National Geographic : 1927 Jul
And now Thomas A. Edison answers another questionnaire "I don't use delicate over tones to move machinery." In the photographic diagram above, wave No. I is that of thefundamental tone of an organ-pipe. The numerous waves be neath it are that organ-pipe'sovertones. They are as elusive as a ray of sunlight, yet their capture and preservation on a phonograph record is utterly essential to full, perfect Re-Creation of an artist's performance. It is obvious that they can not be preserved if their microscopic strength is dissipated in any way-mov ing machinery, for example. But let Thomas A. Edison give you his views on the subject. Q UES. What is musical sound? Ans. When anything such as a tightly stretched string connected to a sounding board is caused to vibrate rap idly and regularly back and forth, it sets the air around it in rapid vibration'which in turn vibrates our ear drums back and forth. Through the mechanism of the ear these vibrations are transmitted to our brains and we "hear" a musical sound. Physicists call such vibrations sound waves. Ques. Sometimes music is rich, mel low and beautiful. Sometimes it is harsh, sharp and unpleasant. Why is this? Ans. The presence or absence of over tones controls the beauty and quality of a musical sound. The more overtones there are, the richer and more beautiful the quality becomes. The difference be tween the metallic tinkle of a child's piano and the mellow resonance of a concert grand is due to overtones. Ques. What are overtones? Ans. When we set the string I men tioned vibrating, it sends out a powerful or fundamental wave. It also sends out many other related waves. These sec ondary waves are called overtones. A simple illustration of this: Drop a large pebble into a pool of quiet water; wave rings are formed that go out in all directions in smooth and regular pro cession over the surface of the water. Now try dropping the large pebble again, but at the same time drop several very small ones along with it. The wave rings caused by the large pebble will be there as before but, in addition, there will be many little waves or ripples criss-cross- ing each other, and the appearance of the principal waves will be quite differ ent from what they were in the first ex periment. The big waves may be compared to the fundamental sound wave, and the little ripples that are superimposed on them to the overtones. Another illustration might be an auto mobile crossing a series of mountain ridges. The mountains and valleys cor respond to the principal or fundamental sound waves and the "thank-you ma'ams" to the overtones-only in the case of music the "thank-you-ma'ams" are enjoyable. Ques. What, in effect, do overtones accomplish? An. I've already answered this in Question No. 2. To put it in another way, however, one artist with a few simple lines paints a picture; another paints the same picture but fills out his canvas with backgrounds of light and shade and with subtle color effects. It might be said that the second artist has added overtones to the sharp fundamen tals of the first artist's work. The great er the skill in handling the overtones, the greater the master and the more per manently pleasing the effect. This is also true in music. Ques. Can overtones be recorded on phonograph records? Ans. Years ago I recognized the fact that only through capturing the delicate and elusive overtones as well as the fun damental wave, and faithfully record ing them on a record, could phonograph music earn its right to a permanent place in the musical esteem of mankind. I have worked always with this goal in view. Nature has been reluctant, but one by one she has given up her secrets. The present Edison Phonograph is very close to my ideal. Ques. How have you captured these delicate overtones? Ans. In many ways. For example, I made a thicker record of greater solidity which would not shake and vibrate as a whole when played. I developed an ex tremely hard and smooth surface for the record so that the sound waves-the minute ones which are overtones would not be flattened out when the dia mond point passed over them. By adopting a permanent diamond point I got away from making the sound grooves t Jhe NEW EDISObP PHONOGRAPI 1 t 1 8 r.0 WATCH FOR OTHER QUESTIONNAIRES BY MR. EDISON "grind in" steel needles. By mechanic ally feeding the so-called tone arm across the record I eliminated having the delicate sound grooves drag the arm across. In other words, I don't use deli cate overtones to move machinery. Countless experiments in recording have taught us many vastly important tricks and processes. No one thing has cap tured the overtones for us. I have men tioned a few but there are many others. A combination of many details working together has achieved present results. * Nothing can be better than the BEST A phonograph serves one purpose and one only-to reproduce voice or instrument as it sounded orig inally. When a phonograph has accomplished this, nothing more can be asked. Five thousand tests, in which liv ing artists sang or played side by side with the New Edison before critical audiences in such musical centers as Carnegie Hall in New York and Symphony Hall in Bos ton, have proved that there is no difference between the original performance and the New Edi son's Re-Creation of it. Eminent musical critics who at tended these tests were unable to distinguish between the living voices or instrumental perform ances and the New Edison's ren dition of them, and have put themselves on record to that ef fect. (Send for free booklet, "What the Critics Say.") The nearest Edison dealer will be glad to demonstrate the New Edi son Phonograph to you. Ask him also to play an Edison 4o-minute record - the inventor's lat e st achievement-a record of ordi nary size which allows you to hear a complete concert without inter ruption, and at a marked reduc tion from the usual cost of phono graph music. Try the New Edison for a few days in your home, and you will realize what this means. Any Edison dealer will be glad to allow you to make this trial, partic ularly if you can obtain some other make of machine with which you can compare the New Edison. THOMAS A. EDISON, Inc. Orange, N.J.