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Howard H. Scott, developer of the long-playing vinyl record, dies at 92

Howard H. Scott, right, with the composer Aaron Copland in 1974.
Howard H. Scott, right, with the composer Aaron Copland in 1974.New York Times

Howard H. Scott, who was part of the team at Columbia Records that introduced the long-playing vinyl record in 1948 before going on to produce albums with the New York Philharmonic, Glenn Gould, Isaac Stern and many other giants of classical music, died on Sept. 22 in Reading, Pa. He was 92.

The cause was cancer, said his daughter, Andrea K. Scott.

In 1946, Mr. Scott was 26 and just discharged from the Army when he got a job at Columbia Masterworks, the label’s classical division. He was soon assigned to Columbia’s top-secret project: developing a long-playing record to replace the 78 r.p.m. disc, which could hold only about four minutes of music on each brittle shellac side.

The project had begun in 1940 and was nearing completion. But its engineers needed someone with musical training — particularly the ability to read orchestral scores — to help transfer recordings from 78s to the new discs, which played at 331/3 r.p.m., could hold about 22 minutes a side and were made of more durable vinyl.

Howard Hillison Scott fit the bill.

Born in Bridgeport, Conn., on May 31, 1920, he graduated from the Eastman School of Music in 1941 and had just begun graduate piano studies at Juilliard when he was drafted the next year. Back in civilian life in July 1946, he was hired by Columbia as a trainee.

In the days before magnetic tape came into wide use, the process of transferring music to the new discs (soon to be known as LPs) was complex. Long pieces of music, split among multiple 78 r.p.m. records, needed to be stitched together on the new discs without interruption.

To do that, Mr. Scott and his colleagues lined up overlapping segments of music on 78s, and — with Mr. Scott snapping his finger in coordination — switched the audio signal at just the right moment from one turntable to the other. As the industry began to use magnetic tape, beginning in the late 1940s, such work was no longer necessary.

As a staff producer at Columbia, Mr. Scott worked on hundreds of recordings by most of the major orchestras of the United States, including those of Boston, Cleveland, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Cincinnati in addition to the New York Philharmonic. He had a particularly close association with Gould, beginning with his historic recording of Bach’s “Goldberg” Variations in 1955.

Mr. Scott left Columbia in 1961 and worked at MGM Records, RCA Red Seal, the publisher G. Schirmer and the Rochester Philharmonic, where he was executive manager in the 1970s. He won a 1966 Grammy Award as the producer of the classical album of the year: Charles Ives’s Symphony No. 1, performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Morton Gould conducting, on RCA Red Seal.

From 1986 until his retirement in 1993, Mr. Scott worked for Sony, Columbia’s corporate successor, as a producer, once again transferring old albums to a new format: the CD.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Scott is survived by a son, Jon; two sisters, Carol Ruth Shepherd and Elaine Silver; and two granddaughters.

In a 1998 interview with The New York Times, on the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the LP, Mr. Scott remarked about the durability of the format, and took note of a small renaissance taking root at the time.

“They lived from 1948 to 1978, when the CD came in,” he said. “Now they’re coming back. Small companies are issuing them. I’m still an LP fan.”

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This article "Howard H. Scott, a Developer of the LP, dies at 92"  first appeared in The New York Times.

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