----- Original Message -----
From: "steven austin" <[log in to unmask]>
> For the kindest preservation of artifact musical information, I would
> reach beyond the shellac disc and run straight into the arms of
> dedicated musicians. The world's legacy in music would be safe in the
> hands (and lips) of a vibrant troubadour tradition. If they altered the
> data a bit, well, we would neither know nor care. I'm sure we would be
> It might be money better spent to fund musical guilds rather than
> recording archives. Isn't the natural inclination of archives to seal
> away heritage under the pretense of "preservation," while active
> musicians are "called" both to study their predecessors and evolve the
> traditions in partnership with their contemporary listeners?
> Just a heretical concept.
> Certainly, we could be enriched by both: the musicians, and the
> archivists. I just wonder sometimes if in our quest for the
> Philosopher's Data Storage Media we aren't creating an unnatural
> parallel to Real Time music, something like what the manuscript scribes
> did with the old knowledge through early post-Roman Europe.
Being both a discographer/archivist of vintage recordings, and a part-
time, "semi-pro" musician, I'm in a unique position to answer this.
For true Folk music...that is, music distributed by oral tradition
only, as opposed to through recordings...preservation through the
musicians themselves is indeed the preferable method. However,
we humans have a limited lifespan, and recording our work brings
the question back into the complexities of preservation modes.
Further, the fact that I can sing "Sweethearts On Parade" preserves
nothing of the sound of the original Guy Lombardo recording...and
that could be used to illustrate facts about dance music in 1928...
even though I can come fairly close!
Preserving the sounds of musicians MAY preserve songs that have
been distributed strictly through oral tradition (which, in turn,
presumes the musicians had never had access to phonograph records,
radios, or other ways of "fixing" a sound (note that the term
is very accurate here!).
However, there are other questions likely to be asked by modern
researchers...such as "What did Bix Beiderbecke sound like?" or
"How was such-and-such a piece played in 1915?" that require the
preservation of recordings.
For example, we have no idea of what the music of the ancient
Greeks, or the Romans, might have sounded like! Insofar as they
were written down, they were notated in systems we can't comprehend.
We can't even be sure what the works of Bach or Beethoven
sounded like in their own day! I can, though, put a record I
own on my player, and hear what Sousa's Band sounded like playing
"Hot Time In the Old Town Tonight" in 1898 (albiet not EXACTLY
what they sounded like).
Live sound, created by live musicians, is by definition
ephemeral. It lasts as long as do the memories of those who
heard it (insofar as they remember it accurately!). Sound
recording allows us to fix sonic moments in time.
Steven C. Barr