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The Story of the Manufacture of Wax Cylinder Blanks - Part 5

DBM checks the recording machine designed by himself.By 1987 Duncan and I had started to separate along the lines of plastic versus wax, although we continued to meet up to play records, mould cylinders and chat about the “old days” Probably our last joint venture was the great recording session in St Luke's College, Exeter. It was to be the first of many, but alas things did not work out for many reasons.
DBM testing the piano.We had made a batch of master blanks, using a lead based mass, and despite a busy teaching schedule, I had managed to get a new label designed and printed, write an inaugural march (“The New Enterprise”), gather and rehearse a barbershop group (“The Acme Male Voice Quartet”), arrange two pieces for saxophone, contact and schedule about a dozen artists many of whom had appeared in Bob Townsend's Old Time Music-Halls, and book a rehearsal room in my old teaching college for two days
PM at the horn.It was hectic, but it all ran according to plan, and a large number of waxes were secured for Duncan to take back to Kent, where his busy time would start.
Recording Goodbye Dolly Grey- with effects.All things considered, the final products were truly remarkable from a technical point of view. In too many cases, however, they were as remarkable as the performances had been - which was not very. Artistically, they needed a lot to be desired
Rowland and Fielder record a duet.Looking back all those years, we should still be very proud of what was achieved. Had here been more time to practice, had the artists been able to get more comfortable with recording horns, and had we not been making a product that had fallen from public favour in about 1910, then great things would have happened. The records had to be moulded in minimum amounts, but only sold in small numbers (there are probably still stocks of them in Duncan's attic) and I guess we both learned a hard lesson that year.
Eileen Clark at the horn.   Pm watches on..            Miiss Megsy Bone at the horn.            Mr  Green at the horn.
Should you find a copy of “The New Enterprise March” a lively piano solo, played by the composer, one Charles Vernon d'Ealthy-Huish, or “We Close at Two on Thursdays” a naughty comic song by Mr E.E. Fielder with prof. Blanding at the piano, you will have a splendid example of what can only be described as an heroic faliure-but look after it, will you, because it took a lot of time and effort to make, and just because it was not fully appreciated when it was new, who knows what the future may hold for it? One thing is for sure-it may be the rarest record in your collection!

After the great recording session of 1987 Miller, Morris & Co carried on supplying its various wares and although rather geographically and ideologically separated, Duncan and I would still meet occasionally. It became more cost effective for me to employ another local person to help out with moulding wax blanks-still the mainstay of my business-than to drag Duncan down from his part of the country. And that's how I carried on until my sojourn in Canada changed everything.

PM at VanierIn August 1989 I flew to Montreal where I was to teach chemistry at Vanier College . This came about by virtue of the fact that a member of staff from that college wished to do an exchange with someone from Exeter College. For all practical purposes that meant me, and so I agreed to go along with it.
PM at Vanier Actually I had said “yes” in an act of bravado, being quite sure that nothing would come of it. The exchange DID come to fruition, and rather like when I set off for Guernsey in 1976, another train of events was set in motion-one that was to have far further-reaching effects.
PM lecturing in Vanier CollegeWhilst at Vanier College, I made the acquaintance of Joe Schwarcz who was acting coordinator. He too had a keen interest in things Edison and it was not long before he had inspired me to re-work my old phonograph lecture, this time giving it a more scientific leaning I decided to call it “Edison, and the Chemistry of Sound Recording” The title gave me full scope to explore some of the chemistry behind wax making, and also later materials such as celluloid and bakelite.

PM lecturing in Vanier College..Of less legitimacy no doubt, it also allowed me to explore some of the fun things you can do with phosphorus. Edison blamed his deafness, in later years, on having his ears boxed by an angry railway guard whose van he had set ablaze with an accident involving white phosphorus. In my lecture, I illustrate phosphorus' flammable nature and its action on a strong oxidising agent. Phosphorescent “ink” is used to give “convincing evidence” of an after-life as I attempt to contact Edison himself from another world.

PM on the way to lecture in Columbia University.I gave the lecture twice at Vanier College, also at McGill University. A little later on, I was invited to give it at Columbia University, New York. It was a lot of fun!

Now, all of a sudden (or so it seems) it's 2008 and I have been self employed for 12 years. My thoughts upon my return to England in July 1991 have been covered in the biographical sketch offered elsewhere in this web site. It is enough to conclude this piece by saying that what I learned in a hot, sticky attic in Guernsey in 1976 has made a significant contribution over the years, to earning a living wage, in the event of the change of direction I took in 1996 as a result of my period of work in Montreal.
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