Dear ARSC listers,
I'm writing to solicit accounts that any of you might have about the process of scanning broken shellac discs. Last year, as I'm sure everybody knows, the NYPL Performing Arts branch sent a disc up to Massachusetts for scanning. This garnered a fair deal of media coverage including, notably, a long-form piece in The New Yorker. While the tales that articles like these tell are informative, I'm looking for other (possibly alternative) accounts. As for some background context: I'm a PhD student in Ethnomusicology at New York University working on a project that examines the implications for archive theory of conceiving of the repair of archival objects as the healing of injured bodies, and IRENE seems like it could be an important part of this story.
Specifically, I'm interested in 1) the material and 2) the emotional, or affective, details of the process. Any insights that you could offer on any of the questions below would be a tremendous help. Naturally, the authors of all responses fielded will receive full credit in the final paper, and in any subsequent presentation or publication of the work.
What are the practical issues of scanning a disc?
-how and when do shellac discs tend to break? Does anybody have any good stories of discs breaking?
-how does it travel to the scanning site?
-how is the disc prepared for scanning?
-how are decisions about the order in which to scan fragments made?
-what are the conditions for a successful scan?
-where does the fragmented disc end up once it has been scanned?
-what are the other decisions that have to be made by the scanner? Are there different resolutions appropriate for different discs? Do certain thresholds need to be set?
-how are the interpolations between images of various fragments made? How are the gaps in missing information overcome?
-when does a scan fail? What are the conditions for failure?
-what is the typical total cost - in time and in money - of scanning a disc?
What of the poetics of scanning a disc?
-what do you feel happens when a disc is scanned?
-how do you conceive of the relationship between the material inscribed on the disc, the disc, its scan, and the audio that is synthesised from the scanned image?
-what is the aim in scanning the disc? How would you define the resulting sound?
-do you know of any other examples of discs scanned? Or any examples of famous(ly) broken discs?
Any answers that anybody can offer to any of these questions would be very gratefully received. Further, if you feel you have something to tell that isn't directly related to the questions here, I'd also love to hear; please reach out.
Many, many thanks & best wishes,
NYU GSAS Music Department
PhD Student in Ethnomusicology
24 Waverly Place Room 268
New York, NY 10003