Glossary of Terms
Alternate titles may be variants found in sources other than that cited for a primary title, such as record catalogs, U.S. Copyright Office files, published discographies, the Alan Kelly files, blue history cards, or Victor ledgers, or they 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. The ADP frequently consults digital scans of a micofilm set made of most of the blue history cards to complete Victor Company entries in the discography. 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 are often 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). The backs of many of the BHCs often include record label samples, adhered by glue. Unfortunately, the the poor quality of many of the microfilm images, believed to have been created in the mid-1960s, results in some of them being nearly entirely illegible.
Some early Victor ledgers note "Camden" next to individual Take numbers. ADP 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 78rpm era) for possible use in the future. The designation "Camden" appears on matrix detail screens under Note, to the right of take numbers.
The designation "Canada" is found in many entries in early Victor ledgers. This is believed by ADP 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 DAHR by Victor takes marked "Canada" derive from legacy data inherited by the project from Ted Fagan and William R. 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. ADP editors note this under “Authors and composers” in the matrix record.
ADP editors have attempted to describe the nature of the performance on every set of master recordings. Descriptions are based on information found on record labels and in published discographies, Victor ledgers, and trade catalogs printed for the public and record dealers.
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 78rpm pressings by inscribing “S/8” in the ride-out area of the disc.
When the information is available the DAHR lists the instrumentation of musical ensembles, that is, the specific instruments, and their numbers, that comprise orchestras, bands, chamber groups, vocal accompaniments, etc.
In the case of Victor recordings, unless noted otherwise in footnotes or source notes, this information is derived from Victor ledgers. Unfortunately, the ledgers do not always accurately document the exact make-up of musical groups. This is especially true for jazz/dance bands and other large ensembles.
The ADP 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 the only woodwind players noted in Victor ledgers might be "four saxophones," yet clarinets can be heard on published recordings made at the session. In these cases, one or more saxophone players are doubling on clarinet, or playing clarinet on the recording exclusively. The ADP editors believe that instrumentation noted in the Victor ledgers may have been intended to maintain a record of the number of musicians paid for the session more than to document the exact instrumentation heard on the recording.
In some cases, we have found that the instrumentation provided in the ledgers is inaccurate; 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. Audition of recordings from the session bare this out. Finally, the naming of instruments in Victor ledgers is also open to question. Rayno also notes two trumpets in the Whiteman Band of December 26, 1924; Victor ledgers describe them as cornets.
The Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings (EDVR) database—the predecessor of the DAHR database—began its life as research and typewritten manuscripts prepared for book publication by its original editors, Ted Fagan and William R. 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 the case of Victor masters, in editing and preparing the DAHR for publication on the web, ADP editors attempt to consult original sources whenever possible. When these sources differ significantly from data inherited, DAHR footnotes may reference the original information as "legacy data."
Throughout the 78rpm era, many U.S. record companies issued records to be marketed to a variety of immigrant groups. Some companies 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. DAHR 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 DAHR with a marketing genre. Designation of marketing genre in DAHR is made on the basis of disc label and trade catalog examination as well as information found in Victor ledgers. DAHR also includes "Educational" as a marketing genre to designate recordings made for use in primary and secondary schools.
Original recordings—made on wax discs and, later, lacquer discs—are called "masters" in DAHR. 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 that "mothers" and "stampers" were generated. (See also Matrix and "Dubbed.")
ADP editors use the term "matrix number" to refer to the serial number assigned by the record 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.)
"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 Victor ledgers as mastered. Mothers and stampers (see also "Dubbed") were probably made for these takes, but discs were not issued from them.
Names in DAHR are taken from the Library of Congress Authorities database whenever possible. This database, a collection of standardized names, titles, and subjects, allows ADP 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 identifies 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 recordinng artist's name significantly different from the LC Authorities, ADP 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 in printed-discography or Victor documentation under pseudonyms, DAHR cites both versions of the name, with the actual name referenced in brackets (example: Sousa's Band [i.e., Pryor's Band]). In this example, 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 DAHR's indexes but are noted under take information on matrix detail screens.
When a primary title from a disc label or catalog is at variance with published sheet music or other authoritative sources, and the work performed is not included in the national database of “uniform titles,” DAHR editors sometimes add a “normalized title” that cites the title found on published sheet music. Normalized titles can make it easier to locate various recordings of a particular title despite different spellings or phrasing. (See also "Primary title" and "Uniform title.")
Sales figures appearing with Victor records in DAHR (as "Number sold," under "Other information") derive from markings on the backs of blue history cards and are included in DAHR, when known, as part of our effort to 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.
A parallel title is a translated version of the primary title, found on a disc label or in published discographies, catalogs, or Victor ledgers.
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.
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 Victor recordings has been maintained in this version of the discography. Note that Victor master numbers and catalog numbers were often identical in the "pre-matrix" era.
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 DAHR receives a main, or primary, title. The primary title usually is what one would find on the first line of a record label. ADP editors have established a hierarchy of preferred sources for identifying primary titles. The title appearing on a 78rpm 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 source is record catalogs. For Victor records, the preferred sources following catalogs are, in descending order, blue history cards (when full titles are included), Victor ledgers, and secondary sources, such as sheet music.
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 ADP 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 78rpm record holdings of five major research libraries. ADP editors consult the index to ascertain how titles were shown on disc labels and also how performers, composers, and authors were credited.
A "songwriter" designation has been assigned to composers or lyricists when there is insufficiently clear information for ADP editors to categorize the contributions of a song’s creators more specifically. 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.
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 Victor discs offered for sale.
Victor ledgers or recording books usually note the status of each take recorded. When found, these notations are included in DAHR 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 Victor 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 DAHR, H30 and Hc designations are not differentiated and appear simply as Hold.
Each attempt record companies 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. For Victor, 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.
Take numbers can usually be found on Victor 78rpm 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.
Victor ledgers, catalogs, the published discographies used by DAHR, 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 ADP 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 most cases, title entries include the source of the notation.
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. ADP 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." ADP 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.
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. ADP editors consult this database, maintained by the Library of Congress, when editing any classical music work. Uniform titles as they appear in DAHR 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 Victor 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 DAHR, "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 DAHR 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), "arranged" 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.
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.