin, on the third floor of the Mill, is a recording studio control room from the 1970s. It was originally located on the music practice floor of the College of Fine Arts at Carnegie Mellon University. It was built by myself and some friends from the campus radio station WRCT. But more about that another day. The Mill has a large number of grain bins which were used to store the different grains that were processed at the Mill. They vary in size from the size of a closet to the size of a railroad box car. The grain bin we chose for the studio is a small room located just off the main area of the third floor and required very little alteration. Most grain bins are built with sloped floors so the grain would gravity feed to the center of the bin where the output chute was located. This grain bin only required a new floor to support the studio.

2015 02 01 Blog 2013 Grain Bin studio a