Enoch Light (1905-1978), a classical violinist, bandleader and sound recording engineer, founded Command Records in 1959, with the precise purpose to create recordings of high quality and able to take advantage of new technical capabilities of home audio equipment between late 1950’s and early 1960’s. He perfected a specific stereo system, called the “ping-pong effect” bouncing sounds between the left and the right channel speakers. In order to describe technical details of each song (duration, musicians, the depth and breadth of the sounds, and how they were recorded), he doubled the size of the standard cover sleeve and, enabling that to fold, he basically invented the gatefold cover, the standard format for vinyl funtil today. The covers of Command Records often showed modern and abstract designs, as Charles E.Murphy, the label’s art directory worked closely with a number of artists.
The earliest publications by Command Records were the “Percussion series” a set of seven albums whose covers where designed by a 70 years old Josef Albers, a very renowned artist, teacher, writer from the Bauhaus, widely recognized for his “Homage to the square” paintings. Although references to music appeared at least 25 years earlier in his works (cf. Keyboard, 1932 and his “Treble Clef series”, 1932-1935), the “Percussion” covers featured many new formal elements in the artist’s career, namely circles and grids of circles. The collaboration between Albers and the label lasted for three years, and seven covers were produced.
Provocative Percussion (Volume 1), 1959
Provocative Percussion (Volume 2), 1960
Provocative Percussion (Volume 3), 1961
Persuasive Percussion (Volume 1), 1959
Persuasive Percussion (Volume 3), 1960
Pictures at an Exhibition, Mussorgsky – Ravel, 1961
Leonid Hambro and Jascha Zayde, Magnificent Two-Piano Performances, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Schubert, 1961
Many albums whose cover was designed by Albers included a short biography of the artist: “JOSEPH ALBERS is one of America’s foremost contemporary painters, was born in Westphalia, Germany in 1888. After studying in Berlin, Essen and Munich he taught at the famous Bauhaus school from 1923-1933. When the Bauhaus was closed by order of the German government in 1933 Mr. Albers came to the United States to head the Art Department at Black Mountain College where he remained until 1950. After leaving Black Mountain, Mr. Albers took over the direction of the Department of Design at Yale University. At the present time, Mr. Albers lives and works in New Haven, Connecticut.”