LISTSERV mailing list manager LISTSERV 16.0

Help for ARSCLIST Archives


ARSCLIST Archives

ARSCLIST Archives


ARSCLIST@LISTSERV.LOC.GOV


View:

Message:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Topic:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Author:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

Font:

Proportional Font

LISTSERV Archives

LISTSERV Archives

ARSCLIST Home

ARSCLIST Home

ARSCLIST  August 2004

ARSCLIST August 2004

Subject:

Re: A scenario for sound archives?

From:

Eric Jacobs <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Fri, 13 Aug 2004 01:25:56 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (255 lines)

George,

Please contact me off list - I would like to discuss the 1982 calibration
record and other points you make below.

Eric Jacobs
The Audio Archive
mailto:[log in to unmask]


-----Original Message-----
From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
[mailto:[log in to unmask]]On Behalf Of George Brock-Nannestad
Sent: Thursday, August 12, 2004 3:35 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [ARSCLIST] A scenario for sound archives?


From: Patent Tactics, George Brock-Nannestad

A scenario for sound archives?

The essentials of a paper (with a different title) that I read at the IAML-
IASA Congress 8-13 August 2004, Oslo, Norway

Copyright (c) 2004 George Brock-Nannestad


The sound archives compete with commercial re-issues of early material.
There
is no doubt that the archives have the material in-house, but getting access
to it may be both time-consuming and expensive and copyright has not even
been mentioned. Commercial re-issues occur of a very narrow and commercially
viable selection of the vast repertoire, and the price is very, very low;
mostly less than 30 US cents per minute. The other problem with commercial
re-
issues is that they may disappear again when they are sold out.

If I want to defend academic standards, I must be the end user that requests
access to originals - at the higher cost per item than commercial copies. I
must represent the reason for at all having archives and museums: I must be
the end user who will ask questions that cannot be imagined today, but who
must not go empty-handed from the archive. In an attempt to provide an
answer, while at the same time avoiding being swamped with material, all
archives have traditionally had to resort to selection, because they could
not physically store everything and index it to facilitate access. Still,
selection hits the future user very hard. My personal saddest example is
from
the Public Records office in the UK, where I wanted to read details from
court cases that involved the Gramophone Co. about 1913. I got as far as the
handwritten ledgers that proved that the cases had indeed taken place, but
the bundles of original documents were from a period in which only sample
bundles were kept - and these samples did not comprise my cases. Bad luck,
but life goes on.

Looking back at first-hand experience with sound archives over 20 years, I
have noticed that they have moved from a reasonably stable situation to a
rather turbulent one, where the media for preservation change materially,
frequently, and require heavy investments. It may be noticed that in that
period the emphasis has been on preservation and accessibility and now
turning towards meta-data rather than on fidelity to the source in
reproduction. Simultaneously, first-hand experience with the analogue media
and their influence on the desired content has been reduced. There is good
reason to believe that the ongoing transfer from analogue to digital will be
the last transfer ever, at least as regards some analogue carriers.

The backlog is still stupendous, and if the transfer is made only with the
guiding principle of "least interference", then the burden of correctly
reproducing the by then digital signal will rest on the future technical
persons of the archive, and they will have neither time nor knowledge to
present a proper sound to an end user. For this reason, it may be argued
that
knowledge about the content and the expected future use of each individual
recording should be the guiding factor for their last analogue replay. Doing
it this way, which is more expensive, will maintain know-how in the
technical
staff, at least as long as conversion to digital takes place. We hence have
two approaches:

a)       "quick and dirty", with a bandwidth and resolution capable of
supporting post-production to any desired quality in the digital domain,
however without certainty that similarity to the output from the original
carrier can be approached ,

and

b)       "context-oriented", which is an investment in know-how.

The experience in archives is that there is plenty of good will, but rarely
the funding to make a "context-oriented" digitization. We create
recommendations that prescribe calibration. Calibration is an an activity
where you change only one variable and record the result. Archives who know
their holdings and have long-term budgets will be able to perform some sort
of calibration - certainly on more recent media, such as analog magnetic
tape, but less likely on earlier media. And we must not forget that every
minute that a tape recorder is used to reproduce a calibration tape is one
minute less for transfer work, due to the accumulating wear on the tone
heads, and because the tone heads are getting more and more difficult to
get.
If we get to mechanical media, such as lacquer or instantaneous discs,
phonograph cylinders, or commercial records, calibration is slightly more
difficult, not to say impossible. Let us take an example.

I  tried to run an informal guessing competition "which transfer from analog
is usually not subject to calibration", but I had no reply. The prize was a
calibration record that I devised in 1982 for inter-archival exchange of
content. It was described in the Phonographic Bulletin at the time and it
provoked two archives in the US to acquire it. Two archives in the whole
membership of IASA! That should have told me something already then.

The answer to the competition is deduced by a strange fact: I have yet to
encounter a calibrating cylinder. This means that cylinder transfer world-
wide does not get calibrated in a manner that reproduces the replay
conditions of cylinders. It is rarely admitted, but such is the case. I
would
like to make it known that I expect to be able to deliver calibrating
cylinders for vertically wired pickups in the course of the winter of this
year. They will be made to order only.

Speaking of calibration: a few persons including myself have been involved
in
the creation on behalf of the Audio Engineering Society a set of calibration
records for lateral pickups. It is a long drawn-out process, and I fear that
unless we can have an impression of how much archives world-wide will spend
on calibration records that do suffer wear during calibration and so need to
be replaced on a regular basis, they may never come into existance. In the
worst case we would need to have a sort of subscription before the AES will
dare to put the money up for their manufacture. I shall put the question
openly on the iasaweb, and I hope to receive answers. If no calibration
records appear, we shall know that there will in practice be no calibration,
and the work we have been doing in the IASA Technical Committee will only
serve to give archives a bad conscience. That is not a good reason for
working in a Technical Committee.

Let us get back to the investment of time in the transfer. We know that for
a
mechanical record there could well be a factor 30 if it is a difficult case,
and for a good tape typically a factor 2. What on earth is the time used
for?
Well, apart from pure handling there is a lot of adjustment of equipment
(azimuth, stylus) and there is a lot of creation of process data that has to
be kept with the transfer, as metadata, so that we know what was done. If
the
data has been conserved to a sufficient resolution, the signal manipulation
may occur in connection with the use of the data. However, who will have the
knowledge to be able to interpret the metadata generated regarding transfer
conditions and convert it into variables that may be operated on? In other
words, who will be able to create a context-oriented replay for the end
user?

In reality it may not matter much for most users. Nobody will care about the
"real sound", because each age will have its own pre-conceived opinion on
"period sound". We see it already today: the sounds that are added to all
the
early silent documentary footage is designed, not authentic. So, the only
real use of sound recordings will be as evidence - of occurences, of
language
development, of soundscapes. And for this you need as much and as diverse
recorded material as possible.

The most reasonable approach - in my view - is to transfer more hours
including indexing rather than making context-oriented transfers. That is
because I as the end user would rather have a large selection than a few
samples. Do not mind that I originally called it "quick-and-dirty" - it is
for the long-term good. Doing it quick-and-dirty means that you can get
between 5 and 10 times as much digitized per month.

The scenario I envisage for sound archives is one where the sound is
disembodied from any carrier, and any sound archive worth the definition
must
surely follow the sound, or rather the digital embodiment of the sound. For
a
brief period the sound archive will be permitted to maintain for symbolic
reasons the original carriers, but they will surely fall into oblivion, in
particular if there is no demand for orignal sound from the users. For some
time it will be possible to argue that the original recordings are needed to
document authenticity, because even if they are not able to provide more
than
degraded sound compared to the digital signal presently captured in the
course of digitization programmes, they will for many, many years still have
the capacity to authenticate. Alas, inevitably a simple certificate that is
embedded in the metadata will at some stage be considered sufficient
authentication, and the last argument for maintenance of a collection of
analog originals will have been entirely removed. Finances will see to that.

The consequence of this is definitely the final dying out of the knowledge
surrounding the early media and their analogue reproduction, and it does not
matter in the long run that some knowledge was preserved for some time
because of the use of context-oriented transfers. Furthermore, there is no
reason why a sound archive in the post-modern sense should have the
responsibility to know these things. They should stick to what they have
become good at: storage of digital data. A much more economical way would be
to have museum-like centres-of-excellence where the knowledge of this type
is
maintained through study, experiment, and reconstruction, just as it is done
in some technical museums and World Heritage Sites. In Sweden you may find
the world's only surviving and active Very Low Frequency transmitter, an
Alexandersson alternator construction from General Electric in 1924. That is
on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites since July 2004.  This proves
that
remnants from our industrialised 20th century are indeed elegible and
accepted. I have yet to determine the principles of their conservation
ethics.

In quite a parallel development I do not see why the craftlike knowledge
that
went into early analog recording could not be preserved per se for humanity
in a facility separate from a sound archive. An internationally recognized
facility that would have both early equipment and early recordings. A
facility, in which there would be a need for audio technicians trained in
the
early techniques and for conservation technicians of the type that I
educated
at the School of Conservation in Copenhagen in the mid 1990s.

It would remove the archives' worries about sufficiency, because they would
only have a strenuous decade doing relatively simple quick-and-dirty
transfers, and from then on they could maintain the corresponding data and
the influx of the digitally generated data. Any specialized needs as well as
assistance in context-oriented reproduction of digitized signals would be
referred to the internationally recognized centre, which we may call "Centre
Charles Cros" or "the Edison Center", but which I would prefer to call
"Centre Léon Scott", to honor the first person to fix an arbitrary sound on
a
medium with a time axis. The centre or centres would gradually absorb the
superfluous original carriers and the superfluous analogue equipment, or at
least coordinate national and regional repositories or Centres of
Excellence.


Remember that all development of pickup cartridges for the reproduction of
the coarse-groove record stopped when the Long Playing record penetrated the
market about 1952, and the technology for the reproduction of magnetic wires
froze when the domestic tape recorder took off in 1954. Development of
necessary improvements could take place in dedicated centres. I know it can
be done, because I have done it small-scale with some assistance on the
chemical side for the last 20 years.

Access to such centres would also be the answer for the very many small
research archives dealing with collections that were created specifically
for
academic end users on the most diverse media imaginable. If international
projects of cooperation such as those presently under discussion are to have
a long-term effect, it is necessary that such centres of excellence are
created simultaneously with a long term view. In other words, I offer this
solution to the problem of Safeguarding the Documentary Heritage of Cultural
and Linguistic Diversity. Sad experience in the world of cultural history
shows, however, that projects usually only create short term prestigious
focus and create a misplaced feel-good effect in politicians.

If we do not want to throw the knowledge and experience related to the
recording and reproduction technology of the 20th century out with the bath
water, meaning digitization, we had better start now. Let us have some
permanence of knowledge for a change!

Top of Message | Previous Page | Permalink

Advanced Options


Options

Log In

Log In

Get Password

Get Password


Search Archives

Search Archives


Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Subscribe or Unsubscribe


Archives

November 2020
October 2020
September 2020
August 2020
July 2020
June 2020
May 2020
April 2020
March 2020
February 2020
January 2020
December 2019
November 2019
October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003

ATOM RSS1 RSS2



LISTSERV.LOC.GOV

CataList Email List Search Powered by the LISTSERV Email List Manager