I'm not saying ARSC "should step in and solve" any "issues." What I am saying is that we could help
spread tips and good practices suggestions for amateurs. I'm sure there are plenty of weighty tomes
hidden away on dense websites somewhere, but this stuff probably isn't getting read much. I'm
suggesting ARSC can take a user-friendly approach, and make stuff accessible via modern means
(YouTube, social media, informal "meet-ups", etc). The over-riding ethos should be KISS (keep it
If this is some sort of "controversial notion" vis-a-vis ARSC official business, then OK perhaps
some of us individual ARSC members who care about the issue can self-organize and do some of this on
By the way, although there may well be plenty of outreach and information, I get calls all the time
about archives of bad-recorded lossy digital audio. "What can we do about it?" "They recorded this
at 64kbps MP3 and it's full of artifacts and noise," etc. Or, "we had a guy with a cassette machine
who loaded this into the computer at 64kbps WMA, and now we'd like to do some signal-processing on
it." So, the problem is still very real. The latest bad trend is using lossy low-quality cellphone
video as a collection device (audio-wise, this is usually worse than an early-era digital audio
recorder at 64kbps MP3). The worst thing is, parameters can be tweaked in many cellphones, and
videos can be extracted native-resolution, they don't have to be uploaded super-lossy and then
deleted. It's just a matter of relatively simple training for the non-technical. Those of us
comfortable with technical gear and gadgets always underestimate how difficult this stuff is for a
normal civilian to properly use.
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "Bert Lyons" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Monday, September 08, 2014 1:05 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Asch vs Lomax
> Hi all --
> I would like to add to the conversation here that this is in no way a new
> idea. People and organizations since at least the 1960s have been working
> hard to develop standards (both documentation and technology) for doing
> fieldwork that results in original real-time documentation (audio, video,
> film). For sure there are many examples of oral histories and field
> recordings that were done poorly, but there are a substantially more
> examples of high-quality recordings in archival collections nationwide.
> Without real data, it's a bit pre-mature to suggest we need to mount an
> immediate effort to train all the supposedly incapable field workers out
> there making recordings for research and for posterity. It's a bit unfair
> to the many many researchers who have taken the time to learn about audio
> (or video) capture.
> The American Folklife Center has offered such training and provided free
> resources for decades:
> OHA, as well as the Oral History in the Digital Age project, do much work
> in this field. IASA has multiple resources available to support
> international efforts at improving understanding of recording techniques.
> The list, I'm sure, goes on. So while I agree this is a continued need,
> let's please not think of it as a new and grand issue that ARSC should step
> in to solve. There are resources that exist and there are organizations
> already in action. Let's think about partnerships. We do have to continue
> to share knowledge as technologies change and as new generations come into
> the fold.
> Perhaps the ARSC website could include some pointers to existing resources,
> even as ARSC members ramp up training efforts.
> All best --
> Bertram Lyons, CA
> AVPreserve | www.avpreserve.com
> American Folklife Center | www.loc.gov/folklife
> International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives |
> On Mon, Sep 8, 2014 at 11:50 AM, Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>
>> Hi Andy:
>> Count me in on further discussions. Richard Hess has transferred many more
>> oral histories than I and may have many thoughts on the subject.
>> I think sending people out into the field to record audio without teaching
>> them basic recording techniques is like sending them out into the woods
>> without knowing how to start a fire. It's silly and likely not to get good
>> results. I want to emphasize once more than I am not talking about expert
>> audiophile music-master recording techniques, just basics like put the mic
>> off the table, aim it at who's talking and keep it relatively close to
>> them, and don't fondle the recorder while a person is talking. As for
>> record-keeping and file-organizing, I think you are 100% correct that the
>> more done on the recordist's end, the more likely accuracy and organization
>> will take place. One thing we could work on is a basic "take sheet" PDF
>> form that any recordist could print out and take along into the field. This
>> would help them remember to write down key info like dates, who is speaking
>> or singing or playing on the recording, where the recording takes place,
>> the recording format, the recording device, and any notes about anomolies
>> or problems or anything else consequential to the recording.
>> Ideally, this sort of instruction could be encapsulated in a few short
>> YouTube videos that anyone wishing to make field recordings could access.
>> NARAS and AES might be interested in funding or participation, too.
>> -- Tom Fine
>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Andy Kolovos" <akolovos@
>> To: <[log in to unmask]>
>> Sent: Monday, September 08, 2014 12:27 PM
>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Asch vs Lomax
>> Greetings all--
>>> Have been silent on the list for quite a while but this thread has
>>> inspired me to chime in. For those of you who don't know me, I'm both an
>>> archivist and a folklorist and have worked professionally in both fields
>>> since 2002.
>>> For many years I--in cooperation with my colleagues John Fenn at the
>>> University of Oregon, Doug Boyd at University of Kentucky and others--have
>>> labored to provide basic audio field recording training (as well as digital
>>> file management and preservation) workshops to folklorists and oral
>>> historians under the auspices of the American Folklore Society (AFS) and
>>> the Oral History Association (OHA). I've also conducted a similar workshop
>>> for anthropologists at the American Anthropological Association (AAA). I
>>> am also aware of similar efforts at the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM).
>>> At least in the academic context, training ethnographic fieldworkers in
>>> basic audio recording methods is not a real priority. In part this is due
>>> to the emphasis placed on acquiring theoretical knowledge and research
>>> skills. In part I suspect it has something to do with it being viewed as
>>> technician work--something people will just figure out on their own. In
>>> part because people are intimidated by the technology and overwhelmed by
>>> choices. In part because of a persistent perspective that "good enough to
>>> be audible for me to hear" is good enough.
>>> I have often pondered the possibilities of AFS developing a partnership
>>> with ARSC to present field recording and digital audio preservation and
>>> management workshops in different areas of the US. Better source recordings
>>> mean better archival records. Materials that are better managed while
>>> still in the possession of their creators stand a much better chance of
>>> surviving until they find a home in a repository.
>>> I would love to discuss this further with any ARSC members who are
>>> On 9/7/14, 12:00 AM, ARSCLIST wrote:
>>> ARC in Manhattan would love to host such an event/workshop. Could
>>> involve Columbia University musicology folks. Lemme know. b.George
>>> [log in to unmask]
>>> Thanks for the link, John.
>>> The recordings they played were well made. I wish all would-be folklore
>>> and oral history collectors would take 60 minutes to master the basics of
>>> field recording. So much interesting material has been collected in such
>>> bad audio quality. I would suggest this should be a mission of ARSC,
>>> teaching amateur recordists doing field work the basic techniques to
>>> capture reasonable fidelity.
>>> -- Tom Fine
>>> John H. Bondurant
>>> Berea College
>>> Hutchins Library
>>> Special Collections & Archives
>>> Andy Kolovos, Ph.D., MLS
>>> Co-Director and Archivist
>>> Vermont Folklife Center
>>> 88 Main Street
>>> Middlebury, VT 05753
>>> (802) 388-4964