Glossary


Alternate title

Alternate titles may be variants found in sources other than that cited for a Primary title, such as the Alan Kelly files, Blue history cards, record catalogs, or Victor ledgers, or may be supplementary titles observed on a disc label.

 

Blue history cards (BHC)

The Victor Talking Machine Company and RCA Victor maintained 4x6-in. file cards, of light blue stock, which detailed every recording issued by the company. Most blue history cards list Matrix number, artist, and title as well as catalog number(s). The artist and title listings on blue history cards often are in an abbreviated form. Many cards include composer names, the take(s) issued (see also Take), when discs were issued and deleted from company catalogs, and an indication of the number of discs sold (see also Number sold).

 

“Camden”

Some early Victor ledgers note “Camden” next to individual Take numbers. EDVR editors conjecture that “Camden” is an early form of H, for “hold” (see also Status). It is surmised that these masters were to be held in Camden, New Jersey (Victor headquarters during the 78-rpm era) for possible use in the future. The designation “Camden” appears on Matrix detail screens under Note, to the right of take numbers.

 

“Canada”

The designation “Canada” is found in many entries in early Victor ledgers. This is believed by EDVR editors to indicate that the master was to be shipped to Montreal for possible pressing by the Berliner Gram-o-phone Company. It is not known which masters were actually pressed and issued. Issue numbers seen in EDVR by takes marked “Canada” derive from Legacy data inherited by the project from Mr. Fagan and Mr. Moran and are not confirmed. For more information about the Canadian Berliner Gram-o-phone Company, go to The Virtual Gramophone. The designation “Canada” appears on Matrix detail screens under Note, to the right of take numbers.

 

“Composer not marked”

Victor ledgers usually note the composers, lyricists, or authors of works recorded. In instances when this information did not appear in the sheet music, scores, or manuscripts provided by the performers, “Composer not marked” was written in the ledgers. EDVR editors note this under “Authors and composers” in the matrix record.

 

Description

EDVR editors have attempted to describe the nature of the performance on every set of master recordings. Descriptions are based on information found in Victor ledgers, record labels, and trade catalogs printed for the public and Victor record dealers.

 

“Dubbed”

Seventy-eight-rpm disc manufacturing processes entailed the creation of several generations of positive and negative impressions of the wax or lacquer master recording. The final, negative, “plate” from which shellac discs were pressed was called a “stamper.” The positive plates from which stampers were created were called “mothers.” Stampers were good for a limited number of pressings before they wore out. When they wore out, new stampers were generated from the mother. If a stamper was worn out and a mother was not available, usually because it was inadvertently lost, destroyed, or damaged during a manufacturing process, new stampers could not be made. In those instances, a regular disc would be copied to serve as the source of a new set of mothers and stampers. Pressings derived from copied discs were called “dubs.” This process resulted in discs of audibly inferior sound to that heard on pressings from stampers made from original mothers. Victor usually indicated dubbed 78-rpm pressings by inscribing “S/8” in the ride-out area of the disc.

 

Instrumentation

The EDVR lists the instrumentation of musical ensembles -- that is, the specific instruments included in orchestras, bands, chamber groups, and vocal accompaniments -- when such information is available. Unless noted otherwise in footnotes, this information is derived from Victor ledgers. Unfortunately, the ledgers do not always accurately document the exact make-up of musical groups, especially jazz/dance bands and other large ensembles.

The EDVR editors have noticed many discrepancies between the instrumentation noted in Victor ledgers and that described in other resources or actually heard on published recordings. Sometimes the instrumentation noted in the ledgers more accurately reflects the number of players present on the recording than it does the exact instruments played. For instance, on a session for which the only woodwind players noted in Victor ledgers might be "4 saxophones," clarinets can also be heard on published recordings made at the session. In these cases, one or more saxophone players may be doubling on clarinet or even playing clarinet exclusively on the recordings. The EDVR editors believe that instrumentation noted in the Victor ledgers may have been intended more to maintain a record of the number of musicians paid for the session than to document the exact instrumentation heard on the recording.

In some cases, we have found that not even the number of musicians playing at the session is correct. In Victor ledgers describing the Paul Whiteman Band session of December 26, 1924, instrumentation is noted as "2 cornets, 2 trombones, banjo, tuba, piano, 2 violins, and traps." The discography in Don Rayno's Paul Whiteman : Pioneer in American music states that the session also included four saxophones, and audition of recordings from the session bear this out. Finally, the naming of instruments in Victor ledgers is also open to question. Rayno also notes two trumpets in the Whiteman Band sessions of December 26, 1924; Victor ledgers describe them as cornets.

 

Legacy data

The EDVR database began its life as research and typewritten manuscripts prepared for book publication by its original editors, Ted Fagan and Bill Moran. Fagan and Moran data were keyed into a database in the 1990s. The project came to the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) in 2003. In editing and preparing the EDVR for publication on the web, UCSB staff members attempt to consult original sources whenever possible. When these sources differ significantly from data inherited, EDVR footnotes may reference the original information as “legacy data.”


Marketing genre

Throughout the 78-rpm era, many U.S. record companies, including the Victor Talking Machine Company, issued records to be marketed to a variety of immigrant groups. Victor also issued records intended for sale to Spanish-speaking people in the Caribbean and Central and South America, as well as to foreign-language speakers in the United States. EDVR notes the target audiences for such recordings as “Marketing genre.” Recordings issued on both U.S. domestic series and series intended for export are not always marked in EDVR with a Marketing genre. Designation of Marketing genre in EDVR is made on the basis of disc label and trade catalog examination as well as information found in Victor ledgers. EDVR also includes “Educational” as a Marketing genre to designate recordings made by Victor for use in primary and secondary schools.

 

Master

Original recordings, made on wax discs, and later, lacquer discs, are called “masters” in EDVR. The discography also uses the term “master” as a verb. If a recording is indicated as “mastered” it is assumed that the manufacturing process was initiated, that the master disc was metal-plated and “mothers” and “stampers” were generated. See also Matrix and “Dubbed.”

 

Matrix

The editors of the Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings use the term “matrix number” to refer to the serial number assigned by the Victor company to individual recordings or sets of recordings made by a performer or ensemble. In Victor’s original use of the term, a full matrix number comprises three elements -- a letter prefix, a serial number, and a take number (see also Prefixes and Take).

 

“N. L.”

“Not listed.” This is a common designation found by take numbers in Victor ledgers. It is believed that by “listed,” Victor meant pressed and released. Takes marked “N. L.” are usually marked in the ledgers as mastered. Mothers and stampers (see also Dubbed) were probably made for these takes, but discs were not issued from them. 

 

Names

Names in EDVR are taken from the Library of Congress Authorities database whenever possible. This database, a collection of standardized names, titles, and subjects, allows EDVR editors to unify all records associated with a person. While the names assigned in the authorities database frequently match what is seen on a disc label or in record catalogs, this is not always the case. Published names that are different from LC names are often noted on a person's talent page and may also be searched. For example, the LC Authorities database identify Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky by this name, but a search for "Chaikovskii" will also be directed to his talent page. When most printed matter, such as disc labels, catalogs, and secondary sources, provide a version of a name significantly different from the LC Authorities, EDVR editors have selected this alternate name as the person's primary name; the LC-provided name is still noted on the person's talent page. Alternate names, common misspellings, and pseudonyms that appear in print may also be noted on talent pages.

When recording artists, ensembles, composers, or authors are listed on record labels or Victor documentation under pseudonyms, EDVR cites both versions of the name, with the actual name referenced in brackets (example: Sousa's Band [i.e., Pryor's Band]). In this instance, Pryor’s Band made the recording but it was listed in Victor catalogs and on disc labels as Sousa’s Band. Slight variants of names employed on pressings for export, such as Banda Victor for the Victor Band, are not documented in EDVR’s indexes but are noted under take information on Matrix detail screens.

 

Number sold

Sales figures appearing in EDVR (as “Number sold,” under “Other information”) derive from markings on the backs of blue history cards, and are included in the discography, when known, as part of our effort make available significant data found in original Victor documents. As John Bolig points out in the introduction to his Victor black label discography : 1800-1900 series (Denver: Mainspring Press, 2008), these numbers are not to be considered authoritative. It is likely that they represent a sales audit from a specific time; they do not appear to have been updated regularly. In addition, it is possible that the sales figures may represent cumulative sales from various issues (catalog numbers) of the masters represented on the blue history cards, and not exclusively from one such release. For example, the notation 5,966 on the verso of the blue history card for Victor 64910, Alfred Cortot’s “Tarantelle,” may include sales of its double-faced reissue, Victor 561.

 

Parallel title

A parallel title is a translated version of the Primary title, found on a disc label, in a Victor catalog, or in Victor ledgers.

 

Prefixes

The system for matrix identification employed by Victor after its early 1903 system included the use of letter prefixes before each master (Matrix) number. In the acoustic recording era (before March 1925), each master number was preceded by a letter that indicated the size of the master disc. The classification for U.S. recordings was as follows: A = 7-inch; B = 10-inch; C = 12-inch; D = 14-inch; E = 8 inch. In the electrical recording era, prefixes indicated the size of the master, the recording system used, and, after 1940, the year of recording and the disc series (e.g., Red Seal)  for which the master was intended. See  Status of Matrix Series for a list of all prefixes used in the acoustic recording era.

 

“Pre-matrix”

Before the process of manufacturing disc records by electroplating the wax master disc to produce both mothers and stampers was implemented in 1903 (see “Dubbed”), The Victor Talking Machine Company created the metal plates from which recordings were pressed (stampers) directly from the wax master disc.  This process severely limited the number of discs that could be manufactured from one master recording. When a stamper wore out, if additional records were to remain available for sale, the artist was required to return to the recording studio to make a new master recording. Ted Fagan and William R. Moran, in their print discographies, coined the term “pre-matrix” for this early process, and use of the term “pre-matrix” for this series of recordings has been maintained in this version of the discography. Note that master numbers and catalog numbers were identical in the “pre-matrix” era.

 

Primary title

To help to differentiate the various titles that might be found on a disc label or in other sources of information consulted for the discography, each master entry in EDVR receives a main, or Primary, title. The Primary title usually is what one would find on the first line of a record label. EDVR editors have established a hierarchy of preferred sources for identifying Primary titles. The title appearing on a 78-rpm disc label is the most preferred source of information. When a recording was issued more than once (often using different catalog numbers), preference is given to the earliest issue. After disc labels, the preferred sources are, in descending order, record catalogs, Blue history cards (when full titles are included), Victor ledgers, and secondary sources, such as sheet music. 

 

Pseudonyms. See Names.

 

“Returned”

The earliest recording ledgers maintained by the Victor Talking Machine Company include handwritten entries that relate to the production of discs. Most often, the notations are in the form of “Ret’d [date] - [number] c.p.,” which EDVR editors interpret as the date a master disc was returned to company from the pressing plant and the number of copies of the disc that were sold. This interpretation is speculative. The number may represent discs produced, as opposed to actually sold.

 

Rigler-Deutsch Index (RDI)

The Rigler-Deutsch Index, created in the early 1980s by the Association for Recorded Sound Collections, is an index derived from transcriptions of labels from the 78-rpm record holdings of five libraries. EDVR editors consult the index to ascertain how titles were shown on disc labels and also how performers, composers, and authors were credited. 

 

Songwriter

A “songwriter” designation has been assigned to composers or lyricists when it is unclear to EDVR editors how to categorize the contributions of a song’s creators. In many cases, individuals so designated were composers, but confirmation of this role could not be found in sheet music or other sources. In some cases, where sheet music examined included statements such as “By John Jones and Bill Smith,” or “Words and music by Jones and Smith,” both Jones and Smith are designated as songwriters.

 

“Special label”

Matrix records or takes marked “Special label” in Victor ledgers were recordings of slightly longer duration than usual for that particular master size (10-in. or 12-in.). Because these recordings were longer, taking up more area of a disc, a smaller, “special,” label would be required on the discs offered for sale.

 

Status

Victor ledgers or recording books usually note the status of each take recorded. When found, these notations are included in EDVR in the Status column on Matrix pages. The three most commonly found notations are M (master), D (destroy), and H (hold). It is not unusual to find all three applied to an individual take; the ledgers might note status as H/M/D, indicating that the initial decision was to hold the master; later it was decided to master it, and eventually it was marked for destruction. Researchers have found that not all takes marked D were actually destroyed. Victor also used the designations H30 and Hc. H30 is believed to indicate hold for 30 days. It is not known what Hc indicates -- perhaps hold for 100 days. In EDVR, H30 and Hc designations are not differentiated and appear simply as Hold.

 

Take

Each attempt Victor made at recording a selection was a “take.” When one artist or ensemble recorded the same selection multiple times, possibly over a span of many years or even decades, all these recordings were identified by the same Matrix number, but were assigned consecutive take numbers. In instances when an artist recorded a selection in both the acoustical and electrical recording eras, the matrix number remained the same and takes continued to be numbered in the same sequence, although different master prefixes (e.g., BVE-, CVE-) were used to identify the electrical recordings. For example, Fritz Kreisler recorded his “Liebesfreud” four times between May 13, 1910, and Jan. 14, 1916, as matrix C-8951, takes 1 through 4. The same selection was then recorded with electrical equipment five more times, between April 8, 1926, and April 14, 1926, as matrix CVE-8951, takes 5 through 9.

Letter suffixes to take numbers reference recording lathes, or record cutters, used to make master discs. For instance, Victor ledgers note BVE-39471, "Lucky in love" by George Olsen and His Music, as recorded on takes 1, 1A, 2, 2A, 3, 3A, and more. Takes 2 and 2A of "Lucky in love" are the same performance, recorded by Victor on two different machines. Takes 3 and 3A are both from another performance. Issues of "Lucky in love" on Victor disc 20872 derive from takes 3, 3A, and 5A, so although three masters were made for release, they were of two performances only, takes 3 and 5.

Take numbers can usually be found on Victor 78-rpm discs on the record surface area just outside the record label, in the nine o’clock position. First takes are usually not indicated; there is no number in that area when a record derives from take 1. 

 

Title descriptor

Victor ledgers, catalogs, and disc labels often include a description of various types of recordings. This may be a genre (e.g., comic dialogue), a dance tempo designation (e.g., waltz or fox trot), or a descriptive phrase similar to a subtitle (e.g., “Old French folk song”). It is often difficult for EDVR editors to differentiate a title descriptor from a music subtitle. (Both of these indicators appear as additional titles on Matrix detail screens.) When in doubt, “title descriptor” was chosen to identify the information found. In any case, most of the title entries include the source of the notation.

 

Trial

The Victor Talking Machine Company assigned the word “trial” to audition recordings, primarily of new performers. Trials occasionally were recordings by established artists trying out new repertoire, or new combinations of established artists. Victor ledgers do not assign Matrix or serial numbers to trials. EDVR editors, however, assign matrix numbers that identify them as trials and include both the recording date (in the form year-month-day) and a sequential number. For example, “Trial 1919-10-28-03” indicates the third audition recorded on October 28, 1919. Some recording events are identified in Victor ledgers as “Unnumbered” or “Experimental.” EDVR editors speculate that these recordings may have been tests of new recording equipment or recording processes, or were made for the personal use of the recording artist(s). It is not known which trials and unnumbered recordings were processed -- that is, plated and manufactured as test or sample pressings. 

 

Uniform title

The international library community has built a database of standard titles for musical and literary works. “Uniform titles,” as they are called, enable one to locate all versions of a work, regardless of how that work is described on a record label or in a catalog. EDVR editors consult this database, maintained by the Library of Congress, when editing any classical music work. Uniform titles as they appear in EDVR typically include the standard work title, or title for the complete composition, and the movement title or aria name. 

An example of use of uniform titles is matrix C-2201, first issued as Victor disc 85042. This disc label reads: “Invocation, Great Isis [from] Magic Flute.” The Uniform title of the aria is “Zauberflöte. O Isis und Osiris (Chorus of priests).” In EDVR, “Invocation” has been marked as the Primary title and “Great Isis” as a subtitle. “Magic flute” is noted as the Work title. The inclusive indexing of EDVR enables users to locate this recording by any of the above phrases.

If a musical work is recorded with instrumentation substantially different from that for it was originally composed (e.g., an opera aria with accompaniment by piano rather than orchestra, or a band arrangement of an orchestral work), “arr.” is added to the Uniform title. It is likely that all pre 1925 orchestral and band works were re-orchestrated to accommodate the limitations of acoustical recording. The “arranged” designation is not used to indicate the commonplace editing or arranging done to suit technical limitations of the time.

 

Unnumbered. See Trial.



Victor ledgers

Before January 1, 1911, the Victor Talking Machine Company maintained a number of handwritten ledger books detailing recording sessions. Most early ledgers were organized by artist name and included matrix numbers, takes, recording dates, and titles. Some, but not all, entries included the disposition of each take (master, destroy, etc.; see also Status) as well as the last names of the composers of musical works. The handwritten ledgers also provide indications of the specific equipment used for each recording, although the exact meaning of some of these notations is unknown. Beginning in 1911, Victor ledgers, identified internally as “recording books,” were typewritten and arranged chronologically by recording date. These ledgers include handwritten indications of take dispositions. Other notations in the typed ledgers may include instrumentation of musical groups, names of accompanists, music publishers, and catalog numbers of released recordings.

The activities of Victor’s field trips to the Caribbean and Central and South America were chronicled by the recordists, by hand, in pre-printed notebooks, or “diaries.” Several of the field trip diaries of the 1910s are lost.