August 13, 2016

TR Mahalingam: All India Radio [HMV HTC 8129] Radio session recorded for broadcast in 1960 and released as a cassette in 1993

And once again during this "Weekend Celebration of Cassette-based Musical Culture," a cassette from TR "Mali" Mahalingam.

I refer you to two previous posts from this pioneering Carnatic flautist for any biographical information you might be interested in.

This cassette was released as part of a short-lived program initiated by AIR to issue some of its recordings of more well-known musicians in its archives. They have appeared from time to time on EMI/HMV/Saregama/RPG/Whatever, Akashvani Archive, and T-series. These particular sessions were recorded in 1960 and I must say they sound a good ten years older than that. There is an interesting and unwanted low-frequency noise that is intermittently apparent. I can't account for its origins. Is it from tape print-through? Ambient noise in the studio? Deteriorating tape in a warm environment? It can sometimes sound like radio static or LP rumbles. Any ideas from readers are welcomed.

This time we have an excellent listing of krithi, their base ragas, and their talas (not all Adi Taal, interestingly).

These last two Mali cassettes are not exactly audiophile sensations of the highest order. No one subscribing to Stereophile Magazine is going to rank them up there with recordings of steam engine trains and other "audiophile delights," but their musical content is worth sitting through a little bit of tape hiss, mild peak distortion, and occasional strange noises. There are several commercially-released carnatic albums I own with worse sound quality than is on display here.

If sound quality is important to you (and, really, why shouldn't it be one of several aspects of a recording that is relevant?) one superb in-print collection from a Japanese label is still quite easily available. The vinyl edition is starting to get scarce, but the CD edition continues (for now) to be widely distributed. It is also on several streaming apps such as Tidal and Spotify. The collection is a model of how well a reissue of EMI recordings could sound if proper (i.e., Japanese-level) care is taken in finding original masters and properly transferring and tastefully remastering them.

Regardless, on to this quite enjoyable cassette.

(high resolution audio file suitable for playing on computer)

(suitable for burning a CDR)

(suitable for listening to on portable devices)

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