Saturday, May 21, 2011

Disque Pathé- an antique 100 year old disc

DISQUE PATHÉ: An Antique 100 Year Old Disc
Disque Pathé: Dating these discs can give you some headache ( Gérard Frappé)
Hans Koert
(thanks to Gérard Frappé)

Disque Pathé: an antique 100 year old disc (English)Disque Pathé: Een antieke krasse honderdjarige (Nederlands)

A month ago I found a copy of an original 28 cm ( 11 inch) Disque Pathé at the Doctor Jazz Dag in Wageningen, a record fair in the centre of The Netherlands. Both sides have well known John Philip Sousa marches, like the Washington Post and the Star (sic) and Stripes For Ever. The former was composed by John Philip Sousa as a request for a Washington Post newspaper essay contest awards ceremonies of 1883. Sousa was
the director of the United States Marine Band, a band with a history that started back in 1798 ............. It would become one of the most popular US marches of the 20th century. The title of Star (sic) and Stripes For Ever, mind that the original tune is entitled Stars and Stripes For Ever, refers to the US flag and was composed by Sousa on Christmas Eve 1896 when he had heard about the death of his band manager David Blakely. It would become the National March of the USA. The band, that plays on both sides, is unnamed.
I bought the record, because of its size and its original sleeve and, because of its age, as these large 28 cm Disque Pathé originally were produced in the first decades of the 20th century.

The Washington Post - 32212 - P.F. ( = Pathé Freres) ca. 1910 as Disque Pathé 7050 ( collection: Hans Koert)

Early 1900, when the first sound record mediums were developed, both the cylinders as developed by inventors like Thomas Alva Edison as the (flat) Gramophone Records by Emile Berliner, became the standard for sound recordings. Times has learned that the flat (at first playable one-sided, later two-sided) gramophone disc became the standard after the first decade of the 20th century.
In Europe the Pathé Brothers, Charles and Émile Pathé, introduced the new Edison Phonograph in their bistro in Paris late 19th century and in 1905 they developed their own, single-sided discs. These Disque Pathé, were in fact, only produced for the French market and its sizes were unusual, like its speed ( not 78 rpm but 90 rpm) and the fact that the record had to be played starting near the spindle instead of starting at the outer edge of the disc. The groove is cut vertically into the discs, rather than the more common lateral method. In fact you needed a special ball-shaped .005-inch-radius (0.13 mm) stylus to track it. ( source: Wikipedia). Great to learn that I could play the record, not atn my electric 1960s gramophone, but it worked on my 1930s wind up gramophone, speeding up the 78rpm up to 90rpm ( starting in the centre of the disc).

The Star (sic) and Stripes For Ever - 31356 ca. 1910 as Disque Pathé 7086 ( collection: Hans Koert)
I found a nice demonstration how to play a 1906 Disque Pathé - I love to share this fragment with you:

I'd love to learn how old my disc could be. I asked the Dutch expert in 78rpm record labels Han Enderman, but he wrote me: Van geen label begrijp ik zo weinig als van Franse Pathé (= There is no other label so obscure to me as the French Pathé label). Well if he doesn't know, who else will know?

The Disque Pathé with its pochette originale .. ( collection: Hans Koert)

The French expert in Disque Pathé is Gérard Frappé and he sent me an extensive message I love to share it with you:
With Pathé, there is always some secrets in the numbering, and this can give some headache for dating the discs... Your disc is a 90RPM, that means that the fabrication is between 1906 and 1916. Now, if we consider that your disc is a 28 cm (and not a 35cm which appeared in 1911), I try to find your reference in the 'catalogues'. I found it in the Girard & Boitte catalogue 1910, but it was not in the Pathé catalogue of 1910. I found the same titles but conducted by French conductors (Gille or Bosc), with different catalogue numbers. The orchestra of your disc is PF, standing for Pathé Frères
. I cannot conclude if the conductor is Bosc or Gille. I suppose that your disc is dated 1910. This is the year where several foreign dances were introduced in the French catalogue to renew our old fashioned waltzes and polkas.
About the matrix number 32212 CG, it seems to mean that the disc has been produced in Chatou (near Paris).

Gérard pointed me to the fact that the Sousa marches are still played in "the European way" - without any swing: He says about that: About the introduction of the US dances in Europe, one thing is really funny: it is that the way used by the French editors was to get the original score, and not the disc. And the "swing" is not written in the score ..... That gives the strange way to play the American rhythms by the French conductors, considering that the Alexander Ragtime that became 'Le pas de l'ours' in French is played like a polka!

I suppose that the Stars and Stripes is played the same way... This has changed in 1917 when Sousa arrived in Europe with his US bands - they knew how to swing ..........

Well, my Disque Pathé is more then 100 years old - antique we call it. Should someone be able to play my CDs in 2111? I wonder ...........

Thanks Gérard Frappé. He has a very informative site, entitled De La Belle Époque Aux Années Folles about tis period with a lot information about these early Disque Pathé and how to date this obscure label.

Hans Koert

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A few months ago I found this large 28 cm Disque Pathé at the Doctor Jazz Dag in Wageningen (The Netherlands). Although I'm not a real 78rpm record collector, I love to search for interesting discs from the past and these giant records were released in the first decades of the last century. Thanks to the French expert Gérard Frappé, who heled me to date my copy, I can now label this disc as something real antiques.
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