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1920 __ The first commercial electrical recording
Comment : Horace O. Merriman, a Canadian, and Lionel Guest, an Englishman, make the first commercial electrical recording at the funeral of the Unknown Soldier at Westminster Abbey.But by 1919 two former Royal Air Force officers, Lionel Guest, a former aide to a Canadian governor-general, and Horace Owen Merriman (b Hamilton, Ont, 1888, d Ottawa 1972), had begun to experiment with electrical recording by microphone. Their work helped usher in the electrical era of recording. The first commercial recording of this type anywhere was made by Guest and Merriman during the ceremony of the burial of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey on 11 Nov 1920 (an original print is held at the National Library of Canada). The new technique revealed bass and treble sounds hitherto unheard on recordings. However, largely because of their huge inventories of acoustically recorded discs, the major record companies showed little interest. Finally, in 1925, they were forced to record electrically in order to compete with the superior sound quality of radio. Moreover, recording was no longer confined to a small studio but could be done on location. The proceedings on Parliament Hill in Ottawa during Canada's Diamond Jubilee 1 Jul 1927 were recorded, as was, during the following summer, the 2200-voice CNE Chorus in Toronto. (The Canadian Encyclopedia, The Encyclopedia of Music in Canada)Electrical recording, also known as electromechanical recording. A number of experiments in several countries during World War I developed the components that were to make up an electrical recording system. The earliest effort that resulted in an actual marketed recording was that of Lionel Guest and Horace O. Merryman in London. They produced a moving-coil recording head (U.K. patent #141,790) and set up equipment in a truck outside Westminster Abbey. On 11 Nov. 1920 they recorded part of the service for the burial of the Unknown Warrior, using four carbon telephone microphones placed in the abbey. The Columbia Graphophone Co. sold the resulting 12-inch double-faced disc for the benefit of the abbey restoration fund; it contained the "Recessional" by Rudyard Kipling and "Abide with Me". However the work of Gurst and Merriman, as well as that of Adrian-Francis Sykes, Frank B. Dyer, W.S. Purser, and others, was eclipsed by the accomplishments of engineers at Bell Telephone Laboratories in America. Research at Bell Laboratories, directed by J.P. Maxfield, had produced experiments in electrical recording as early as 1919. The Bell electrical apparatus consisted of microphones (principally the type 394 capacitor), amplifiers (two-stage), recording heads (balanced armature, moving-iron type, with response from 300-7,000 Hz). Essentially, what the new system did was to substitute electrical energy for mechanical energy, so that the signal to be recorded no longer had to provide its own (acoustic) power. The microphone replaced the venerable recording horn. There was also an appreciable increase in the amount of the audio frequency range that could be captured; as much as 2 1/2 octaves were added, giving audibility for the first time to higher frequencies (ultimately extended to 9,000 Hz), and to bass notes (down to 200 Hz). (Frank W. Hoffmann, Howard Ferstler)
French comment : Horace O. Merriman, un Canadien, et Lionel Guest, un Anglais, font le premier enregistrement électrique commercial à la cérémonie du « Soldat inconnu » à l’abbaye de Westminster. (Bibliothèque et Archives du Canada, “Une chronologie de la technologie du son, 1845-1950”)
Source : Hoffmann, Frank W. & Ferstler, Howard (2004), "Encyclopedia of Recorded Sound, Volume 1", CRC Press, 2nd Edition, pp. 364-365.
Urls : http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/gramophone/m2-3008-f.html (last visited )

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