One of the men responsible for the creation of vinyl album has passed away at the age of 92.
The New York Times reports that Howard H. Scott, who was a key part of the the team at Columbia Records who first developed the long-playing record in 1948 , died on September 22nd in Philadelphia, with his daughter, Andrea saying that cancer was the cause of death.
It must have been encouraging for Scott to live long enough to see the audio format he helped pioneer come back into vogue once more, more than half-a-century after he was first assigned to the secret task of developing a long-playing format to replace the 78 rpm disc, which only held about four minutes of music on each side.
In 1946, a 26-year-old Scott was discharged from the Army and took employment with Columbia Masterworks, the label’s classical music arm, and was put on board the team looking to develop the brittle shellac audio format into something that could hold longer pieces music, in order to contain the longer classical works his division was responsible for.
Nearing its completion from its inception in 1940, Scott was brought on by engineers who needed someone who was classically trained to read orchestral scores to transfer the faster, quicker 78 rpm format to the new 331/3rpm – which became the vinyl standard, holding about 22 minutes a side.
Howard Hillison Scott drew on his Eastman School of Music graduation and classical piano studies at the Julliard school to help in the difficult process of transferring music to the new LP format. With long pieces of music, split among several 78rpm records, being threaded together onto the new format without interruption.
While later in the 1940s, the introduction of magnetic tape processes made the processes easier, Scott and his associates would have to manually read the orchestral score and indicated when to overlap the segments of music on 78 at just the right moment, switching from one audio signal on one turntable to the next.
Once the industry switched to new processes for transferral, Scott became a staff producer at Columbia Records, working on hundreds of recordings by many major American orchestras, including the infamous New York Philharmonic. During his tenure, he also worked closely with celebrated Candian pianist Glenn Gould and Polish conductor/violinist Isaac Stern.
After leaving Columbia in 1961, Scott went on to work at various other labels including MGM Records and RCA Red Seal and, in 1966, even won a Grammy Award as the producer on the Classical Album of the Year in Charles Ive’s Symphony No. 1 performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
During the 1970s, Scott was the executive manager of music publisher G. Schirmer, until 1986 when he returned to the record label fold. He worked for Sony as a producer, once again charged with the task of transferring music to a new format: the Compact Disc.
Speaking to The New York Times back in 1998 on the 50th anniversary on the introduction of the vinyl LP, the format’s co-creator championed the durability of the format, not just physically, but culturally speaking as the ‘little format that could’ continues to experience a revival, despite the proposed conspiracy that the record labels did their best to off the wax format with the advent of CD.
“[It] lived from 1948 to 1978, when the CD came in,” said Scott. “Now they’re coming back. Small companies are issuing them. I’m still an LP fan.”
As the LP continues to experience a resurgence, it’s had a number of positive effects through the industry. From saving retailers who are otherwise suffering from the decline of physical sales, to audiophiles claiming the vinyl format as the last bastion of the album format.
The moral of the story? Much like a record spinning on the platter, ‘what goes around comes around’.
Howard H. Scott is survived by his daughter, Andrea, his son, Jon, as well as his two granddaughters.
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