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Barga Jazz 2017: Flashmob at 78 rpm at Da Aristo

Francesco Martinelli and his portable windup 78 player outside DaAristo's in Barga Vecchia

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Flashmob in Barga vecchia this morning as the journalist and musicologist Francesco Martinelli arrived in the piazza with a windup gramophone and a small selection of his 78 rpm jazz records. Within minutes a crowd of interested people joined him at Da Aristo’s.

Any flat disc record, made between about 1898 and the late 1950s and playing at a speed around 78 revolutions per minute is called a “78” by collectors. The materials of which discs were made and with which they were coated were also various; shellac eventually became the commonest material. Generally 78s are made of a brittle material which uses a shellac resin (thus their other name is shellac records). During and after World War II when shellac supplies were extremely limited, some 78 rpm records were pressed in vinyl instead of shellac (wax), particularly the six-minute 12″ 78 rpm records produced by V-Disc for distribution to US troops in World War II.

78s come in a variety of sizes, the most common being 10 inch (25 cm) and 12 inch (30 cm) diameter, and these were originally sold in either paper or card covers, generally with a circular cutout allowing the record label to be seen. Since most 78 rpm discs were issued in paper sleeves with no additional accompanying materials, relatively limited information is provided by the items themselves.

Earliest speeds of rotation varied widely, but by 1910 most records were recorded at about 78 to 80 rpm. In 1925, 78.26 rpm was chosen as a standard for motorized phonographs, because it was suitable for most existing records, and was easily achieved using a standard 3600-rpm motor and 46-tooth gear (78.26 = 3600/46). Thus these records became known as 78s (or “seventy-eights”). This term did not come into use until after World War II when a need developed to distinguish the 78 from other newer disc record formats. Earlier they were just called records, or when there was a need to distinguish them from cylinders, disc records.

The durations of 78 RPM recordings is about three to five minutes per side, depending on the disc size: 12″: ca. four to five minutes 10″: ca. three minutes

Francesco Martinelli was born in Pisa, Italy, in 1954, and graduated in chemistry at Pisa University. Since 1975 he has been involved in the promotion of musical events (the concerts of American bluesmen Cooper Terry and Don Cherry and the Frank Lowe Quartet). In 1976, he co-founded CRIM (Center for Research About Improvised Music). CRIM promoted the Pisa Jazz Festival and many other ad hoc events from 1976 to 1982, mainly concentrating on contemporary improvisation and jazz.

Within CRIM, Martinelli published the Italian editions of books by Leo Smith (Notes: 8 Pieces) and Derek Bailey (Improvisation: Its Nature and Practice in Music), and several records (Improvisors’ Symposium by Evan Parker, The Paul Rutherford Duo With Toni Rusconi, Pisa by the Maarten Altena Quartet, and Detto Fra Di Noi by the Alex von Schlippenbach Trio).

After 1982, he promoted events for the town of Pisa, including La Nuova Onda, a festival of contemporary Italian jazz, as well as other festivals all over the country. In 1998 he began co-directing the Controindicazioni Festival in Rome and acting as a consultant for festivals and concerts all over the country. After planning and promoting a major three-day festival dedicated to the Italian Instabile Orchestra in December 1997, he produced a double CD for Leo Records documenting the event; the CDs were critically acclaimed worldwide, and the collaboration with the Italian Instabile Orchestra became an ongoing project, with promotion of a yearly Instabile Festival in Pisa.

He was then appointed curator of the Siena Jazz Archive, the main resource of its kind in Italy, and also gave courses and lectures about the history of jazz, the philology and conservation of recorded sound, and music research through the Internet. He taught at the Summer School of Music of New York University in Italy for four years, giving a course on European improvised music and lecturing at New York University in New York. (source)

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