Converting Nazi-era Military Music to Tomahawk Films’ CDs…

At the risk of ‘teaching Grandma to suck eggs’, not all collectors will be familiar with the art of digitally re-mastering old & highly precious 78rpm schellack records into a modern playable format, (some now actually over 100 years old), and yet, even in today’s digital age, some still believe it is simply a case of whacking a much-loved schellack onto an old wind-up record player, sticking a microphone in front of the speaker..and hey presto..job done!! (…and yes, we have seen that done!).

Happily for us, all of Tomahawk Film’s archival 78rpm German recordings are digitally renovated & repaired, (where needed) and then remastered by the superb archival audio-engineer Simon Wood (or ‘Woody’ as he is known by everybody), at his superb recording studio, Dubmaster, deep in the heart of our beautiful southern county of Hampshire.

Using the very latest and updated technology available to the world of audio-dubbing, Tomahawk has enjoyed a fabulous 25 year-plus relationship with Woody and on many an occasion we have called on his considerable expertise as both a television location sound-recordist & studio audio-producer to recover, preserve & then re-master some of our original audio material that has come in directly from all four corners of Germany… and some of it quite often in various states of disrepair..!

Whilst some of these beautiful and very rare schellacks have been found by us in Germany in almost pristine condition, (thanks to careful handling by the previous owners), and so often look & sound as if actually produced in recent years and thus need only a minimum of the love & care Woody lavishes on them, nevertheless it is the case that some of our original material now goes back as far as 1910 and has required a bit more in the way of TLC..!

Our unique Imperial German release: The Kaiser’s Musikkorps of the Great War 1914-1918  (for which many thanks to our friends at Eagle & Lyre for their additional help & expertise in this earlier field of German military music), being very much a case in point. This earliest of CD’s in our Archive actually started life as a wonderful collection of some of the first schellacks around that were actually found, by accident, in the former Eastern Germany, when a house was being demolished and a large, carefully bound album of these old records was found amidst the lathe & plaster of the attic as it collapsed around the builder’s heads..!.

When you come to think of it, it really is quite amazing that here was an original schellack record collection that had survived the the 5 years of World War One, the Weimar Republic, the Rise of the Nazis & The Third Reich, heavy Allied bombing of Germany’s cities and her industrial areas in 1943-44 and then, post-war, Soviet Occupation and the ultimate Fall of the Berlin Wall… talk about ‘if only a collection could tell a story’..!

Amazingly these schellack 78rpms also cleaned up beautifully in Woody’s studio and so Imperial German Military music, that would have been played on wind-up gramophones in fox-holes & trenches of the Western Front, can now be enjoyed by collectors & enthusiasts on CD some 100 years later!.

Working with schellacks that have actually been quite this old was something of a nervous one-off for Tomahawk as the majority of our German music releases are from the Third Reich/Nazi-era and so Woody ‘only’ has to go back some 75-odd years. However the recovery & restoration of this wonderful music still requires the same skills & studio equipment and Woody’s professional lightness of touch, (or ‘magic’ as I still call it!), in re-mastering this historical material to CD and so successfully preserving The Tomahawk Films WW-II German Archive of Third Reich/Nazi-era music for many years yet to come..!

As far as the actual sound quality of our original old recordings themselves are concerned, many collectors will know that an original historical schellack 78rpm record had a beautifully inherent and very distinctive low-level hiss & rumble, (even when brand-new in the 1920s, 30s & 40s); and whilst Woody has faithfully brought many of these lovely old records ‘back from the brink’ and digitally cleaned them up to give a markedly enhanced listening experience, in so doing he has also successfully managed a superb ‘historical balancing act’ to leave enough of that original light hiss & rumble in the CD transfer in order to preserve the integrity of the original medium…

The end result is that our listener is happily aware that he is listening to an original & historical schellack recording and not some ‘antiseptically over-worked recording’ that sounds like it was merely lifted yesterday and as such has absolutely no atmosphere left to it whatsoever! With his incredible sense of hearing, (and his hands a blur over a studio dubbing-console that looks more like Concorde’s flight-deck!), Woody has ensured that in Tomahawk Films’ audio recordings you are listening to the high quality that original German audiences would have also listened to on schellack 78rpm, either on their gramophones or on radio via the early radio recording services of The Third Reich..and even earlier!

It also has to be said that Woody himself has a long and very distinguished television & recording studio background, (including television drama & documentaries as well as studio & location recording of anything musical from modern rock bands to classic orchestral ensembles), and such is his expertise in audio-art that this year he found himself much in demand in a supervising audio-recording role on the UK Television sound coverage of the Olympic Games staged here in London in 2013. So Tomahawk Films count ourselves very lucky to still have all of that audio & studio recording  expertise at our command along with Woody’s sensitive ears..!

Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2012

Comments are closed.