Modern technology weds traditional craftsmanship

By the time Basel ’84 ended its eight-day run April 12, more than 102,000 visitors had marveled at the gemological and horological “creme de la creme” of 16 nations.

But the quality of visitors transcended their numbers. Trade buyers outnumbered that general public 70 to 30. Americans and West Germans led the influx from abroad; visitors came from 95 countries in all.

The vast array of new and established items on display–from prestigious gem-set pieces to costumejewelry, goldware, writing instruments and lighters–proved enticing to visitors. Some pieces were unusual or unexpected. Among them Miniature decorated gold ingots worn as jewelry, antique and period jeels, and scratch-resistant hard-metal designs. Visitors also scrutinized huge quantities of precious, decorative and man-made stones.

In watchmaking, quartz time-pieces with analog time displays made a stronger showing than ever. New extra-thin movements built into two-tone, multi-colored, paired and scratch-resistant models featured prominently in Basel ’84 spring collections. Luxury watch designers seemed in a more classic mood this year, but opulence in ornamentation and gemstone selection still was evident. Sports and stylishness again met in superbly designed water-resistant models.

Other major styling developments this year included:

  • * The increased importance of dials. They became the focal point of the Tissot automatic watch, around which conflicting trends vied for popularity. Moon phase functions were widespread.
  • * On nearly half of this year’s entries, the bezel was scaled back, sometimes to nothing more than a bevelled edge. Others even did away with it completely–a sapphire crystal might cover the entire top surface.
  • * By contrast, some watches featured elaborately decorated bezels with engraving work, “claws,” studs or even slim metal-cable torsades.

Hard-metal designs abounded, with titanium (even gilt titanium) increasingly in vogue. Pocket watches, moreover, confirmed their success of recent years. New quartz calibres were introduced in 1984, as quartz watches finally outstripped traditional mechanical models in Switzerland, among other nations. Most mechanical designs were clustered either in pocketwaches or at the top luxury end.

Table and wall clock manufacturers likewise had many new models to show…from quartz and electric designs styled with new materials to classic key-wound clocks with a skeleton movement.

A sampling of the dazzling product assortment at Basel ’84 is shown on the following pages.

  1. Jewelry set by GMT, Bienne, includes bracelet watch, necklace and ear pendants. The two-tone 18k white and yellow gold settings are enhanced with diamonds and seven teardrop-shaped blue topazes. The Bulova accutron watch itself is topped by a blue sapphire crystal.
  2. New extra-slim (65x32x8mm) gas lighters join the “Les Dior de Christian Dior” collection. Choice of gadroon or satin-finished decor; both versions come with two-tone styling.
  3. Privilege S.A., Geneva, offers this chain jewelry set composed of a necklace, earrings, ring and quartz wristwatch in 18k white and yellow gold. Diamond baguettes and ruby cabochons are featured.
  4. Here gold ingots themselves become pieces of jewelry. Pamp S.A., Geneva, uses pure 24k gold slabs bearing official assay marks as a pendant and ear drops. The designs are in the likeness of Fortuna, the Roman goddess of Luck, whose emblem is the cornucopia.
  5. A long neckpiece featuring a delicate “chaingang” style chain with square-wire spiralled links. Made in steel and gold or in white and yellow gold, by Gay Freres, Geneva.
  6. Henry Dunay’s “Freedom” necklace, designed to lie like a chiffon scarf around the wearer’s neck. Ribbons of diamond pave hold it in place. Earrings, ring and bracelet with their wire swirls among the pave complete the grouping. Necklace retails for $35,000; ring, for $11,000.
  7. Handpainted enamel on sterling silver butterflies are from Hroar Prydz A/A, Oslo, Norway.
  8. Wideband Jewelry Co, New Rochelle, N.Y., presented this collection of gold coin jewelry, all set in elegantly simple pendants.
  9. New versions of the Omega constellation “claw”watch. More than merely decorative, the claws add to the case’s water-resistance. These models are made in white and yellow or white and pink gold, with diamond pave.
  10. The Breitling Navitimer GMT for pilots–with two time zones, chronograph, rotating bezel timer and independent watch for third time zone display–features world’s smallest QA movement. Selection of all-stainless steel or stainless steel case, goldplated bezel and bi-color bracelet.
  11. Swissdesigner Gerald Genta and his wife presented this astronomical wall clock with perpetual calendar and moon-phase indicator.
  12. Blancpain’s men’s and women’s moon phase cheap Nixon watches. Water-resistant to 30 meters, they come in steel, steel and gold, or 18k yellow gold with leather strap or bracelet.
  13. The futuristic Chrono II from IWC, Schaffhausen. Easy-to-grip push-button controls are totally integrated into a black anodized or chronium-plated case.
  14. 18k gold case and bracelet in Baume & Mercier’s jewel-watch for women are worked entirely by hand. The diamond and emerald model has a high-precision, ultra-thin quartz movement.
  15. The Amadeus collection from Raymond Weil combines classic and modern. These 18k gold electroplated models come with a velvet-black anodized finish; black dial adorned in golden pearls; sapphire crystal and ultrathin (2.5mm) quartz movement.
  16. The new Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar by Audermars Piguet features an extra-flat automatic movement with a central rotor in 21k gold. Mechanically programmed to the year 2100, the Royal Oak indicates day, date, month, lunar calendar and chronological time, as well as Feb. 29 every 4th year.
  17. A world first: The Nepro “Alrin” electronic ring. Add it to a standard quartz movement and you get an alarm-watch movement with a loud and clear signal (man’s version) or a musical sequence (woman’s version).
  18. The “Ascot,” a new series of M-Watches by Mondaine Watch Ltd., Zurich, features a changeable battery, a huge variety of colors and a new “StrapStrap” band.
  19. From left: ETA SA’s patented Combo Delirium; Combo Dichroic and Flatline Combo will be released for name brand marketing later this year.

Knitting Factory Jazz Festival

One of the most difficult tasks facing any vanguard is finding its audience. It’s not just a question of public taste in art: the social presentation of an avant-garde always involves more than purely aesthetic choices. Those who control the venues that serve the public usually argue that, aesthetic values aside, vanguards can’t fill their temples. That melancholy background made Cecil Taylor’s failure to show for the opening of the Knitting Factory Jazz Festival doubly disappointing. In just a year and a half, the tiny Knitting Factory has become an indispensable part of the music scene in New York City, and in the process has proved there is an audience for “outside” sounds. Its festival offered an imaginative mix of established and emerging artists in interesting, provocative programs. And people carne – not just the usual downtown denizens but folks in suits and ties. In fact, I heard some complaints that the place was becoming yuppified- as if its bandstand sounds were the birthright of a particular hip group.

Festivals are, after all, meant to open the minds as well as the cars of an audience, to help them throw off their prejudices. Those prejudices may come in handy for corporate sponsors who want to exclude non mainstream (read provocative) an from their festivals -the musicians are undependable, weird, etc. but they played no part in the Knitting Factory’s vision of how things should be. Which is why the nonperformance of kinetic pianist Taylor was so disheartening. Taylor has complained for years about his treatment by the establishment, and he’s got a point. But he’s also got his own problems, and they surfaced at the festival’s kickoff concert.

The first set was scheduled for 8 P.M., and the place filled up in anticipation. By 9, still no Taylor; the crowd, largely uptown types lured by critical blurbs about the festival, began to get restless. By 9:30 the owners, in an unusual move, were refunding the full ticket price. By 10:10, when Taylor deigned to appear, only a handful of the capacity crowd remained. He then threw a tantrum about the dressing room though he’d played the club before and should have known it wasn’t Radio City. Things ended badly; Taylor didn’t get paid because he was refused the chance to go onstage, owing to a clause in his contract stipulating a 9 P.M. show-up time-pretty generous for an 8 P.M. show.

The moral: By this point in history musicians must deal with both of the terms in “music business.” If they don’t, their complaints about not being allowed to reach the public are going to seem pretty hollow, and that public isn’t going to cut them much slack. Why should it, if they can’t even show up for their own gigs? Worse, when the artists can’t or won’t or don’t take charge of defining the relationship between music and business, the business predators can and will.

So, part of what the Knitting Factory Jazz Festival was about was redefining the relationship between music and business. And along with some concerts from the World Music Institute’s Improvisations 11 series (unfortunately more uneven than last year’s), the festival attempted to explore the problems of what jazz is by juxtaposing older and newer visions of what that elusive term can mean. The strategy both illuminated and entertained; below are some of the highlights.

Tim Berne was among the younger vanguard that played a key role in the Factory’s festival; his scorching quintet also opened the W.M.l.’s series with one of the most sustained high-wire acts I’ve seen this year. Taking new material and pushing it to the wall, they strung their taut arrangements to the breaking point without ever losing control. One of Berne’s favorite strategies is to stuff his pieces full of sudden bends from one section to the next, almost as if he wants to see whether the band will be thrown; they reacted like rodeo champs.

Thanks to Cecil Taylor, the Jazz Passengers opened the Knitting Factory Jazz Festival and stayed true to their “fake jazz” background-some of the members play with the Lounge Lizards -by throwing scraps of sounds into a grungy mixmaster. Where the Passengers are all about brash, self-conscious gestures, William Parker’s group (Dennis Charles and Rashied Ali on drums, Parker on bass, Billy Bang on violin, Charles Gayle on tenor) blasted off in that free space where jazz becomes a thing that roars and scream s and keeps you focused by subtly shifting its textures within the furnace of raw creation.

The DFR String Trio features Berne quintet members Mark Dresser on bass and Hank Roberts on cello with violinist Mark Feldman; they share Berne’s concerns with sonics and composition. The humor is sarcastic, to say the least, Their opening piece began with an edgy, boppish unison statement filigreed by a pseudo classical “flight of the bumblebee” that soon came unwound as the strings slid and chirped, spiraled into a raucous epiphany that hung squealing in midair, faded into a duet melody and crash-landed as whale calls. This sendup of classical pretension made me wonder what they’d do to Bartok.

Berne followed them onstage with fellow altoist/composer John Zorn, drummer Ted Epstein and Dresser and Joey Baron to pay homage to Ornette Coleman. It was Zom’s night to howl. Though there were times when they hurled split tones at the audience like a couple of dubious thundergods, Beme mostly wrapped sax lines around Zorn’s fierce squawking and unbridled multiphonic bursts, as the rhythm section moved nimbly to stir up and anticipate tempo change-ups. While they were at it, they demonstrated again and again that love of the jazz tradition can translate into an open-ended context and some unreverential play.

Next night’s opener was billed as A Sax Quartet, which actually went on as A Sax Trio (Zorn, Greg Osby and Ned Rothenberg) because Gary Thomas’s horn got smashed in an accident on the day of the gig. Here, even more than usual, it seemed Zorn’s show: He kept pumping out jaggedly whirling lines that, if they’d been made of more than sound waves, would have done some nasty things to the folks sitting in front.

Yet another Berne spinoff was paired with the revived and legendary Phalanx. Miniature is a trio consisting of Berne, Roberts and Baron that mixes and matches from Captain Beefheart and the Champs’ “Tequila” to snaky bebop heads an “The Happy Whistler.” Accents and melodies arise, hover and get spun wittily into something quite different from their original intent. Phalanx reunited guitarist James Blood Ulmer, saxist George Adams, bassist Sirone and drummer Rashied Ali in a reprise of the freer aesthetic of the 1970s; it hit with the force of its name. It was like being in a musical funhouse: tonalities shifting suddenly, a sirocco drone sweeping across the jagged improvisations, a horn fusillade ripping through the deliberately bleary landscape. Ideas glinted and sped past as if they were riding a hot-rodded pinwheel.

The same kaleidoscopic feeling shaped Anthony Braxton’s stunning solo spot. Braxton has one of the most inventive, imposing minds in jazz, and his alto sax cuts through expectations. He could take a banal melody like “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” and first unsnap its fragments, then realign them into a series of thoroughly new possibilities. His control is awesome: At one point he had an overblown wail going on his that was matched by the sighing intake of his breathing to create a fluid, nonstop cry of pain and power. Alone, he eclipsed the following act. Odean Pope’s Saxophone Choir, a big outfit bristling with saxes whose charts sounded like Las Vegas.

Bassist Fred Hopkins and cellist Deidre Murray, part of Henry Threadgill’s crack Sextett, joined forces at W.M.I.’s festival to uncork some unusual duos. Outstanding technical arsenals and pungently irreverent wit combined to make their set one of the spunkiest I heard. Beginning with a set of generically mournful romantic melodies, they began to split tones through them, creating the musical equivalent of those illusory pictures that change when viewed from different angles.

Murray was onstage the following evening in another duo, with downtowner, Elliot Sharp. Each wrote two pieces that put Sharp on either bass clarinet or modified electric guitar to Murray’s cello. It wasn’t an unequivocally successful set, but its high points-as in the second tune, when the blues and noir-ish motifs curlicued around classical figures until they finallyexploded into creaky elephant stomps – delivered.

As did the always delving David Murray Trio. With bassist Hopkins and drum master Andrew Cyrille churning the rhythms all around him, Murray planted himself and blew hard. He’ll lunge across the range of his tenor or bass clarinet with flat-out abandon, skidding to a halt only in the upper reaches of split overtones that he’ll drop without warning into the belching extreme low end, and then launch another atmospheric flight. There was, as usual with this trio, lots of solo time for all three players, which meant Hopkins got the chance to creak his unoiled-door effects and Cyrille scrambled rhythms with the carefree exuberance of a fine chef with an omelet to make. Breezy and high-stepping, this set captured jazz’s improvisational essence.

The Wayne Horvitz Ensemble cut loose through intense blues, “Giant Steps” romps, some Crumb-inflected pieces and everything in between. Marty Ehrlich on tenor flared long lines that upset expected accents, then paused to bend a note into raunch or take a figure and run it ragged by repeating it out of sync with the progression while Horvitz was hammering his low end to death. Andrew Hill, when he followed them onstage, took a different tack. Instead of showcasing his compositions, he preferred to spin out the pure gold of his thoughtful musings, creating an introspective feel that modulated from idea to idea in an unhurried, uncontrived way.

As did Dewey Redman’s trio. Redman, who’s suffered ups and downs both in his career and in his playing, had always amazing bassist Anthony Cox and drummer Eddie Moore kicking him into high gear whether they were working breakneck bebop classics or ballads. The rhythm section fired off unexpected accents like there was a war on, and Redman sidewinded his nonstop lines in between the bursts, occasionally arcing into a shriek or a gust of whinnying. Next was Steve Coleman’s Five Elements pumping out an enormous sound, a 1980s dream melange of funk and rock and reggae and improvisation and jazz and spaghetti Westerns and kung-fu flicks. With the grooves as intense as they could make them, the band was totally unafraid of digging into them for a ride-to the audience’s delight as well as Coleman’s, who’d plant himself in front of the drummer to dip and bop and work the band deeper and deeper into the funk. Cassandra Wilson handled vocals with her usual slinky, sensual control, while Coleman wielded his alto fiercely from rhapsodizing to raging. The birth of a new sound, and the audience ate it up.

So with its other high points – Sun Ra delivering one of his Professor Irwin Corey lectures on life and the universe followed by his Arkestra’s wild careening, Sonny Murray and Ronald Shannon Jackson leading densely rhythmic groups, and so on-the Knitting Factory Jazz Festival did what no one has done with jazz since Verna Gillis’s Soundscape offered a look at the condition of various vanguards at Irving Plaza with some advertising support from the J.V.C. umbrella. The only subsidies the Knitting Factory people got were from a small but ambitious Village record store called Vinylmania Jazz, which helped with advertising and the cost of the comprehensive program guide. That kind of relationship is an old one in the music biz. Radio stations and record stores have traditionally sponsored events because they want to sell more of the music; it’s a more understandable, more healthy context than the P.R.-intensive one established by mall makers like J.V.C. or American Express with its New York International Festival of the Arts. Let’s hope the Knitting Factory’s festival makes it back next year.


Around the mall and beyond

Aside from interminable political campaigning, Americans are doing some pretty good things on television this autumn. The World Series lifts us out of baseball’s summer boredom and synthesizes all the best of the game-the twanging tension, devilish strategy, clutch heroics and elegant grace of movement. And though professional football has been all but “time-outed” to death, it still has moments of highly watchable splendor.

Another good thing is Smithsonian World, the Institution’s public television series, which has won two Emmys. On the 24th of this month, at 8 P.M. Eastern time, it kicks off its new season, underwritten by Southwestern Bell Corporation.

The title of the first show is “The Living Smithsonian.” When I heard rumors that it had to do with what goes on around the Mall and beyond, I got savagely territorial. Fangs bared, neck hairs all bristle, I stalked off, stiff legged and snarling, to see what these television people were up to.

They were out on the Mall, all right. My Mall. The Folklife Festival had started, tents had sprouted like mushrooms and the air was filled with different sorts of music, so that you could ricochet from southern Russia to Massachusetts to Trinidad as the sounds lured you.

Smithsonian World was right in the middle of it all, its people setting up lights at the Festival Music Stage, rigging sound booms, lugging heavy cameras. 1 introduced myself testily and was received with that distracted courtesy with which you greet friends who show up at the worst possible moment. Someone shoved a schedule in my hand and I noted that nine of the Smithsonian World people had been up in time for a 7 A.M. breakfast, that they had arrived at the Festival at 8:30 A.M. with a van and a truck, and that they were scheduled to shoot all day long until 6 Pm.

Nine people. A truck and a van. Thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment. In the face of all this, my territoriality began to seem like the yapping of a small dog at Omaha Beach on D-Day. Anger was obviously useless. I adopted sulkiness instead.

Even that was hard to maintain as I met several generous and affable TV people who told me more about the projected show. The basic idea was to depict the Smithsonian not as a repository of millions of items, but as a living, vital organization.

OK. I go along with that. Smithsonian World was seeking to do this by visiting a number of key Smithsonian people-“living treasures” doing their particular jobs at various parts of the Institution-and also some folk artists who add to our national culture. These people would interweave with the sounds and the fun of the Smithsonian’s annual Folklife Festival, where all that diverse culture comes together on the Mall -the “front lawn” of the Castle.

Well, I guess that’s OK when you’ve got a whole hour in which to get across an impression of the Mall. I only have about 1,500 words, which people can read in maybe five minutes.

Some nice people from the Smithsonian World office helped me sort out what was going on that day. I was given a tape of the show’s audio. Sound without pictures was incomplete, yet it gave me a fairly good idea of how the program would evolve and what the TV crews had been doing up to the time I saw them. For they’d been filming bits of this kaleidoscope ever since snow flew last winter.

Gosh. I have to do most of my Mall columns in about four days. Less, when I’m running late.

I was told that Paul E. Garber would start things off by recalling the early days of flight, and how the Smithsonian got hold of planes like the Spirit of St. Louis and the Wright Flyer.

Garber. Of course. He’s historian emeritus at the National Air and Space Museum and he knows everything about flight. I’m sure I’ve done Paul Garber sometime in the past 13 years. I’ll look up my files and see.

Then the camera will come in on Gary Sturm, who manages the musical instrument collection at the Museum of American History. He’ll say that beautiful antique instruments should be heard as well as seen. Nice line.

Now, I know I’ve done something about the Smithsonian Chamber Players putting on concerts with those wonderful old instruments. I just can’t lay my hand on it right now.

We go to a recording session where the players use the five Strads that are at the Museum of American History, four on loan from Dr. and Mrs, Herbert R. Axelrod. We watch the famous cellist Anner Bylsma play the Smithsonian’s own Servais, one of the finest surviving cellos made by Stradivari.

I remember writing about the Servais somewhere, but I have a terrible feeling it wasn’t in one of these columns.

The show will take us to Louisiana to listen to Eddie Lejeune play Cajun music (SMITHSONIAN, February 1988). And we jump from there to Virginia to listen to John “Bowling Green” Cephas and “Harmonica Phil” Wiggins play Piedmont blues. From there, we go to Fort Peck, Montana, where we find the Badland Singers doing Dakota Sioux songs and dances.

Louisiana! Montana! I think it’s a pretty big deal when I get sent out Connecticut Avenue to our National Zoo.

Bernice Reagon of the Museum of American History gives a fascinating and moving interview about the Smitthsonian’s black American exhibits. I wrote something about that, too, but I made the mistake of not interviewing Reagon.

And we listen to a concert of the old civil rights songs, with Reagon talking about the way it was. She’s introduced as one of the original Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Freedom Singers.

The show will jump to Fort Pierce, Florida (I did a column about that, some time ago), where curator Robert Higgins studies meiofauna, the microscopic creatures who live in aquatic sediments. Higgins tells us that a handful of wet sand may hold as many as 10,000 of them.

Higgins wasn’t there when I was. The show talks about-and with Howard Finster, a 72-year-old preacher artist-storyteller-banjo-picker from a little town in Georgia. He tells how, in the last church where he “pastored,” he felt his congregation wasn’t paying attention. They were just showing up every Sunday because he was familiar to them and it seemed like the right thing to do. So he got the idea to paint his messages.

Whoo, boy! He’s new to me. Back at the Festival on the Mall, the cameras will pick up the same tribal and folk musicians that we had met back on their home turf. We’ll listen to them cut loose on the common ground they share with other folk artists, all in the shadow of the Smithsonian, which exists partly to bring these varied cultural roots together and explain them.

That’s kind of neat. I should have thought of that.

It explained why, on this particular day, I was listening to Eddie Lejeune bring out his daddy’s accordion and tell us that when he was 5 his daddy got killed by a car, and his grandmother used to play that accordion, and he grew interested and picked up the bouncy Cajun music. He and his group then ran through a set in regional Louisiana French, and people got up and danced in the tent under Smithsonian World’s bright lights, and the camera moved its big eye around, watching everything.

After that, Bowling Green Cephas and Harmonica Phil rolled their blue notes through the tent. And no sooner had they finished than the Badland singers and dancers came on with that relentless drumbeat and the jangle of ankle bells, and those falsetto notes rising and falling. Tom Vennum, Smithsonian ethnomusicologist, explains in the film that music is sacred to Indians; they have a song for everything: battle, death, grinding corn, returning home.

“At the very end, the Smithsonian people we’ve talked to appear on the Mall with the Festival as a backdrop,” Adrian Malone told me, when I met him later. He’s the executive producer of the series. Like the rest of that crowd, he seems really quite a pleasant sort of person. I suppose they may have just faked all that cordiality. You know buttering me up so they could get away with trespassing on my Mall. But it seemed genuine.

I guess I’ll catch that opening show on the 24th. After all, the World Series will be over, and the Monday-night quarterbacks in the newsrooms will have finished their critiques of yesterday’s Redskins game against the Green Bay Packers. And the program seems to have quite a lot about what goes on around the Mall and beyond that I didn’t . . . that I’d sort of like to look at.

Yamaha’s R&D center: la place des artistes

Stains of Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies” fill the room as Yamaha’s manager of R&D Pro Products Jeffrey Gusman seemingly dances along, leaping between mixer and sequencer, exclaiming that the bells just don’t sound right, do they? A couple of more magically mixed timbers and the bells peal richly, transforming the control room into an evening at the ballet… electronically speaking.

Gusman, who heads up the new Research & Development Division for Professional Products at the recently opened Yamaha Communications Center (YCC) in Manhattan, says he achieved that sound last year while musical director for the New Jersey Ballet. “They’d been using taped music for the ballet. I came in and programmed the music of The Nutcracker in about a month. Then I sat myself down, one man in the orchestra pit, surrounded by synthesizers. People couldn’t believe it was just me down there.”

Now firmly situated at the R&D Center, Gusman says he couldn’t have found a more well-suited job if he’d written his own job description. A graduate of NYU, and a student of the Juillard School, Aspen Music Festival, Akademic fur Musik in Austria and Lehman Engel’s BMI Theatre Workshop, Gusman began as a classical composer in New York around eight years ago. “I also worked as a music producer for ABC-TV, Texaco, Atari and Warner Communications in LA. But I missed the stress of New York. So I came back,” he grins.

These days he’s only a weekend composer, spending most of his time helping other artists discover new applications for existing technology. “My job now is to serve other artists first,” he says somewhat wistfully.

The opening of the YCC coincided with Yamaha’s 100th year celebration. The YCC is an impressive office situated in Manhattan’s Metropolitan Tower on W. 57th Street, with over 17,000 square feet of studio and display space. It offers a veritable “playroom” for musicians and singers alike. The YCC offers several specific research areas: Pro Products R&D with a 32-track digital recording studio; Concert Grand Piano R&D, with an acoustically engineered concert grand piano studio; Wind and Band Instruments R&D, examining the use of wind instruments; the Electronic Keyboard Center, exploring the uses of FM synthesis as applied to electronic keyboards; and the Music Gallery for special events, all with Yamaha’s Assisted Acoustic system that allows control of the room’s acoustic condition, making it possible to sound as though you’re playing in a small jazz club or a stadium.

“The main concept in the Pro Products division is to combine three disciplines: MIDI, audio and video,” explains Gusman. “We’re marrying new technology to create new and better tools for artists around the world. It’s not a commercial recording studio. We’re strictly research and development. But we’re not strictly Yamaha either, we have non-Yamaha equipment too. Since the artist may have brought music in various formats, it helps them feel more comfortable when they recognize familiar equipment.”

The YCC has already had a handful of artists visit the studio, with more expected in the upcoming months. Invitations are being sent out to artists ranging from classical to pop, the goal being that artists will come to visit and hopefully will propose a new use for the equipment — at no charge to the artist. So far the cross-section of artists include background singers and recording artists for Cyndi Lauper, David Bowie and Madonna. Gusman stresses that the center isn’t a training ground, but rather a think tank for artists already knowledgeable in electronic equipment, who simply want to exchange ideas and further develop their expertise. Yamaha’s show room on the first floor is better suited for a more basic education on the equipment. “It’s an even exchange,” Gusman reiterates. “We hope to inspire creativity. It’s ultimately a professional place. Relaxed, but purposeful.”

When asked whether or not he feels this sort of electronic haven is encouraging the replacement of “live” musicians, Gusman replies with an emphatic no. “Personally, I’m creating a palette for the artist, not replacing the musician. In reality, sure, a one-man band is more relative today,” Gusman admits.” But I’d rather work with live musicians playing acoustics and synthesizers.

“What I’d really like to do here is ‘demystify’ some of the uses of these devices. I want to find out how the artist is using the equipment and what their needs are,” Gusman adds.

The newly opened YCC hopes to gain momentum in April and May as it gains a foothold in the music industry in Manhattan. A similar R&D Center has been operating in Yamaha’s offices in Tokyo and London, although the New York office is supposedly the most advanced. If interested in the YCC, contact Gusman at (212) 265-1111.

Mark Morris Dance Group

But authenticity in dancing is not only a historical issue. Watching Turocy’s Terpsicore explain the emotion of jealousy to Apollo by gesturing far outward–a terrible power running through her back, along her arm to her clenched fist, away from her source of strength and stability–I thought of the young modern-dance choreographer Mark Morris, who has managed to achieve a vivid communication with Baroque music in a language apparently foreign to the period. In his setting of a Handel aria on jealousy, for instance, Morris has the dancer double over, pitching his body off-center, then melt to the floor in a sideways roll, like a slow, broken barrel dislocated by the wind. As he revolves, his eyes gape at his raggedly stirring extremities. It’s the same message: jealousy decenters you.

Last fall, for the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival, Morris presented his dancers in an all-Baroque program: Marble Halls (Bach’s Concerto for Violin and Oboe in C minor), Pieces en Concert (Couperin airs) and Stabat Mater Pergolesi). It was a gamble. The program was painstakingly varied in tone and scale, but kept within a narrow philosophy of dance-making: music, and specifically musical rhythm, drove on the visual elements. Still, it would have been easy to miss the mosaic of conceits on manners and gesture in dancing in the Couperin piece, as winsome as a portrait by Watteau, because the brilliant jokes were sometimes embodied in a clownish guise and because the saddest moments popped out from the most bumptious steps. The Stabat Mater, muted and flattened like a grisaille copy of a cenotaph frieze, was so unassertive and patient in the development of lyric tension that even a Morris admirer like me couldn’t get the drift of it after one performance; only the second time around did I see the implicit equation between massed, architectural elements in the choreography and the metaphor of suffering masses so reminiscent of Doris Humphrey, one of the modern dance pioneers whose work Morris admires.

If, however, you can hear Bach and Couperin–or, as Morris has used them elsewhere, Yoko Ono and the Violent Femmes–without preconception, his dances make wonderful sense. He seems to respond to the heft of a melody as if it could be held. His imagination is curiously submissive, and the emotions that he excavates from music, sometimes deeply confessional, can be disturbing. In Baroque music, he finds a personal, wounding power.

The New York Baroque Dance Company will perform on June 8 and 9 at the Boston Early Music Festival and on July 19 and 23 in New York’s Avery Fisher Hall. The Mark Morris Dance Group will perform a program of works on Roland Barthes themes (Mythologies) from May 6 to 10 in New York City at the Manhattan Center Grand Ballroom. They will also appear May 14 through 16 at the Kennedy Center in Washington and May 19 and 20 at the Virginia Museum in Richmond.

“Heartbeat” is honored at 16th Mobius Awards

“Heartbeat of America,’ Chevrolet’s advertising anthem for 1986, showed no signs of cardiac arrest as it dominated at the 16th annual U.S. Television & Radio Commercials Mobius Awards Presentation held January 23 at Chicago’s Hyatt Regency Hotel.

Over 200 guests, representing the international and domestic commercial industry, attended the black tie awards banquet that honored the world’s best awards banquet that honored the world’s best and most creative television and radio commercials. A screening of the international award winning television spots kicked off the festivities that included a speech by Lou Centlivre, executive vp and managing creative director at Foote, Cone & Belding/Chicago.

Advertising giant Campbell-Ewald, based in Warren, Mich., received “Best of Festival’ honored and nine Mobius awards for “Heartbeat of America.’ Amidst the cacophony of a strong heartbeat, the commercial epitomizes the ambience of middle-class America and its incessant love affair with the automobile.

“We hit a responsive chord in the American public and we have done it in a very responsible way,’ insists Sean Fitzpatrick, executive creative director at Campbell-Ewald. “”The Heartbeat of America’ captures the resurgence and renewal of Chevrolet and this makes people feel good. The commercials are a very special vision of the people of America.’

The series was directed by Bruce Dowad of Jennie & Company, New York, for Chevrolet Motor Division of General Motors. Fitzpatrick and Dennis H. Plansker, broadcast creative director at Campbell-Ewald, worked with agency producers Ken Domanski and Chris Firestone on the project. Joey Levine of Crushing Music provided the musical score. Bill Riss of Image Express was editor; Fred Schuller, dp.

“”Heartbeat of America’ embodies all of the good aspects of commercials in the last year,’ explains J.W. Anderson, chairman of the awards festival. “The music is what has made it such a big hit as well as the excellent editing.’

By night’s end, Campbell-Ewald garnered the most accolades–a total of eleven first place Mobius statuettes have been carted back to Michigan. Two of the awards were for “Auto Teller,’ a humorous Sedelmeier spot for General Motors Acceptance Corp. The agency was also honored with a special plaque recognizing its outstanding creativity, innovative and execution of the award-winning commercials.

Winning “Best of Festival’ is not a unique experience for Campbell-Ewald. The agency has made the Mobius acceptance speech before when its 1984 Chevrolet Corvette series “Never Before’ capture top festival honors. And in 1985, “Lean On Me,’ a Chevrolet truck commercial created by the Michigan agency, won a Mobius award.

The Mobius award celebration honored 15 nominees for best of festival represented by products or services advertised for Chevrolet, McDonald’s, Kodak, NBC, Hawaiian Punch, Budweiser, Lee Jeans, Bounce, Citizen Watches and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. International nominees included Tourism Canada; Land Rover, England; Volvo, Sweden; Hamlet Cigars, England; and Radio Rentals also from England.

Among the other top winners were England’s Collett Dickenson Pearce & Partners Ltd. The London-based ad agency received nine first place awards, all for television commercials for various clients. J. Walter Thompson, who last year set a Mobius record with 18 first place awards, captured a total of eight statuettes for ads from its offices in Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Detroit, Toronto and London.

Chicago agency winners included J. Walter Thompson’s “Peas,’ the Gerber/Baby Food spot, winning for best candy, food and beverage in the children’s products category. The spot was produced by Ampersand Productions, New York. A Mobius was also given to JWT for its “Spike & Speck’ Quaker/Kibbles ‘N Bits spot–it was best of pet products: food.

California-based EUE Screen Gems produced. Leo Burnett Company picked up three Mobius awards for its McDonald’s campaign “Silent Persuasion,’ “Golden Time’ and “Recital.’ All won in the category of food: eating out industry. New York-based Steve Horn, Inc. produced “Silent Persuasion’ and “Recital.’ Pytka Productions, located in California, shot “Golden Time.’ Cramer-Krasselt/Chicago won with its entry “Demonstration With a Twist,’ for Skil Twist Cordless Screwdriver. The commercial received highest honors in the utility category. It was produced by Wilson-Griak, a Minneapolis-based production company.


A commercial award show just wouldn’t be the same if at least one mention of Joe Sedelmaier didn’t slip in. Although no special honors were bestowed upon the man this year–last year’s Mobius Award Presentation spotlighted the Chicago-based director and awarded him 10 first place accolades–Sdelmaier still managed to collected three prizes. “Auto Teller,’ a spot created by Campbell-Ewald/Michigan, placed first in two categories–services: banking and financial and production technique: humor. “Texi,’ “Washroom,’ and “Airplane,’ a Check-Up Gum series directed by Sedelmaier in conjunction with ad agency Bozell, Jacobs, Kenyon & Eckhardt/Minneapolis, also won for production technique: humor.

A total of 106 first place Mobius statuettes were presented to commercials submitted into various subject and production technique categories. Of this total, 84 went to television commercials and 22 to radio. Over 3,000 commercials competed in the competition from over 22 nations. Although the number of commercial entries was down from last year’s high of 3,400, a larger variety of countries participated in the 1986 competition. Anderson attributes the number shifts to marketing and industry changes.

“There is a lot of turmoil in the advertising industry right now,’ Anderson says. “At the same time, shifts in expenditures in advertising dollars are moving away from broadcast productions and this was reflected in the number of entries for this year.’

The quota of commercials may have shrunk for the 1986 competition but because of better marketing techniques, more nations got involved in the event than ever before, Anderson adds.

Over 75 percent of the commercials entered in the festival were from the United States, a fact reflected by the amount of awards taken home by Americans. A total of 61 Mobius statuettes went to U.S. agencies, producers and sponsors. The United Kingdom acquired 27, Canada eight, Sweden three, New Zealand and Australia both garnered two and Holland, Singapore and South Africa each received one award.

The honored commercials uniquely displayed a flair for the creative and innovative approach to advertising but, however different they were, the similarities between the entries were just as apparent.

Towards :15s

“I saw a lot of quick scene changes and condensed information,’ observes Anderson. “I think this is a result of the move towards the use of 15-second commercials. The idea is to convey as much information in as rapid time as possible. I am finding that there is a shifting away from the “Americana’ theme commercial of last year. There are still some commercials that use that theme but I am seeing less and less.’

Cost concerns and budget restraints have not affected this year’s batch of winners, according to Anderson. In fact, the opposite seems to be occurring. “Many of the commercials are using very strong computer-generated effects to create a futuristic look,’ Anderson says.

The Shape Of Things

In the intimate world of lingerie, naughty words are nothing new, but few cause noses to wrinkle more than “girdle.” Like the corset, it was born out of necessity to help women fit into the fashions of the times, yet no one spoke of it outside the boudoir. All the uncomfortable tugging was something women grinned and bore. Cut to 2007, when everyone from Oprah to Beyonc to Gwyneth Paltrow can’t stop touting her support undergarments to the world. To be sure, social mores have changed, but so has the technology behind these pieces, now commonly called shapewear.

A closetful of brands, including Spanx, Cass and Co. and Sassybax, have transformed the support scene by enabling anyone to wear clingy or sheer clothes with as much confidence as a celebrity strutting down the red carpet.

Not surprisingly, several of the newest lines were founded by fashion-loving women who weren’t satisfied by the pieces on the market. And it’s not necessarily about weight or size, although the slimming effects are obviously a selling point.

Spanx founder Sara Blakely, a size-4 former copier saleswoman from Atlanta, created her first prototype after she was forced to cut the feet off a pair of control-top pantyhose so she had something to wear under white pants. “Designers are selling us clothes with nothing to wear under them,” she says. “If you love clothes, you gotta have your Spanx because they make the clothes look better.” Blakely says her pieces also make women “look and feel a size smaller.”

What woman, especially a new mom, wouldn’t want that? Cass and Co. founder Susan Ledyard, a former dancer, got into the shapewear business after giving birth. “Having children and loving skinny, low-rise pants has put us all back into shapewear,” she says. Indeed, new moms Mariska Hargitay, Gwen Stefani and Cate Blanchett have all gone on the record in support of Spanx. And Gwyneth Paltrow says she wore two girdles – at the same time – to hold it all in after Apple was born.

Their enemy: the unseemly roll of flesh just above the waistband, commonly known as the “muffin top.”

“I couldn’t find anything that was long enough to smooth out that bump,” Ledyard recalls. At the same time, she needed a top piece that would eliminate or replace the lines that came from bra straps. Ledyard came up with a seamless bra top called the Invisibella to cover all the problem areas. Last year, Cass and Co. introduced pieces to address the bottom half of the body as well.

But it’s not just women with less-than-perfect figures who swear by shapewear. “I have to tell you, Spanx has changed my life – I can’t live without them,” said pin-thin actress Samaire Armstrong at a recent Rodeo Drive fete. Armstrong was wearing a pair underneath her crimson Ferragamo sheath. There were no apparent bulges, but she didn’t need much help to begin with. So what gives?

“I’ve had clients request Spanx who don’t need them. With these perfect-looking women, you can just slightly see the difference, but it makes them feel more secure when they feel cinched in. It’s a mental thing,” says stylist Danny Flynn.

“Ugly Betty” stars America Ferrera and Ashley Jensen both got a confidence boost from the Spanx they wore under their Golden Globes gowns. “I never go anywhere without them,” Jensen says. “They hold you in, make you thin.”

Such enthusiasm for shapewear could be something actresses are picking up on set, where Spanx and the like are used to slim starlets by up to two sizes. Sharen Davis, costume designer for “Dreamgirls,” reportedly placed bulk orders of Spanx for stars Beyonce, Jennifer Hudson and Aniki Noni Rose to wear during filming. The formerly unfashionable, girdle also played a pivotal role in “The Devil Wears Prada,” whose stars Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway and Emily Blunt wore Spanx beneath their designer duds.

Given the attention these shapewear lines have gotten in Hollywood, it was perhaps inevitable that celebrity stylists would get in on the act. To wit, in December, Estee Stanley and Cristina Ehrlich launched a line of figure fixers called Premiere Line for Frederick’s of Hollywood. The duo designed strapless bras, butt lifters and tummy flatteners using high-tech silicone and paper-thin stretch fabrics barely detectable beneath even the most revealing clothes.

“What we do for our celebrity clients takes work to make them look so flawless. If women know that it takes help for these ladies to look their best, then they feel like it’s possible for them to look great, too,” says Stanley.

With such solutions available in department stores, specialty stores and online, everyone has access.

“Before the Spanx and breast petals route, I would do all sorts of things with masking tape and electrical tape. I busted out with tricks that drag queens taught me,” says Flynn. “Things are so easy and painless now.”

Chest Pieces

Thanks to exposure on the runways, the red carpet and daytime TV shows like “Oprah,” daring décolletage has made the specialty bra de rigueur.

“A lot of girls are looking for the look popularized by Victoria’s Secret – the well-rounded bosom pushed up under her chin,” says Sonja Winther, president of Chantelle North America. “There’s been a lot of demand for specialty bras.”

As a result, average women have become savvy consumers when it comes to wearing the right bra to plump up, push together or cup the breasts for a form-fitting lift, whether the neckline is Empire, baby doll, strapless, backless or a V-neck halter.

“There’s been a tremendous obsession with celebrities,” says Susan Nethero, chief fit stylist for Intimacy boutiques in Atlanta, Chicago and New York. “We find that a big part of the attraction is what celebs are wearing and whether they’re wearing it right. Women everywhere, including the rich and famous, want the right shape and breast appearance for their formal attire.”

Intimacy’s top-selling specialty brands include La Perla, Lise Charmel, Simone Perele, Aubade and Le Mystere, which offers a cleavage-enhancing demi balconette style with memory foam like that used in Swedish mattresses. “You lie down and it takes your shape,” says Le Mystere chief executive officer Michael Rabinowitz.

Karyn Monget – Bienvenue A Brooklyn

Fifi Chachnil, the Parisian designer known for her glamorous, Fifties-inspired lingerie, is coming to New York, although not to one of its more commercial districts. Rather, she has chosen a second-story, red-brick apartment at 338 Lafayette Avenue in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, that will serve as an intimate, by-appointment-only boutique.

“In the same way tourists view Montmartre as a picture-postcard vision of Paris, Brooklyn has always been my image of New York,” says Chachnil, who intends to decorate the space, set to open in mid-February, to resemble a boudoir. The atelier will be dedicated to made-to-measure pieces such as lingerie-inspired cocktail dresses, corsets and gloves. Prices will run $700 to $4,000 for a dress, $700 for a pair of gloves and about $800 for best waist training corset. Chachnil’s regular lingerie selection will also be available.

“It’s in line with my desire to create an intimate space and to offer a luxury service,” says Chachnil, who recently closed a streetfront boutique on Rue Cambon in Paris because it lacked intimacy. She’ll travel to New York once a month for fittings, and her local assistant, Edwige Walls, will measure clients and help select fabrics that will then be sent to Paris to be made up.

Chachnil now has two Paris locations, on Rue Saint-Honor and Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and is sold in some 80 stores internationally, with plans to open a London shop next year.

Katya Foreman – Intimate Details

“The right bra is like the perfect man: good-looking, supportive and sure never to let you down.” These words of wisdom, along with matter-of-fact advice and confidence boosters from Rebecca Apsan, owner of New York’s La Petite Coquette, will keep readers engaged in “The Lingerie Handbook,” out last fall from Workman Publishing ($13.95). With 30 years of lingerie experience under her garter belt, including a stint as lingerie consultant to “Sex and the City,” Apsan collaborated with Sarah Stark to put her extensive knowledge into 186 pages of innerwear insights. So if “lingerie is therapy,” toss out those granny panties, dig out those “date night” knickers hiding in the back of your drawer and let loose your inner coquette.

Tara Bonet-Black – A Little Something Extra

La Perla fans have several ways to wear the company’s seductive designs, but dangling a drop of black lace from each earlobe is one of the newest and most eye-catching.

The earrings stand out in a sea of fall accessories from lingerie labels, but they are by no means the only pretty pieces. French designer Vannina Vesperini has created a pink pearl brooch to complement her latest collection. And fellow francophone Elise Anderegg strings necklaces mixing Murano glass, Swarovski crystals and beads.

Her accessories production is up 40 percent over last year, says Anderegg, who also hand-knits mittens trimmed in Chantilly lace. “Initially, I designed pieces to decorate my stand, but buyers kept wanting to place orders.”

Picking up on this retailer demand, Eurovet’s Salon International de la Lingerie, running Feb. 2 to 5 in Paris, will debut a new space dedicated to the burgeoning category, dubbed Spicy Boutique. Among the area’s offerings: cupcake-shaped “bon bon” soaps from Gentry de Paris, L strap’s bejeweled bra straps and a new line of ballet flats and shoes to pair with Sabrina Nadal’s ballerina-inspired lingerie.

Says Chantal Malingray, executive director of Eurovet’s lingerie division: “Designers are latching onto the idea that accessories help create a universe.”

Sweet sounds of success greet ad music festival

After hundreds of man hours and several near nervous breakdowns, the inaugural event of the “New’ Chicago Coalition finally turned out to be an indisputable success. An estimated 700-plus supporters turned out for “The Sounds of Chicago‘ last week to pay tribute to the Windy’s City’s ever-popular music producers.

Happily, the majority of the crowd (about 80 percent by one estimation) were from the event’s intended audience of agencies, and included leaders such as Norm Muse, chairman of the board and chief creative officer, Leo Burnett Co. Inc.

By 11 am the morning after, executive director Chuck Standen and assistant director Scott Lynch had already received about 30 congratulatory phone calls. Meanwhile, chief organizers Ted Kay, president of TMK-Elias Productions, and Murray Allen, president of Universal Recording, were breathing audible signs of relief and getting back to their own business affairs after dedicating countless hours of their own and their staff’s services to this mammoth undertaking.

“Class Act’

Highlights of the evening included a medley of jingles from the “50s and “60s composed by Shelly Elias of TMK-Elias Productions at the eleventh hour and performed by 20 jingle singers. Plans to bing in some of the jingle singers from those eras were thwarted, and Elias worked until dawn two days prior to the event, lifting and weaving together advertising tunes from a collector’s album. Rehearsals continued until minutes before the doors opened Feb. 5.

The main event was an hour-long presentation featuring work by 18 Chicago commercial music producers and the commercials in which the jingles were used. The big difference was that attendees heard the music as it was originally mixed on a top-notch stereo system.

Coalition founder Sterling “Red’ Quinlan, who has been keeping a keen eye on what his successors have been doing with his baby, had nothing but praise for the big event.

“It was a class act all the way,’ he said.

Music houses of all sizes and stature submitted a three-minute sampling of their best work–and agencies waived their usual bans on public screening of their commercials, many of which were designated for other markets and quite current. Represented were: Advertunes, Colnut-Fryer, Comtrack, Joe Godfrey, Herschell Commercial, Klaff-Weinstein, Libman Music, Marier Music, Dick Marx, Nuance Productions, O-Donnell-Salvatori, Opus III, Renaissance, Steve Samler, Steve Sperry, Tatgenhorst Music, TMK-Elias Productions and Bobbv Whiteside.

?? was a group effort–a lot of people deserve a pat on ?? back,’ said Ted Kay. “It was fun, but I’m glad it’s over.’

“It was a monster project,’ added Murray Allen. “We had to remix and digitize, add time code and compile an enormous edit decision list. It took a lot to time.’

While numerous people donated their time and energy, special recognition should go to Kathy Bond, who worked closely with Kay on publicity and organization; to Editel, which donated the services of Mike “Opie’ Opager for three full nights; to Universal Recording for Jamie Chappel’s week of overtime while working on the mix and sync; and to ABC anchorman Floyd Kalber, who served as master of ceremonies.

Better Than “Break Even’

The week prior to the big day, event organizers were concerned–panicked might be an appropriate term– about low advance ticket sales. Tickets were sold for $25 each, and the Park West Ballroom has a capacity of 1,000. Although final counts weren’t in at press time, both Standen and former Coalition Executive Director Doyle Kaniff reported ticket sales at the door were stronger than expected, with total attendance estimated at 700-800.

“We did more than break even,’ Standen noted. “We were concerned about breaking even, but we ended up making a couple thousand, I think.’

Credit for coming up with the idea goes to Doyle Kaniff, who had intended to pull off the event prior to stepping down from his post and turning over the reins to Standen. However, Kaniff’s appointment as director of corporate development for Video Services Corp. in Los Angeles abbreviated his involvement, leaving other Coalition proponents to pick up the slack and bringing Standen on board ahead of schedule.

“The idea was based on organizing something that the whole community could rally around, something very positive,’ Kaniff said. “We needed a rallying point to get people together and stop the “them and us’ stuff–I think we’ve been successful in that.

“If they decided to do something like this next year, regardless of what it is, as long as it’s a positive thing, they’ll have an even better attendance,’ Kaniff predicts.

Chuck Standen certainly won’t be content to rest on the laurels of “The Sounds Of Chicago”s success. After only a few months, his “part-time,’ 50-hour-a-week position has involved a lot of hard work–but he’s quick to note he’s having a great time doing it. He noted plans are already in the works for “some biggies.’ But his–and Kaniff’s–first goal has already been accomplished. “The Coalition has been revived.’

Compact discs sing a hi-tech success story

Just two years after the introduction of the $900 CD-101 compact disc player in Japan by Sony, worldwide sales of players have reached 1.2 million units, with sales of the 4-3/4-inch discs topping 22 million units. This translates to roughly $800 million and euphoria in the audio industry.

It took prerecorded cassette tapes six years to achieve this degree of market penetration, and they now make up 37% of recorded music sales.

Despite a five-month lag between the debut of the compact disc (CD) player in Japan and the U.S., a scarcity of players six months after entry, and a disc catalogue that numbered only 2,000 titles by the end of last year vs. 80,000 long-playing record titles, the U.S.’s share of the market is a hefty 22%-23%.

Player sales of around 250,000 for 1984 were up 671% over 1983, though shipments didn’t really get under way until mid-summer of that year. Disc sales of 4.9 million units in 1984 were up 512% over 1983’s tally of 800,000, and industry observers project sales of 9.9 million discs in 1985. Essentially, the last half of 1983 was spent educating dealers and consumers and jockeying for market position by hardware manufacturers.

Sony’s initial thrust was directed at audiophiles. To reach this select group, the company supplied 55 top audio specialty dealers and 300 radio stations with disc players and point-of-purchase material.

Says Marc Finer, product communications manager for Sony Consumer Products, Park Ridge, NJ, “We deliberately started slowly because Sony’s approach is to lead technologically and to provide marketing–training, education, advertising, promotions–to create awareness.”

The company’s efforts were supported by ads in the audio magazines Stereo Review, High Fidelity, and Billboard, and the plugs the company received each time a radio station played a disc on the players supplied by Sony, which also involved itself in joint promotions with disc manufacturers. A play for the masses

A typical promotion was the company’s tie-in with CBS Records, PolyGram, and Warner/Elektra/Atlantic to sponsor a “Date with Digital” audio display, at the 1983 and 1984 music festivals held during spring break in Daytona, FL. Sony supplied players for the demonstration booth as well as a player and stereo receiver as prizes for a sweepstakes drawing.

At the beginning of 1984, the company set its sights on the mass market for which it had developed the CD-200 with a suggested list of $700. Retail outlets grew from 200 at the end of 1983 to 8,000 by the end of last year. Though company spokespersons won’t discuss market share, some industry observers credit the manufacturer with at least 48% of the CD player market.

Technics, JVC, Denon, and Yamaha used pretty much the same strategy as Sony while Magnavox, Fisher, Sanyo, and Sharp zeroed in on the mass consumer arena as soon as they entered the market.

Magnavox installed demonstration models for a two-week period in outlets of 26 department-store chains around the country. Fisher, Sanyo, and Sharp also targeted the mass market, delivering their products to audio chains and department stores.

The parent company of Magnavox is Philips N.V., Eindhoven, Netherlands, the original developer of CD technology. Sony was brought into the picture by Philips to perfect the technology for error-free performance.

The sound on compact discs is picked up by a tiny laser beam that reads pits with numeric values that are molded into plastic that is coated with a thin layer of aluminum. Because no stylus touches the discs, their life is indefinite. They don’t break or easily scratch.

Says Leslie Rosen, executive director of the Compact Disc Group, a nonprofit trade association, “I guess you could destroy them if you wanted to, but it’s something you would have to deliberately want to do.”

Despite these obvious advantages and the fact that sales of components and music had been stagnant for several years before CDs came on the market, most audio dealers and record retailers were reluctant to take on the digital product. Many had been burned by other audio “revolutions” such as 8-track cartridges, which have all but faded into the night, and quadraphonic sound, which never gained a firm foothold.

The audio dealers took a show-me stance, waiting for assurance that record companies were really committed to the format. Both component dealers and record retailers were also waiting for the hardware to come down to a level that middle-class consumers could afford: players in the $500-$700 price range.

Sony’s initial entry into the U.S. market, the CD-101, carried a suggested list of $900. By the end of 1983, there were 16 manufacturers in the field with players ranging in price from $800 to $1,200, retail.

At the January 1984 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), a downward price trend became evident. Sony and Sansui each showed models with suggested lists of $700, while Yamaha, Sanyo, and Sherwood introduced players for even less. Yamaha offered its Model CD-XI at a suggested list price of $649; the suggested list for Sanyo’s CP-200 was $549.95, while Sherwood tagged its CDP-100 at $499.95. Shortly after the winter show, Yamaha dropped the suggested list on its CD-XI model to $550 to better compete with the less expensive Sanyo and Sherwood players.

Six months later at the summer CES, prices slid even more. Some 7 of the 30 models exhibited were priced under $500, with Sharp leading the price break on two models, the DX-100, with a suggested list of $399, and the DX-600 at $449.

By the end of 1984, the price range on some 60 models being manufactured by 32 companies ran to a low of $299.95 for Sony’s D-5 portable, introduced in November, to a top price of $1,600 for Kyocera Corp.’s DA-910.

In addition to players being put on the market with initially lower price tags, prices on first- and second-generation models were being cut drastically. Magnavox slashed $300 off one of its models and $400 off another. “The consumer was saying ‘get the price down,'” says Stan Veltkamp, vice president, audio sales, for Magnavox. “It makes sense to us to try and get our CD line in place at the right distributors at the right price.”

Disc prices experienced a similar downturn, dropping to $15.99 retail, from an initial price range of $17-$20.

Warner/Elektra/Atlantic, the recording arm of Warner Communications, Burbank, CA, precipitated the drop in retail prices last July when it cut its wholesale price to dealers to $9.81 from $11.64. The other labels quickly followed suit.

Cal Roberts, senior vice president, operations/marketing, for CBS Records, says he does not expect wholesale disc prices to drop much further. “I don’t think the economics will permit this” he says. “The cost of putting out a CD is $2.50 per unit, twice the cost of producing an analog record.”

The first CD production facility, Digital Audio Disc, a joint venture of Sony and CBS Records, opened in Terre Haute, IN, in August. Roberts says that by mid-year the production unit will be issuing 300,000 discs a month.

Not all record retailers waited for disc prices to come down before carrying them. Art and Jon Shulman, who own four Laury’s stores, headquartered in Niles, IL, and Russ Solomon, president of the 36-unit Tower Records chain, Sacramento, CA, started promoting discs some 19 months ago when the total catalogue numbered 500 titles. Disc pioneers

“We jumped into CDs immediately,” says Art Shulman, who reports that discs represent 30% of his sales. “We did everything and anything we could to associate ourselves with them and establish ourselves as the medium for CDs in this area. We had 100 titles when none were available. A month after we got into CDs, we put lists together of likely buyers and started mailing out a monthly catalogue. Now we’re shipping discs all over the world.”

Solomon of Tower Records conducted basically the same kind of promotions, advertising heavily on local rock and classical stations in the areas where he has stores, as well as running full-page advertisements in metropolitan dailies.

four months ago, CDs accounted for 4.5% of Tower’s $150 million annual revenues. By year-end, the annual average was 8% and during the holidays it floated between 20% and 40%.

Rudy Simpson, buyer for Tower’s classical store on Sunset Blvd. in West Los Angeles, says that sales of 2,000 to 4,000 discs on a weekend are not unusual.

As discs become more important to the unit’s mix, Simpson keeps upgrading the CD section, which two years ago was a wall bookshelf and now has grown to a separate room equipped with two players and headphones. Tower’s disc prices average $14.95. Sale prices are $1-$2 lower.

Though there are still some skeptics, Bill Silverman, director of communications for the National Assn. of Recording Merchandisers (NARM), says, “The compact disc is here to stay. The CD has already passed the point beyond which there’s a question of whether it will survive or not.”

John Briesch, vice president, consumer audio sales and marketing, Sony Consumer Products, says “there is no doubt that the digital audio compact disc system represents the future.”

Shulman of Laury’s agrees. “We’re all vets in this business and we’ve been through a lot of phoney baloney,” he says, “but this is a real advance, not something done with mirrors and as important as it’s being for real, it’s very easily demonstrable to a customer. All you have to do is put some earphones on them and after two or three seconds of listening, they’re yours.”

Briesch is an officer of the Compact Disc Group, formed by the Recording Industry Assn. of America (RIAA) in 1983. Last March, the group spun itself off from the RIAA and set itself up as a not-for-profit trade association to promote CD technology to the consumer. Its members come from the audio and recording industry.

What this means in practical terms is cooperative effort between members of the two industries to increase public awareness of CDs through seminars and joint promotions. Rosen says that two years ago none but the most sophisticated audiophile knew what a compact disc was. Today, says Rosen, “15% of consumers know about them.”

While it was the adoption of the Philips/Sony technology as the single standard for CDs that helped to push them to quick success in the market, there is no such agreement on packaging, with the two-year-old debate of blister wrap vs. cardboard pack still unresolved.

But that is not uppermost in the minds of most of the industry. Everyone is anticipating that portable and car models will do for the CD what the Walkman personal stereo and auto tape decks did for cassette tape sales.

Some, however, think discs have their drawbacks. As one consumer put it, “What good are they if you can’t record on them at home?”–the same argument that sunk the videodisc player.

But, for audiophiles who become spoiled by the quality of compact discs, Sony offers two digital processors ($700 and $2,000) capable of reproducing near-CD quality on cassette tape. Furthermore, compact disc player manufacturers will continue to receive steady promotional help and new titles from record company executives thrilled by the fact that the popular new technology cannot be cheaply reproduced at home.

Tennessee: top meeting facilities, entertainment complexes luring major convention groups

A coonskin-capped pioneer, armed only with his trusty flintlock rifle, exploring the wilds of the Great Smoky Mountains–that’s an image many conjure up when they think of Tennessee. Others, more in tune with the present, might picture a nuclear physicist toiling at an Oak Ridge laboratory, or an engineer working on a dam for the TVA.

In fact, Tennessee’s commercial side is becoming as well-known as its friendly, down-home ambiance. The pride of its residents is reflected in its five official state songs: “Rocky Top,” “Tennessee Waltz,” “My Tennessee,” “When It’s Iris Time in Tennessee,” and “My Homeland, Tennessee”–ample testimony to the fact that the state has produced and nurtured several rich, flavorful varieties of American music.

Nashville, of course, is the home of “country.” Knoxville, and other cities, have heard bluegrass develop from the songs of Irish and Scots who settled there decades ago. Memphis gave birth ot the Delta blues, which had its origins in the sorrowful songs of poor blacks in the river cities of America.

While these three major cities are justifiably proud of their rich historical and musical traditions, they haven’t neglected tomorrow and tomorrow’s business-especially the meetings business. Many ramshackle downtown areas have been rejuvenated and brightened with ultramodern office buildings and charming entertainment complexes. The hotels there and in smaller towns, particularly Chattanooga and Gatlinburg, offer a wide variety of top meeting facilities, many of which were built only within the past five years. Nashville

Nashville’s biggest industries are publishing, insurance and finance, but everyone knows why some streets in town are called such names as Music Square East, Roy Acuff Place and Johnny Cash Boulevard. Some 100 recording studios and record companies can be found here, many of them on celebrated Music Row. Within walking distance of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum (last resting place of Elvis’s solid gold (Cadillac), you’ll find the Guinness Hall of World Records; Nusic City Jubilee, which offers live country-music shows on weekends; and the Car Collectors Hall of Fame.

There’s music galore for almost every taste at Opryland U.S.A., a $28-million family-entertainment complex in a 12-acre park 11 miles from donwtown. Opryland prides itself on its bountiful live-music productions: at any given time some 15 shows, ranging from four-piece bluegrass bands to big stage production, are being performed. There are also rides, specialty restaurants, and, of course, the Grand Ole Opry, where on Friday and Saturday nights, the biggest stars in country music perform on the nation’s oldest continuous radio show.

Rick Davis, director of conventions for the Nashville CVB, is jubilant about the steady growth of both the city’s meeting and convention facilities and the business that these places are attracting. “We’ve had a 21 percent increase in meeting attendance this year over 1983,” he said, “and in the next four years, we’ll have hosted all the major meeting groups,” including Meeting Planners International, the National Tour Association and the Convention Liaison Council.

Ground was broken last year on a new convention facility, the Nashville Convention Center, which Davis said will open in mid-1986. It will feature a 120,000-square-foot exhibit hall and 30 additional meeting rooms, and will be anchored by a 704-room Stouffer’s hotel.

Nashville’s current facility, the Municipal Auditorium, has 63,000 square feet of exhibit space and a seating capacity of 9,900; it can handle 300 eight- by 10-foot booths.

The Nashville Airport is undergoing an expansion that, when finished in 1988, will double its size. Already, Davis said, the airport has the capacity to handle 10,500 incoming passengers daily, which is 2,000 more than last year.

They city now has some 14,000 hotel rooms. The newest facility will be the Sheraton Music City Hotel, when it opens next March with 412 rooms, an 11,000-square-foot ballroom, and seven additional meeting rooms, all next door to the airport.

Major meeting sites in town include the Hyatt Regency Nashville (500 rooms, 15 meeting rooms) across from the State Capitol Building; Radisson Plaza (350 rooms, 12 meeting rooms); Maxwell House (292 rooms, 12 meeting rooms); Nashville Marriott (400 rooms, 12 meeting rooms); Sheraton Nashville (280 rooms, nine meeting rooms); Airport Hilton (230 rooms, 12 meeting rooms): Best Western Executive Inn (300 rooms, 11 meeting rooms); Best Western Road Venture Inn, next to the Opryland Complex (214 rooms, three meeting rooms); The Hermitage, also next to the State Capitol Building (112 rooms, three meeting rooms); and the Holiday Inn Briley Parkway near Opryland (400 rooms, six meeting rooms).

Inside the Opryland U.S.A. complex is the Opryland Hotel. Built in 1977, it was renovated and enlarged in 1982, virtually doubling the room count, from 598 to 1,067, and adding a 77,000-square-foot exhibit hall, bringing the facility’s total exhibit space to 107,000 square feet. Also added were a 30,000-square-foot ballroom with a permanent stage, and 37 breakout rooms. All told, the hotel, an M&C four-time Gold Key winner, has a mammoth 230,000 square feet of function space.

While a couple of riverboats already ply the waters near Nashville, they’ll be upstaged when Opryland premieres its General Jackson in mid-1985.

For information: Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau, 161 Fourth Avenue N., Nashville, TN 37219; (615) 259-3900. Memphis

Founded in 1819 by General Andrew Jackson, Judge John Overton and General James Winchester, Memphis was named after the Egyptian city on the Nile; tradition says that the name means “place of good abode.” After the Civil War, the city became quite prosperous owning to the cotton industry and the brisk Mississippi river traffic, and today it’s chiefly valued as an important national distribution center.

But everyone knows the city as the birthplace of the blues and of one Elvis Aaron Presley, who was reportedly delivered by the composer W. C. Handy in a saloon on Beale Street. The city recently renovated the area, now known as the Beale Street Historic District, as part of a $250-million program that also created several tourist attractions. You can catch some of the city’s best music at clubs in the Beale Street area–not surprising, since some of the nightspots there are owned by such people as Lou Rawls, Charlie Rich and Al Hirt.

One of the newest and most elaborate attractions is Mud Island, a $63 million recreation complex built on a sandbar in the middle of the Mississippi and connected to downtown by a monorail. Its 50 acres include an aquarium, a river museum and a 4,300-seat amphitheater where you can hear rock, blues, gospel, bluegrass, pop and even classical music in the summer. There’s even a five-block-long scale model of the Lower Mississippi River Valley–complete with real currents.

The Memphis Convention Center Complex, houses the Everett Cook Convention Center and Auditorium, and is one of the largest in the country. The main convention hall has 125,000 square feet of unobstructed function space; it seats 16,500 for meetings and 12,000 for banquets. The Auditorium has two halls, a 12,270-square-foot meeting room and a ballroom. At street level, a vast 21,000-square-foot lobby faces Main Street through a two-story window wall of glass. The Center also has 30 conference rooms, seating from 25 to 500, and over 22,000 square feet of storage space.

The Center is bordered on the west by the river, on the east by the city’s Civic Center, and on the south by the new Mid-America Mall, a ten-block-long ribbon of promenades, sidewalk cafes, displays, playgrounds and decorative canopies.

There are about 9,000 hotel rooms in the area, and the Memphis CVB reports that three hotels will open their doors in the next few months. The 415-room Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza, set to open in March, will connect with the convention center complex. Its one ballroom will seat 460 for a banquet and 500 for a meeting. The old Hotel Tennessee is being refurbished and is scheduled to open next fall as the Summit Memphis Hotel, with 270 rooms. The French Quarter Inn, an all-suite facility with 70 suites, opens in the Overton Square area in November 1985.

Major meeting facilities here include: the 26-story Hyatt Regency, a suburban hotel 12 miles from the downtown business district (400 rooms, 15 meeting rooms, 12,000-square-foot ballroom); the 452-room Peabody Hotel, with its famous ducks that march every night from the lobby fountain to their penthouse–in formation; the Holiday Inn Executive Conference Center, 12 miles south of Memphis in Olive Branch, Miss., (177 rooms, 16 meeting rooms and a 350-seat amphitheatre); the Sheraton Memphis (243 rooms, six meeting rooms), and the Ramada Convention Center Hotel (186 rooms, five meeting rooms).

There are four properties adjacent to Memphis International Airport: the 400-room Hilton, the 213-room Sheraton, the 329-room Quality Inn, and the 200-room Winchester Plaza.

For information: Convention and Visitors Bureau of Memphis, 12 S. Main St., Suite 107, Memphis, TN 38103, (901) 526-1919. Knoxville

Knoxville, in the eastern part of the state, underwent a considerable facelift in preparation for the World’s Fair of 1982. New hotels sprang up, much of downtown was renovated, and a couple of permanent attractions made their debut–most notably, the 266-foot-high Sunsphere, the city’s answer to Seattle’s Space Needle.

Since then one of the Fair’s largest buildings was completely redone and opened last year as the Knoxville Convention Center, which has 108,000 square feet of exhibit space, 21 meeting rooms and seating capacity for 10,000. Nearby is the Civic Coliseum, with 32,000 square feet of exhibit space.

The 300-room Holiday Inn on Henley Street is directly connected to the Convention Center. A block away is the 325-room Knoxville Hilton, with 11 meeting rooms, the largest of which seats 900. The other big downtown hotel is the Hyatt Regency, with 387 rooms and 13 meeting rooms. Its Regency Ballroom can accommodate 1,200 people for a meeting and 800 for a banquet.

There’s also the Holiday Inn Knoxville West (242 guest rooms, four meeting rooms and 1,175 square feet of exhibit space), the Holiday Inn University Center (217 guest rooms, three meeting rooms), the Knoxville Airport Hilton Inn (250 guest rooms, 17 meeting rooms), the Quality Inn Downtown Hotel (200 guest rooms, eight meeting rooms), the Sheraton Campus Inn (119 guest rooms, three meeting rooms), and Sheraton West (225 guest rooms, eight meeting rooms).

For more information: Knoxville CVB, P.O. Box 15012, Knoxville, TN 37901; (615) 523-7263. Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg, some 40 miles southeast of Knoxville, is the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, half of which is in neighboring North Carolina. Developed into a year-round resort in the 1940s, Gatlinburg now has about 5,000 hotel rooms, not to mention plenty of attractions, including music festivals and shops.

The River Terrace Resort, which opened in 1983, has 209 rooms and a conference center with 18,000 square feet of meeting space. The W.L. Mills Convention Center has two exhibit halls with 7,900 and 8,400 square feet of meeting space respectively; the latter is known as the Gatlinburg Civic Auditorium.

Other facilities are the Glenstone Lodge (222 guest rooms, nine meeting rooms); Holiday Inn Hotel Resort (411 guest rooms, 12 meeting rooms); Howard Johnson’s Motor Lodge (252 guest rooms, one meeting room); Quality Inn Cobbly Nob Resorts (108 guest rooms, two meeting rooms); Quality Inn In Town (70 guest rooms, three meeting rooms); Ramada Inn Four Seasons and Convention Center (145 guest rooms, five meeting rooms); Riverside Motor Lodge (160 guest rooms, five meeting rooms); and the Sheraton Gatlinburg (315 guest rooms, 14 meeting rooms).

For information: Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 527, Gatlinburg, TN 37738; (800) 251-9868, (615) 436-4178. Chattanooga

A city of interesting contrasts–which include excellent shopping of both 18th century English antiques and regional folk crafts–Chattanooga is also determined to expand its convention and hospitality plant. The 225,000-square-foot Chattanooga/Hamilton County Convention and Trade Center will open next April in downtown, within walking distance of some 1,300 hotel rooms. The facility will offer 60,000 square foot of exhibit space and will be anchored by a 352-room Holiday Inn, which will have three 1,500-square-foot banquet rooms and 18 breakout rooms. The center’s kitchen will be able to serve banquets for up to 550 people.

The center will complement the meeting facilities at the nearby University of Tennessee-Chattanooga (including a two-year-old 13,000-seat sports arena) and the downtown Memorial Auditorium & Convention Center. The latter has 45,000 square feet of exhibit space and five meeting rooms.

There are about 5,000 hotel rooms in the area. The Read House (245 guest rooms, 10 meeting rooms) is a Mobil three-star property on the National Registry of Historic Places. There’s also the Choo-Choo Hilton, which recently expanded to 375 rooms; 48 of those are in luxuriously appointed train cars, which may explain why the hotel claims to be the most popular Hilton in the country.

There are two Sheratons: Sheraton City Center (205 guest rooms, nine meeting rooms) and the Sheraton Inn Chattanooga South (140 guest rooms, three meeting rooms).

The Quality Inn South Resort and Convention Centre recently changed its name to the Southern Inn; it has 245 guest rooms and 10 meeting rooms.