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Author Topic: The Last Seat In The House: The Book. Now Available  (Read 1583 times)

Dan Mortensen

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The Last Seat In The House: The Book. Now Available
« on: January 30, 2020, 02:17:23 pm »

On the first page of this subform, there's a post by the late Tom Young announcing a documentary by the same name and about the same subject, i.e. a biography of sound pioneer Bill Hanley. I haven't been able to tell that the film was ever released as more than a trailer, but the book is now out and mine came two days ago.

I've read about 30 pages so far, and it's much more than a person's bio; it's more of a bio of our industry centered around one of its major participants. So far, I've learned (among many other things) that the first PA to cover 50,000 people was put together in 1919 (I think, not looking at it now) by the guys who created Magnavox, Peter Jensen and Edwin Pridham.

That's part of a timeline in the first few pages of significant moments in the development of sound reinforcement, as well listing the early people and companies who did those things. Of course, such a subjective list will leave out people and occurrences that someone else would think important, but it's still a good effort and includes info I've never seen collected in one place.

The author, John Kane, and Bill Hanley were at the last NYC AES in the audiohistory.org booth for the duration, and it was the highlight of my convention experience to talk with both, and especially Bill, for over three hours across two days. Bill was exceptionally generous with his time and seemed to enjoy questions that were outside of the usual, from someone (me) whose career started a few years after Woodstock. As those who were in or getting into the sound business back then are well aware, there were problems that were only solvable through invention, and it was fun hearing how he solved some of them.

I hope John sells a ton of these books, and remind you that if you are in the sound business as a business, looking into the history of your business and having to spend some money on that should be a business expense for you at tax time.

Just saying.

I've been reading a bunch of books about Woodstock since last year and am looking forward to what this one will say about it, and was deeply enriched hearing what Bill had to say directly last October. I'm hoping they will do a book tour and come to Seattle so our AES Section can also hear first-hand. And maybe yours, too.
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David Sturzenbecher

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Re: The Last Seat In The House: The Book. Now Available
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2020, 05:00:21 pm »

On the first page of this subform, there's a post by the late Tom Young announcing a documentary by the same name and about the same subject, i.e. a biography of sound pioneer Bill Hanley. I haven't been able to tell that the film was ever released as more than a trailer, but the book is now out and mine came two days ago.

I've read about 30 pages so far, and it's much more than a person's bio; it's more of a bio of our industry centered around one of its major participants. So far, I've learned (among many other things) that the first PA to cover 50,000 people was put together in 1919 (I think, not looking at it now) by the guys who created Magnavox, Peter Jensen and Edwin Pridham.

That's part of a timeline in the first few pages of significant moments in the development of sound reinforcement, as well listing the early people and companies who did those things. Of course, such a subjective list will leave out people and occurrences that someone else would think important, but it's still a good effort and includes info I've never seen collected in one place.

The author, John Kane, and Bill Hanley were at the last NYC AES in the audiohistory.org booth for the duration, and it was the highlight of my convention experience to talk with both, and especially Bill, for over three hours across two days. Bill was exceptionally generous with his time and seemed to enjoy questions that were outside of the usual, from someone (me) whose career started a few years after Woodstock. As those who were in or getting into the sound business back then are well aware, there were problems that were only solvable through invention, and it was fun hearing how he solved some of them.

I hope John sells a ton of these books, and remind you that if you are in the sound business as a business, looking into the history of your business and having to spend some money on that should be a business expense for you at tax time.

Just saying.

I've been reading a bunch of books about Woodstock since last year and am looking forward to what this one will say about it, and was deeply enriched hearing what Bill had to say directly last October. I'm hoping they will do a book tour and come to Seattle so our AES Section can also hear first-hand. And maybe yours, too.

If you are an AES member they have a nice interview with Bill Hanley here:
http://www.aes.org/live/?cat=Legends#cbp=./?ID=99&nowrap=true

It looks slightly dated but still plays well. Be sure to check out the other videos on that AES page.  There are some real gems.
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Chris Hindle

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Re: The Last Seat In The House: The Book. Now Available
« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2020, 01:25:18 pm »

Thanks for the heads Up.
I just ordered my copy....
Chris.
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Dan Mortensen

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Re: The Last Seat In The House: The Book. Now Available
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2020, 04:59:08 pm »

If you are an AES member they have a nice interview with Bill Hanley here:
http://www.aes.org/live/?cat=Legends#cbp=./?ID=99&nowrap=true

It looks slightly dated but still plays well. Be sure to check out the other videos on that AES page.  There are some real gems.

Thanks for the reminder of that link. I think they've redone their video page so it's both easier and harder to find videos of interest.

The first eight minutes or so of that video is about the first 38 pages of the book, with fewer details about some things and more about others. I'm going to read more before watching more.

One note: the author points out repeatedly in the early part that he is not a sound engineer, and it shows. Page 38, talking about Voice of the Theaters: "They got 500Hz of passive crossover, which was fairly standard." Not really any mitigating context.

There is a little reading around the words necessary, but I'm enjoying it.
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Dan Mortensen

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Re: The Last Seat In The House: The Book. Now Available
« Reply #4 on: February 23, 2020, 04:38:52 pm »

There is a little reading around the words necessary, but I'm enjoying it.

Finished it last night, and while there are indeed numerous statements of technical fact in it which would make any of us roll our eyes, as a history of large concert sound with first-person statements from many, many people who were involved in it and/or affected by it, it's a fascinating read and puts a lot of pieces into both perspective and context.

I also very much like it because while it ends with Hanley's exit from the PA business due to poor financial acumen which didn't match his technical prowess and innovation (as well as being seemingly disinterested in maintaining the gear that he so carefully made/invented*), he is still kicking and active in life and is getting the recognition he deserves from this book. I like reading a biography that doesn't end tragically.

Some of his innovations (my list, not necessarily the book's):

First to use physically big speakers (at that time developed for large movie theaters) for concerts.

First to use semis to haul PA's around.

First to use air conditioners to keep amps cool in summer outdoor heat.

Possibly first to use multipair cable as snakes.

First to use CM Lodestar (or any) chain hoists to lift PA's by inverting the gravity-dependent contact mechanism so they'd climb the chain rather than lift it.

Possibly the first to point speakers at the artists so they could hear themselves, unleashing a demon that we continue to deal with today....

Probably the first to have enough PA gear to be able to combine PA systems from smaller gigs into one big PA for large gigs, and know how to do it efficiently.

Certainly first to systematize festival sound for the most efficient presentation of multiple acts over multiple days.

Also certainly first to systematically design PA installs for rock shows.

Undoubtedly more, too.

It's an enjoyable read. I'll be curious to hear other thoughts.

* There are numerous stories of him going around at gigs with a soldering iron wrapped about his neck, fixing things that needed fixing. People ID'd that as "mad scientist" type stuff.    That blows me away, because when you are doing that at the gig you are only showing how ill-prepared you are, by doing things that should have been done at the shop or solved by having spares. IMO.
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Chris Hindle

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Re: The Last Seat In The House: The Book. Now Available
« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2020, 12:37:50 pm »

My copy arrived on Friday.......
Gonna need some serious down-time......

Chris.
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John Roberts {JR}

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Re: The Last Seat In The House: The Book. Now Available
« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2020, 01:50:23 pm »

On the first page of this subform, there's a post by the late Tom Young announcing a documentary by the same name and about the same subject, i.e. a biography of sound pioneer Bill Hanley. I haven't been able to tell that the film was ever released as more than a trailer, but the book is now out and mine came two days ago.

I've read about 30 pages so far, and it's much more than a person's bio; it's more of a bio of our industry centered around one of its major participants. So far, I've learned (among many other things) that the first PA to cover 50,000 people was put together in 1919 (I think, not looking at it now) by the guys who created Magnavox, Peter Jensen and Edwin Pridham.

From a 1946 book about sound movies "Okay for Sound" they describe Western Electric stringing 113 loudspeakers along New York's Victory Way (Fifth Ave?) to support a 5 mile long parade celebrating the NY based 27th Division's, return from WWI in 1919. Some 20,000 marched in the parade and 500,000 reportedly turned out for the celebration. I won't speculate about how many heard what.

The same book describes a notable early indoor sound reinforcement system (central overhead cluster) used for both 1920 presidential conventions. President Harding's inauguration (1921) also benefited from active sound reinforcement.

My father worked at WE in the 1930s(?). The  book was a gift from one of his former co-workers (C.G. Stoll, President of WE).

JR
Quote

That's part of a timeline in the first few pages of significant moments in the development of sound reinforcement, as well listing the early people and companies who did those things. Of course, such a subjective list will leave out people and occurrences that someone else would think important, but it's still a good effort and includes info I've never seen collected in one place.

The author, John Kane, and Bill Hanley were at the last NYC AES in the audiohistory.org booth for the duration, and it was the highlight of my convention experience to talk with both, and especially Bill, for over three hours across two days. Bill was exceptionally generous with his time and seemed to enjoy questions that were outside of the usual, from someone (me) whose career started a few years after Woodstock. As those who were in or getting into the sound business back then are well aware, there were problems that were only solvable through invention, and it was fun hearing how he solved some of them.

I hope John sells a ton of these books, and remind you that if you are in the sound business as a business, looking into the history of your business and having to spend some money on that should be a business expense for you at tax time.

Just saying.

I've been reading a bunch of books about Woodstock since last year and am looking forward to what this one will say about it, and was deeply enriched hearing what Bill had to say directly last October. I'm hoping they will do a book tour and come to Seattle so our AES Section can also hear first-hand. And maybe yours, too.
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Dan Mortensen

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Re: The Last Seat In The House: The Book. Now Available
« Reply #7 on: March 11, 2020, 05:33:10 pm »

From a 1946 book about sound movies "Okay for Sound" they describe Western Electric stringing 113 loudspeakers along New York's Victory Way (Fifth Ave?) to support a 5 mile long parade celebrating the NY based 27th Division's, return from WWI in 1919. Some 20,000 marched in the parade and 500,000 reportedly turned out for the celebration. I won't speculate about how many heard what.

The same book describes a notable early indoor sound reinforcement system (central overhead cluster) used for both 1920 presidential conventions. President Harding's inauguration (1921) also benefited from active sound reinforcement.

My father worked at WE in the 1930s(?). The  book was a gift from one of his former co-workers (C.G. Stoll, President of WE).

JR

Cool, JR, thanks for mentioning that book. I was able to find one online in great condition for a reasonable price, and started reading it last night. It was fascinating that the first "movie" of any sort was actually a talkie!!!

As you know, according to the book, Edison's assistant William Dickson was tasked when Edison went out of town, to do something with this new film stock that George Eastman has just invented, which was a long skinny strip that could hold multiple pictures. Dickson built himself a studio (on the roof?) and made a film of himself verbally and visually greeting Edison on his return home from the trip, and sync'ing (a cylinder?) to the film and proving that it was sync'd by saying something like "Now I'm going to touch my shoulder" and counting to 10 and stuff like that. According to the book, that was in 1889.

The Wikipedia account tells it different, but I'm inclined to believe the book for reasons below.

The fact that film could talk and convey more information and emotion was lost/forgotten/avoided for 40 years until the Warner brothers (credited in the introduction individually by name) invested in more development and brought out "The Jazz Singer". (This is ahead of where I am in the book but this is my takeaway so far.)

It seems like a really cool book, and thanks for mentioning it. I especially like that the author says that 1946 was a good time to write this book because the pioneers in sound for film were still alive and could tell their stories directly. I like that a lot.

Thanks again for mentioning it.

Edit: Forgot to mention, Victory Way was actually Park Avenue, which runs uptown from Grand Central Terminal. Five miles uptown (the length of the parade with the speakers in 1919) is pretty far up Manhattan! It would be cool if that parade was the same event as the one with the Magnavox guys.

There was a display of German helmets set up at each end of Victory way, also shown in the earlier link. One was at Park and 46th, I haven't yet found where the other end was but can't look more right now.
« Last Edit: March 11, 2020, 06:00:26 pm by Dan Mortensen »
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Re: The Last Seat In The House: The Book. Now Available
« Reply #7 on: March 11, 2020, 05:33:10 pm »


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