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ARSCLIST  May 2007

ARSCLIST May 2007

Subject:

Re: Mass Digitization/ 78's

From:

"Andes, Donald" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 17 May 2007 18:07:05 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (119 lines)

As some of you may have already guessed, I'm open to crazy ideas, so I'll pursue the logic of creating 78's as an archival medium, since they have been hanging around in vaults for a good long time.

But I have the following questions in regards to 78's:

What is the maximum uninterrupted record time?
What is the maximum fidelity expectation?
Could the format possibly handle multi-channel recordings?
If there any way to embed a video track (if you will) to address audio that is required to sync with a video source?
Could you possible embed a data track to handle metadata since Physical labels have limited space, can fall off, or become obscured?
In today's world of chemical regulations, is it still legal to make a 78 record, or does include some gaseous by-product, or radioactive waste?

Without viable real world answers to ALL the questions above, I believe I for one would take the idea of using 78's as non-viable.

Any takers?

Don Andes
Director of Archives
EMI Music

-----Original Message-----
From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of George Brock-Nannestad
Sent: Thursday, May 17, 2007 4:37 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Mass Digitization

From: Patent Tactics, George Brock-Nannestad

Hello,

Karl Miller, Don Andes, and others have discussed this, not the least in view of the work of archeologists.

Unless somehow, miraculously, every existing sound recording gets digitized and maintained forever by migration, there will be a loss over time.

Alternatively, everything may be transferred to analog metal masters and stored with few environmental requirements, along with information of how to extract the sound. Shellac-based slate-dust records (78s to you) may serve a similar purpose, as repeatedly and correctly pointed out by Steven Barr.

So, unless one or both are done we shall have a loss in the absolute sense, but not necessarily perceived as such - if an item will never be demanded, nobody will ever know that it is missing. 

Before we get bogged down by the enormity of the task, let us look at what a sound recording can bring us at some indefinite time in the future. I am bringing very basic considerations, but they are useful for getting a grip on the problem.

But before planning on a strategy for maintaining sound recordings we must have an idea of what we expect to get "in the other end", that is at the time we access the stored sound recording.


If we have, say, 3 minutes of sound, what may that represent?

1) it may be a "blind" recording, just 3 minutes of sound surrounding the microphone (soundscape)

1a) it may like 1) but with a directional microphone

2) it may be a recording of a complete utterance lasting 2 minutes, with pure soundscape on either side

3) it may be a recording of a longer utterance, i.e. an excerpt of 3 minutes

4) it may be an edited-down version of a longer utterance to take up precisely 3 minutes

5) it may be a construct: recorded faster for slow reproduction in order to obtain Mickey Mouse (TradeMark) voices

6) more generally: an edited sound that never existed in real life


When we reproduce our recording, we may have different purposes in mind:


a) to get an airborne sound that is identical to that present when it was recorded

b) to get an airborne sound that is identical to that which would have been available to contemporary reproducers of the recording

c) to get an airborne sound that is identical to that which reproduction on any later equipment may provide

d) to get an airborne sound that is identical to that which transmission via any kind of network, such as broadcast (medium wave, FM, telephone wire, etc., early A/D, D/A) would sound like

e) to get a signal that is useful for scientific analysis

Seeing a) - d) we realize that 4) - 6) above may actually be re-recordings themselves.

Recording type 6) actually provides the least of general interest, because it is an edited recording made out of little pieces. It can only tell us precisely how someone wanted it to sound, but not how something like that sounds in actual performance. This means that any scientific analysis based on the time function will be faulty, because the time axis has been cut and pasted. Hence, we can study taste or ambition as it was at the time of the original edit - is that enough to maintain its availability? 

In a similar line of thinking, we may go through any combination of recording and reproduction and consider if we think that we want to take responsibility for the long-term availability of such combinations.

I have on other occasions proposed a coarse division of the field "preserivng sound", and I have suggested the purposes as "nostalgia", "audio history", and "scientific analysis". There is absolutely no value judgment involved in these labels, and they may not be all that are needed. A reasonably complete discussion may be found in a paper I gave at the 103rd AES Convention in New York 1997 (I gave three papers during that convention), with a long but precise title: "Applying the Concept of Operational Conservation Theory to Problems of Audio Restoration and Archiving Practice", Preprint No. 4612. In it I attempted to undo some of the damage that had been done to the field by simplistic models presented in the early 1990s that appealed immensely to engineers.

I know that the cost of obtaining this preprint from the AES will put somebody off, but the general philosophy of Operational Conservation Theory may be found for free as a pdf-file at

http://palimpsest.stanford.edu/byauth/brock-nannestad/operational-
conservation-theory.pdf

ALL ON ONE LINE !!!

My personal view is that if there is a community that swears by analog recording and reproduction, they should see to it that there is a solid manufacturing support for it, i.e. both carriers, components and equipment. 

We have a similar situation in the photographic field: the manufacturing support for film-based emulsions is withdrawing at an alarming rate. 
Originally, perforated film for 24x36 mm was basically movie negative film, but the range available now, due to the demise of B/W moviemaking brings tears to your eyes. It is the large-scale coating of a strip that requires manufacturing facilities. Within the foreseeable future you will have wet collodion plates once more, something that can be made up by anybody by extremely well-documented, albeit old, processes. Similarly, the only analogue recording medium that can be prepared in a cottage industry is the lacquer disc. Wire recordings on nickel would be quite feasible, and retracing the old principles with modern components is certainly doable. I shall go the "Whole Earth Catalogue" to find my components.

So, instead of hearing the contiuned whimpering about the demise of analog, I expect strong voices representing parties willing to pay for continued analog access to analog recordings - and if needed - continued acces to recording by analog means. Those who have digitized too early (and it is always too early) are suffering now and in the near future. Those who have saved decayed audio by going digital have bought a little time.

Looking forward to further insightful contributions on these matters,

best wishes,


George

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