Music of the Kaiser’s War 1914-18…

When Tomahawk Films first got involved with the professional restoration, recovery & re-mastery of original pre-1945 German military & civilian music back in way back 1987, I never for one moment imagined that we would eventually go right back to the earliest inceptions of recorded military music… back as far as pre World War One in fact.. .but with our decision to eventually widen out our World War Two German Archive as far back as 1914 (in one direction) and then up to the Fall of the Berlin Wall in the other, to complete the picture and ‘journey’ (awful word!) of German military music, this was exactly what happened… and by a stroke of the most incredible luck possible too..!

Thanks to this lucky break and our friendship with the good folk at Eagle & Lyre, our studio guru Simon ‘Woody’ Wood was given his toughest assignment yet.. an incredible archival sound restoration of perhaps some of the rarest military-music you will ever own on CD… and by the time the maestro’s fingers had finished doing their stuff in the recording studio, certainly our most expensive audio-production to date!!

This lucky find leading to our venture into First World German War sound recordings, all stemmed back to 1997 when Eagle & Lyre’s Tony Dean, (a wonderfully enthusiastic & most knowledgeable fellow German military music enthusiast) found himself in the beautiful and atmospheric  medieval Eastern German town of Quedlinburg, when by an amazing stroke of fortune, he was walking past a very old building that was being renovated and, looking into the builder’s skip slowly filling up outside in the road, he noticed what looked like suspiciously like a folder containing 78 rpm schellack records.

On stopping and carrying out a further inspection, this is exactly what it was… a collection of pre- and early World War One schellacks, (1913 to 1916), and all were, amazingly, fully intact and without a mark on them… and despite his utter amazement at this find, he managed to enquired of one of the workers where the records had been found… the reply coming that the folder had been located up in the attic as they were taking the old roof off this very old German building.

After a few minutes of quiet haggling Tony managed to acquire this wonderful folder of musical treasures that turned out to be a totally unique collection of the earliest-known military 78rpm-schellacks containing the performances of some of Imperial Germany’s finest military musicians. What was even more amazing when you come to consider it, was that here, lying on top of this builders’ skip was a stunning musical record that had also survived the upheaval of the First World War, the Allied saturation bombing of World War II and then the post-war Russian Occupation of Eastern Germany and the Fall of the Berlin Wall..!.

Returning to the UK, clutching his treasure trove close to his chest, Tony alerted us to his find and  now, almost 100 years on, Tomahawk, Tony & myself were able to take these beautiful schellacks over to ‘Woody’ at Dubmaster Studios and, after painstaking restoration using the latest versions of Cedar Noise Reduction and the updated Sadie-DEW audio-editing systems, we produced perhaps one of the earliest & rarest CD collection of recorded Imperial German military music from Kaiser Wilhelm’s Army..!

Now offering the rarest insight into German Instrumental & Bandstand Music of the Great War, these incredible old schellacks were originally recorded before Spring 1916 and so are representative of the 78rpm records that German officers played on their wind-up gramophones in the trenches, so reminding them of the ‘golden years of peace’ before August 1914 and the ensuing horrors of the Western Front in Northern France & Belgium between the years 1914 and 1918! A real testament to history!

Working with such ancient & antique recordings of bands playing ‘live’ into a large horn onto wax cylinders, some very old faults cannot be remedied without physically altering the integrity of those records (something ‘Woody’ & I were certainly keen to avoid!).

So in places the odd, click, hiss or tiny section of distortion will still be apparent, but remembering their true age & rarity of these marvellous recordings, (now almost 100 years old),  true collectors & aficionados of old recorded military music can only marvel at the stunning job that ‘Woody’ has done to bring these recordings back to life!

The Kaiser’s Musikkorps of the Great Warnow offers 16 instrumental tracks including: Marsch des 1. Bataillons-Garde - Mussinan Marsch - König Karl Marsch - Parademarsch im Galopp - Fridericus Rex Grenadiermarsch - Töne Jubel Marsch - Sternengefunkel - Johann Marsch mit Frohsinn - Trabmarsch des 1.Garde-Ulanen and the Kaiser Friedrich Marsch and all performed by a superb array of elite Imperial German army bands, including Musikkorps der Garde Pioniere Berlin, Garde-Kürassier Regiment, Musikkorps des 106. Inf.-Regt.“König Georg”,  Kaiser Franz Garde Grenadier Regiment and the Musikkorps der Kaiserl. II Seebataillons, Wilhelmshaven…

What a find..and what a lucky day for Tony, (who was on his last journey behind the Iron Curtain), in Quedlinburg… for just another few minutes and this wonderful collection would have been finally covered with builder’s rubble and so lost to the collecting world forever… and if only these 78rpm schellacks could actually speak, what a story they would be able to tell..!

Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2013

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