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PostPosted: Mon Jul 22, 2019 1:05 pm 
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It occurs to me that it ought to be fairly easy to produce better sounding recordings from early cylinder recordings of people like Patsy Touhey. There are multiple recordings of him playing--most of them sound pretty terrible, though they're great as a historical record, they're lousy as an aural experience. It ought to be fairly straightforward to map a sampled pipe set onto Touhey's notes

For those that don't know this is done all the time in modern recording. A drummer will come in and play a set of drums, and then the producer will take a set of pre-recorded drum sounds and "map" them onto the existing drum sounds, replacing them. It's done with virtually all instruments now, routinely with drums, commonly with other instruments.

Touhey's pipes still exist. It would be relatively easy to sample the sounds of them--each note, the drones, the regulators--and to sample cuts taps, crans, pitch bends. Then you could map those sampled sounds onto the existing recordings. It would of course not be the same: it would be somewhat like that movie, "they shall not grow old," which mapped colors onto black and white images and "interpolated" images where no actual frames of film existed. It would not be Touhey, but then the cylinder recordings aren't Touhey either: they're impressions in wax with a much more limited frequency response than Touhey actually produced in the room when they were recorded. You could argue that doing what I'm describing would actually be closer to the real thing.

I have to think think this could be pretty easily done, since modern DAW software can easily recognize and isolate pitches in time.

Has anybody ever tried this with old recordings?


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 22, 2019 1:49 pm 
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You could argue that doing what I'm describing would actually be closer to the real thing.


The beauty of piping is in colour and nuance. The contribution of the player to the sound cannot be underestimated. Reproducing each note with a mapped sound, it seems to me, will not give you piping, it will give you a string of notes without the nuance and life a piper's way of handling the chanter bring to the music. Many of the cylinder recordings may not be material you listen to while driving the car or play in the background in your living room, there's a lot that can be gleaned from them listening carefully, how tone and colour is achieved, different fingerings, when the chanter is lifted off the knee and all that stuff that is the essence of piping. I am afraid all that will be lost in your proposed recreation if it is taken as a relatively simple operation. Bringing in even some of the tonal variation a competent piper brings to the music will see the operation go into an area that is very complex indeed.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 22, 2019 2:29 pm 
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Mr.Gumby wrote:
Quote:
You could argue that doing what I'm describing would actually be closer to the real thing.


The beauty of piping is in colour and nuance. The contribution of the player to the sound cannot be underestimated. Reproducing each note with a mapped sound, it seems to me, will not give you piping, it will give you a string of notes without the nuance and life a piper's way of handling the chanter bring to the music. Many of the cylinder recordings may not be material you listen to while driving the car or play in the background in your living room, there's a lot that can be gleaned from them listening carefully, how tone and colour is achieved, different fingerings, when the chanter is lifted off the knee and all that stuff that is the essence of piping. I am afraid all that will be lost in your proposed recreation if it is taken as a relatively simple operation. Bringing in even some of the tonal variation a competent piper brings to the music will see the operation go into an area that is very complex indeed.



I don't disagree with any of this, but O'Neill complains in multiple letters that recordings simply can't capture the pipes well and all the nuance is lost etc etc. So it's not as if the existing recordings preserve that nuance particularly well.

Color and nuance are of course quantifiable properties--they show up right there on the screen, so you can see where volume and timbre change as well as hear it. It's very difficult to tell a well sampled instrument from the real thing, when the process is done by someone who knows what they're doing. I've worked a lot with Logic Pro and you can control nanoseconds of sound very easily. Well, a professional can--not me.

What's missing--says O'Neill, and not just me--is the rich sound of the drones and the regulators, but also full frequency response of the chanter. Recording technology of 1915 simply could not capture much low or high end.

I think any such recording would have to be presented honestly as a recreation--like the WWI film.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 22, 2019 4:34 pm 
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Modern DAW software (plus relevant audio restoration VSTs) can also do a wonderful job at making old recordings a lot more listenable through the removal of white noise + other extraneous sounds. My opinion is that this would be a much easier venture than what you're suggesting, for what it's worth.

I've had much luck in making some old Ennis recordings quite a bit more listenable using noise reduction plugins, some EQing, and some other restorative treatment. This while still retaining the sound quality, and without suffering the "underwater" feeling that more heavy handed restorative attempts can cause.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 23, 2019 2:49 am 
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FWIW, Pat Mitchell did a lot of work 'cleaning up' the Touhey (and other) cylinders. Harry Bradshaw the authority on restoration historical Irish music recordings, who has done an awful lot of work in that field. So it's not like nothing has been done about this.

I don't quite see a place for sampling the sound of a chanter in the process, for a variety of reasons: there are just too variables there, for one. And once you start 'restoring' things that aren't there I think you're going down the rabbithole of reinventing history. But a lot more detail has been teased out of the material since I first got to hear taped phonograph playbacks during the early eighties. These have come a long way from the 'raw' tape copies Breandán Breathnach used to distribute among 'aspiring pipers'. But there comes a point you have to accept the limits of what was recorded at the time and just leave it at that.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 26, 2019 2:11 pm 
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These old recordings or any old recording, generally sound better played on a mono amp. They did not have stereo back then. It is really surprising how much more cohesive these sound when you ditch stereo. I made an amp just for this and I am really glad I did.


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