sold Delmark in 2018.

Mr. Koester’s record company played an important role in documenting two musical genres, but his wife said that beyond playing a little piano, he was not musically trained himself.

“He would say his music was listening,” she said.

View Source

Will Songwriting Survive Streaming? Abba’s Bjorn Ulvaeus Is Worried.

But the thing is, they don’t know what they’ve done. “What did I do?” Because to know, you have to be a craftsman as well. You have to realize what a good song is. And if you can’t recognize garbage, it’s very hard to know what a good song is. And that’s what time gets you, to become a good craftsman.

In the current model of pop songwriting, you have teams of writers, with a separation of roles like an assembly line — somebody does the beat, somebody else does the melody. Is that good for music, and good for songwriters?

For me, those songs most of the time become products. There’s no sense of, this is coming out of someone’s heart. Take Elton John and Bernie Taupin, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” That’s not a product; that is something else. I prefer the ones where you feel this is who is sending this song out to people — that you get some part of them as well.

I can hear that those pop songs sometimes have really good ingredients, are ultraprofessional and sometimes very catchy. But they lack that sense of personality, I think.

What songwriters do you like today?

Billie Eilish is interesting. And of course I admire Taylor Swift as well. And Rihanna. I think it’s the whole package — the way they develop and the way they partake in the songwriting and create an artistic entity. I find that very interesting, much more interesting than the kind of pop packages, Disney stuff. [Laughs.]

Is it a coincidence you mentioned all women?

I think it is. But maybe in my subconscious I choose women. Maybe because I’ve been in the studio with two women not too long ago.

Benny and I have written some new songs, and there will be some new music from Abba released this autumn. But I’m forbidden to say anything more about it. I’m sorry. I would have told you everything, but I can’t. All I can say is that it was fantastic in the studio because it was like yesterday. It was so strange coming into that studio and the four of us looking at each other and thinking, “What is this?” It all came rushing back.

View Source

Ethel Gabriel, a Rare Woman in the Record World, Dies at 99

Ethel Gabriel, who in more than 40 years at RCA Victor is thought to have produced thousands of records, many at a time when almost no women were doing that work at major labels, died on March 23 in Rochester, N.Y. She was 99.

Her nephew, Ed Mauro, her closest living relative, confirmed her death.

Ms. Gabriel began working at RCA’s plant in Camden, N.J., in 1940 while a student at Temple University in Philadelphia. One of her early jobs was as a record tester — she would pull one in every 500 records and listen to it for manufacturing imperfections.

“If it was a hit,” she told The Pocono Record of Pennsylvania in 2007, “I got to know every note because I had to play it over and over and over.”

She also had a music background — she played trombone and had her own dance band in the 1930s and early ’40s — and her skill set earned her more and more responsibility, as well as the occasional role in shaping music history. She said she was on hand at the 1955 meeting in which the RCA executive Stephen Sholes signed Elvis Presley, who had been with Sun Records. She had a hand in “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White,” the 1955 instrumental hit by Pérez Prado that helped ignite a mambo craze in the United States.

Caroline Losneck and Christoph Gelfand, documentary filmmakers, were at work on “Living Sound,” a film about her.

Ms. Losneck, in a phone interview, said they had been hoping to complete the documentary by Ms. Gabriel’s 100th birthday this November.

Ms. Losneck said Ms. Gabriel had survived in a tough business through productivity and competence.

“She knew who to call when she needed an organist,” she said. “She knew how to manage the budget. All that gave her a measure of control.”

Many of the records Ms. Gabriel made fit into a category often marginalized as elevator music.

“It’s easy to look back on that music now and say it was kind of cheesy,” Ms. Losneck said, “but back then it was part of the cultural landscape.”

Toward the end of her career, as more women began entering the field, Ms. Gabriel was both an example and a mentor. Nancy Jeffries, who went to work in RCA’s artists-and-repertoire department in 1974 and had earlier sung with the band the Insect Trust, was one of those who learned from her.

who persuaded her to turn over to him her retirement package — more than $250,000 — so that he could invest it in the hope that the proceeds would finance future music ventures. The money disappeared, and Mr. Anderson, who died in 1989, was later convicted of tax evasion.

Ms. Gabriel lived in the Poconos for a number of years before moving to a care center in Rochester to be near Mr. Mauro and his family. As she died at a hospital there, Mr. Mauro said, the staff had Sinatra songs playing in her room.

View Source

Lou Ottens, Father of Countless Mixtapes, Is Dead at 94

In these digital days, it may be hard to appreciate how radically Lou Ottens changed the audio world when, in 1963, he and his team at Philips, the Dutch electronics company, introduced the cassette tape.

“As the story goes, Lou was home one night trying to listen to a reel-to-reel recording when the loose tape began to unravel from its reel,” Zack Taylor, who directed the 2017 film “Cassette: A Documentary Mixtape,” said by email.

Mr. Ottens was in charge of product development at the Philips plant in Hasselt, Belgium, at the time.

“The next morning,” Mr. Taylor continued, “a frustrated Lou Ottens gathered the engineers and designers from the Philips audio division and insisted that they create something foolproof: The tape had to be enclosed, and the player had to fit in his jacket pocket.”

the Philips Museum in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, said that when he conceived the idea of a cassette tape, he carried a wooden block in his coat pocket that was the size and shape of what he envisioned.

“His wooden block prototype was lost when Lou used it to prop up his jack while changing a flat tire,” she said by email. “However, we still have the very first cassette recorder he developed on display, a testimony to his foresight and innovation.”

The company unveiled the cassette in 1963 at a product exhibition in Berlin. The old saying about imitation being the sincerest form of flattery was quickly proved.

“Our cassette was extensively viewed and photographed by the Japanese,” Mr. Ottens told an interviewer in 2013. “A few years later, the first Japanese imitations came, with a different tape format, different dimensions, different playing time. Not shocking, but too many hit the market. Then it becomes a big mess.”

Philips made its licensing available free, largely at Mr. Ottens’s urging, and its version of the cassette soon became the standard.

“That’s the reason that it didn’t become obsolete too early,” Mr. Ottens said in the film, “and it’s taken 50 years to die.”

Philips says 100 billion cassettes have been sold worldwide.

After the cassette, Mr. Ottens worked on an unsuccessful videodisc project before shifting to the CD. And before that innovation was released, he had shifted his focus to Video 2000, a system intended to compete with VHS; it, too, did not catch on.

He retired from Philips in 1986. Information on his survivors was not immediately available.

The makers of “Cassette: A Documentary Mixtape” took a romanticized view of the cassette and its importance to the countless people who made use of it in myriad ways, but Mr. Taylor said Mr. Ottens had a much more utilitarian view.

“Lou was never comfortable taking credit for the cassette, or for the incalculable impact it had on the history of music,” Mr. Taylor said. “What I saw as a deeply personal medium, Lou saw as a pragmatic answer to the cumbersome nature of the reel-to-reel.”

In the film, Mr. Ottens and three of the men who worked under him on the cassette project reminisce. Mr. Ottens still seems surprised by the impact of the little gizmo.

“We expected it would be a success,” he says, “but not a revolution.”

View Source