Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Form and genre terms for music

Genre Terms: Definition, Use, Application
Friday, February 24, 2006 (3:30-5:00 PM)

Participants: Becky Dean (OCLC); Harriette Hemmasi (Brown University); Robert L. Maxwell (Brighahm Young University); Geraldine Ostgrove (Library of Congress)

I'm just going to give the few notes I took for this session since they were out of handouts by the time I got there.

1) Questions of aboutness vs. isness (subject vs. carrier), and the special case in music of "for-ness" (where you have music for a group, the form of the inherent work is a type or medium of performance).
2) The 655 is already being used by other constituency groups, including literature, art, and cinema. It should be fully implemented for music.
3) Other controlled vocabularies being loaded by OCLC for use in cataloging: MESH, GSAFD, AAT, VLAND, TGM I and II.
4) Talked about the FAST project.
5) Creating cataloging procedures for subject analysis which are easier to learn and implement than LCSH.
6) LCSH is a standard used world-wide.
7) The need for library catalogs to accept user vocabularies and tagging to organize data (like Amazon, Flickr and other systems already allow). Language of and from the user.
8) Creating SH for every medium of performance for the national authority file instead of just for local systems.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Sound Directions update

On Thursday afternoon, I attended the session on "Sound Preservation Practices" presented by the Preservation Committee. This year's invited guest was Michael T. Casey, Associate Director for Recording Services at the Archives of Traditional Music (Indiana University). Mike was my internship supervisor at the ATM, and continues to be a valued friend and mentor. He updated the MLA on the NEH-supported Sound Directions Project between Indiana and Harvard Universities.

He began with a brief outline of audio preservation since 1989, when Dietrich Schuller voiced the statement that the content of a recording was more important than its carrier. Why does this make in sense, in light of all the good conservation work done to that point with books and paper? Readers of this blog know that there are two inherent problems in audio preservation:

1) the irreparable loss of audio data due to deterioration of discs and tapes because of physical/chemical instability, storage, handling, or playback.
2) the obsolescence of recording and playback equipment with each new generation of carrier.

The goal is to move from the "eternal carrier" towards the "eternal file." This is a process which demands a digital solution in order to keep bits "alive and understandable." There must be a system in place to monitor data integrity, to refresh that data, and to migrate it when needed to new carriers. The most difficult (and critical) part of this process is the analog to digital conversion. The Harvard/IU project aims to create an interoperable system for preservation of audio objects so that different institutions can use different methods, but still arrive at solutions that can be shared. Casey mentioned following the international standards (TC03, TC04) promulgated by IASA (International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives). They would be used as a point of departure upon which to create better (and more realistic) standards for archives large and small.

I won't go too deep into what Mike said about technical metadata, the workflow, or equipment used. It was impressive on all accounts. He recounted the FACET tool he created last year to select and rank materials based on preservation need (along with research value). The Sound Directions project is using the program WaveLab to save materials in the Broadcast Wave format (BWAV or BWF), a format developed and utilized by the European Broadcasting Corporation since 1996. Saving this data with the sound file is not the only method used to record metadata. In fact, he refers to this information as "catastrophic metadata," which would serve engineers in the future if all other context was lost. He hopes to add an additional Broadcast Wave editor in the future to capture this information more efficiently. The technical metadata schema used is known as AES SC-03-06, which allows for the "documentation of sound recording derivatives" and the "digitization process."

He outlined the various tasks of the project staff, which includes two workers hired by Indiana for the project: project engineer and project assistant. The project uses an NAS (Networked Attached Storage) device to run a RAID server (Redundant Array of Independent Discs). He described the signal chain, which includes the use of a program called Spectrafoo which monitors the output through the signal chain.

As I've learned, some of the biggest challenges associated with projects of this type include: a) having the right equipment for the size of the job; b) having the right people with the relevant training and experience working for you; and c) having the time and resources to do the job (and continue it in some fashion after the grant money runs out).

There are only so many engineers that can perform preservation-quality work on this level, and there needs to be more training and outreach to the engineering community to bring them in.

I was pleased with Mike's report to the MLA meeting and am glad to hear the project is progressing well thus far. He also gave a presentation on Wednesday afternoon at the pre-conference workshop on digitizing music.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Ten years of IU's VARIATIONS

After the opening session, we had a coffee break. It is nice to be surrounded by my colleagues in this grand hotel, the Peabody Memphis. The number of past and present students, graduates, and staff from Indiana is astounding. (Although we have a sizable contingent from the Library of Congress).

I attended the Information Sharing Subcommittee business meeting where we talked about next year's programs and ways to collaborate with other groups.

Phil Ponella's talk on the development of VARIATIONS was also illuminating. While a student at Indiana, I was privvy to using the system and reading much of the associated literature. Now that I understand metadata and networked audio better, I have a much greater appreciation of what Indiana has accomplished over the last ten years. Ponella began his talk with a video showing an Italian man talking about how he gained his music degree on the Internet from Indiana, and that he did it from his home in Italy because they had digitized all of their scores and recordings. While far from true, it was a funny and prescient look at what is hoped to be accomplished. Phil brought us our reality check of how far VARIATIONS has actually come--which is still quite considerable.

I was most impressed to learn to the extent to which pedagogical tools have been developed for the VARIATIONS (currently VARIATIONS 3) system.

Some of these include:
1) Bookmarks (within audio)
2) Visual Analysis
3) Playlists
4) Score Annotations
5) "Drop the needle" tests
6) Synchronization of audio with scrolling score pages
7) Access control (by means of authentication)
8) Compatibility with Macs.

He talked about the history of the project, a little bit about the technology used, and where the third version of VARIATIONS is going. They are going to be developed a system that can be adopted by other educational institutions. Some of their current test bed partners include New England Conservatory, Ohio State University, and the Tri-College Consortium. They are also partnering with content providers, such as the record label New World Records (who has the Database of Recorded American Music). I think this is a wise move, because projects of this scale need partners of various sizes to create systems that work beyond the developing institution.

More past, present, future of music librarianship

More on yesterday morning's opening session...

More memories of music librarianship's past:
1) Using the red book and green book for cataloging (this is pre-AACR2 cataloging)
2) Having various typewriters--Cyrillic, Hebrew/Yiddish, etc. And these were in use by public libraries!
3) Joseph Boonin's quote about spending a life "living with technology without using it."

Note to self: read Ned Quist's article "Tomorrow's music libraries."

The session was a good reminder that many issues in information seeking and retrieval have been contemplated and addressed (to some degree), long before libraries began using computers. The challenge is in the A/D conversion as libraries become more automated, and more geared towards service to constitutents (sometimes at the expense of collections).

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The past, present, and future of music librarianship

This morning's plenary session was entitled MLA'ers: Past, Present and Into Our Future. It featured Dena Epstein (MLA pioneer and former MLA president), Joseph Boonin (music publisher and librarian), Amanda Maple (Pennsylvania State University), and Michael Duffy (Northern Illinois University). It was sponsored by the Joint Committee for the MLA Archives and its Oral History Subcommittee.

The opening remarks by Jane Penner mentioned the MLA Archives (University of Maryland-College Park) and their new website. I couldn't find a link by Googling it but I'll post it once it becomes available. The session was videotaped for the Archives.

Much of the talk amongst the interviewees related as much of the strength of librarians more than the collections they oversee. There was indeed a vast wealth of knowledge and institutional memory in the room. Everyone seemed cognizant of those who have departed, including Richard Hill. Dena Epstein noted that there wree not many academic research collections in music at the start of her career. Joe Boonin noted the importance of knowing librarians of every ilk, and Epstein backed that up by saying how importance it was for scholars of American music to use resources that were seemingly not musically-related.

Michael Duffy, the junior panelist of the session, talked about coming up of age in music librarianship in the electronic age. Though he was well-versed in the conventional tools of microfilm, RILM, and Music Index, he also was well-versed in networks, web site design, and electronic reference sources. One panelist noted that a music librarian position is one that is very integrated in functions: one must understand reference, cataloging, bibliographic instruction, technology, preservation, and more to do one's job effectively.

Amanda Maple talked about some of the challenges of access vs. ownership in the contemporayr library. In the old days, collections were built one title at a time, and this sort of care is what is the mark of excellence in music librarians.

More to blog later about other sessions, but you get the idea.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Into the House of the Ducks

After escaping the rain and the snow of DC this morning, I landed in Memphis and headed to the "house of the ducks." Even at 2:00 this afternoon, the lobby was full of eager conference attendees mingling with their compatriots. After a light supper (see below), I checked in and browsed the exhibits. The auction table was hopping, and the MLA t-shirts were going quickly. (Note: Get yours while supplies last). It was nice to see the variety of attendees this year, both in country of origin and age/experience. Things are dying down in the room now at 10:11, but I can feel the anticipation of a great conference ahead.

RECOMMENDATION: Both the mixed greens salad and the calamari at Capriccio Grill were wonderful!

Choral discophiles--rejoice!

As I was searching for a relevant online resource today, I happened upon this painstakingly detailed discography of the late choral conductor Robert Shaw (1916-1999).

One of the benefits of going to the College of Wooster was that music majors were able to buy reduced-price tickets to Cleveland Orchestra concerts. I remember during my first year I put in my name to get tickets for the Fauré Requiem, conducted by Shaw. I was so excited when I found that I was going. I saw him conduct the Cleveland Orchestra three or four more times when I was at Wooster, including Mahler's 3rd and 8th symphonies, and Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms. It was a special treat when the Wooster Chorus was invited to attend a rehearsal in which he was preparing a special tribute concert to the late Oberlin conductor Robert Fountain. After his death, NPR's Performance Today broadcast a touching rememberance of Robert Shaw's life. He said something to the effect of:

Every time we perform a work, we are cognizant of the fact that someone is singing (or hearing) it for the first time...and someone is singing (or hearing) it for the last time.
I have another story to share about Robert Shaw, but I think I need to listen to Brahms's German Requiem right now.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Leaving on a jet plane

Soon...Tomorrow morning in fact.

I'm heading to Memphis for the Music Library Association's 75th annual conference.

This is a test post. There's so much I'm looking forward to attending: the Memphis Symphony Orchestra concert, the update on AACR3/RDA, the Preservation Committee's session on sound preservation by IU's Mike Casey, all of the Archives Roundtable's presentations, the open forum with members of MOLA (Major Orchestra Librarian Association), and other ones dealing with technology, preservation, and cataloging. But most of all, a dinner reservation at the Peabody Memphis's very own 4-star restaurant, Chez Philippe.

I'm wearing a couple of hats at the conference...double blogging for Audio Artifacts and Infoshare (MLA's Information Sharing Subcommittee blog), and giving a report back to the OLI (Orchestra Library Information) Yahoo Group I run on the MOLA session and the talk with Augusta Read Thomas, composer of Shakin' (an MLA commissioned work, which is being premiered on Friday). If you're at the conference, and want to give me your reactions to the conference, I'll be happy to submit them. Likewise, feel free to comment on my posts.

See you in the South!

Friday, February 17, 2006

RIAA says copying CDs to iPods not fair use

From the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

As part of the on-going DMCA rule-making proceedings, the RIAA and other copyright industry associations submitted a filing that included this gem as part of their argument that space-shifting and format-shifting do not count as noninfringing uses, even when you are talking about making copies of your own CDs:

"Nor does the fact that permission to make a copy in particular circumstances is often or even routinely granted, necessarily establish that the copying is a fair use when the copyright owner withholds that authorization. In this regard, the statement attributed to counsel for copyright owners in the MGM v. Grokster case is simply a statement about authorization, not about fair use."

For those who may not remember, here's what Don Verrilli said to the Supreme Court last year:

"The record companies, my clients, have said, for some time now, and it's been on their website for some time now, that it's perfectly lawful to take a CD that you've purchased, upload it onto your computer, put it onto your iPod."
Click this link to read the full post. And remember though patents may expire, copyright is (virtually) forever.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Okay, sometimes we take ourselves too seriously

Here's a funny post from The Onion about Denny's archives mentioned on the Archives listserve today.

My favorite:

"Prior to this, we could only speculate about the initial public reaction to Moons Over My Hammy."


The comment-card archive charts not only the quality of Denny's service over time, but also patrons' responses to select menu items. Of particular interest to scholars is the nation's initial reaction to what would become Denny's most popular menu item, the Grand Slam Breakfast.


"By examining these comment cards, we have unique insight into not just Denny's, but the tapestry of food service heritage itself," Brayton said. "Here is a history writ large, with little yellow golf pencils."

Puh-lease. Do we REALLY need to preserve EVERYTHING?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Pay for play (still alive and well)

ABC News is reporting that hundreds of radio stations are being investigated by the FCC for payola. ("The illegal practice of record companies paying money for the broadcast of records on music radio is called payola, if the song is presented as being part of the normal day's broadcast.")

"We have people in suits coming in with documents rather than cash payments under the table to a DJ," [New York Attorney General Eliot] Spitzer told ABC News Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross.

And who are the artists being plugged?

The usual suspects: Jennifer Lopez, John Mayer, Jessica Simpson, Celine Dion, R.E.M., Maroon 5, Good Charlotte, Switchfoot, and Michelle Branch.
[Okay, I admit to only knowing the first five.]

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Wireless- kind of a shaky investment back in 1908

Just a quick morning post. Here's a song from the early 1900s that touted the success of radio (i.e. wireless):

Then "Hello! Hello!" on the wireless phone.
The good old radio.
It is working fine all along the line
From Chicago to Buffalo.
Oh! you cannot guess what a great success
Is the wonderful radio wireless telephone.

One of Tom Lewis's comments from Empire of the Air about radio's legacy:
"Researchers will leave each of these collections [which Lewis used for his research] wondering why Americans seem so antihistorical, so willfully amnesic, about this rich chapter of the past" (364).

Back to more radio and recordings...Signing off.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Musical archaeology of the day

Ok, weird music archaeology over the last few days.

So, I have this recording of the Zagreb Philharmonic "7-4-69" it says on the box. For Yogoslav Svc. (Probably VOA's propaganda station that they beamed to Yugoslavia).

Date is stamped July 9, 1969 (oked) and 7-4-69 (typed).

The program as I heard it was:

1) Tchaikovsky, Violin Concerto (easy enough to identify)

2) Barber, Adagio for Strings (very easy)

3) Commentary and award ceremony onstage involving Millard Gladfelter,the chancellor of Temple University; Senator Mark Hatfield (Republican from Oregon), John Propolec (sp?), the chairman of the Croatian Fine Arts Committee, and Congressman Gerald R. Ford!

4) Three songs in Croatian, Russian? with a baritone and orchestral accompaniment.

5) Unidentified dance like piece. (Actually after knowing this was a Croatian orchestra, I kinda guessed it might be the Symphonic kolo by Jakov Gotovac--which is probably the most famous work by a Croatian composer, and my favorite. I ordered a copy for WETA when I was their music librarian so they could play it as much as they could.

So from auditioning the tape, I found that this performance took place at the Temple University Music Festival in the summer of 1969. I did an online search of historical newspapers, but they didn't have the Philadelphia Inquirer (might try the print version later today), but the NYT does give some listings for the festival, but not this concert. So, I did a WorldCat search for the orchestra, Zagreb Philharmonic both in English and its authorized name in Croatian, Zagrebacka Filharmonija. There's a history published by the orchestra and the LC has it (and it's in Croatian). I get it and there's a listing of concerts by season--Wonderful. Now I have the book in my hands, I can figure out the other concerts at the festival. I thought that the soloist in the Tchaikovsky was good. Who does it turn out to be? Itzhak Perlman.

Today...I have the "Spanish American Music Festival." Ok...interesting. The boxes are labeled with the pieces that were played. That usually helps. But not always. You can't always trust what the engineers type/write. One box says "Suite de Otoño" para arpa y orq. de cuerda (Autumn suite for harp and orchestra) by Walter Piston. Only Piston never wrote a piece with the word autumn in it. Virgil Thomson did, and it's moments like this that makes me glad I was a music history major.

LESSON LEARNED: Always trust your nose, or at least your ear.

My work with obscure, but lyrical musical compositions which public radio programs play all the time helps too. I am becoming exposed to many Latin American composers on this job, as well as reinforcing my knowledge of the basic orchestral repertoire. My basic reference tools: Grove Music Online, Allmusic.com, David Daniels' Orchestral Music (4th ed.), ProQuest Historical Newspapers database, and access to some of the greatest music librarians in the country. (Being able to check out obscure music scores helps too.)

About Empire of the Air: I've gotten past where Lee DeForest invented the audion, and on to a young Edwin Armstrong tinkering with radio sets at this home in Yonkers. Lest we forget the race for wireless was the goal of the turn of the 20th century, not just the 21st.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Hello world!

Yes, this blog has been dark for a long time now.

It will re-awaken shortly as I will be one of the bloggers for the upcoming Music Library Association conference in Memphis, Tennessee. I'll post some of the insights and behind-the-scenes news of this large gathering of over 500 music librarians. Luckily, there are a large bank of computers in the vendor area, where I'll post from. You can also read the posts on the MLA Infoshare blog, where others from the conference will post.

So, what's up with me?

My job continues to be interesting. I'm listening to a lot of unique performances that were recorded for the Voice of America network back in 50s, 60s, and 70s. Really cool stuff: jazz, folk, classical. Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Judy Collins, Doc Watson, Bill Monroe, and even Bob Dylan from the 1963 Newport Folk Festival. (Jean Ritchie seemed to have to emcee hundreds of concert stages, and perform lots--busy lady.) Quality orchestra concerts from the Inter-American Music Festival, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and other groups. I've gotten to consult lots of scores and reference materials to do my work, and lots of Internet databases as well. (Thank goodness the library has Grove Music Online along with ProQuest Historical Newspapers).

And the result of all this good work?

I just got a promotion and an extension on my contract until the end of July! :-) I am now officially a "Librarian." That's my title. There should be a / title there, but there's not. My job is no longer considered to be a recording engineer though. I'm a now a cataloger. :-) I'm still doing the same work I was before, but it's a nice recognition for a job done thus far. I couldn't be happier about that.

I've been busy writing notes for the Bach Consort, and for CCS we're working on Carmina Burana right now. (I love singing the high baritone parts--there's nothing more satisfying that belting a high F# and sliding down an octave). After that, we have the Britten War Requiem and Mahler 8 to conclude our season. Not bad. I had to take a bit of a break from the chorus, and not do the Christmas concerts or the run-out with Dmitri Hvorostovsky to sing at the Kennedy Center and up in New York. I'm really focusing on the personal, and not trying to schedule every minute of my time these days. Work is all well and good, but my other time is mine to give and should be doled out thoughtfully.

Movies I've seen since Christmas: King Kong, Memoirs of a Geisha, Brokeback Mountain, The Producers, and Good Night & Good Luck. All excellent films. I'm looking forward to seeing the new documentary about the musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Music from the Inside Out.

I've been following Greg Sandow's blog, and reading his book-in-progress which he is performing on Artsjournal.com.

Books I've been reading: Currently...Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio by Tom Lewis about Marconi (who had the first patents for wireless telegraphy), Lee DeForest, David Sarnoff (RCA), and Major Edwin Armstrong (FM). Before that I read a history about codemaking and codebreaking called The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography by Simon Singh. Two books I read in the late fall were: Setting the Record Straight: A Material History of Classical Recording by Colin Symes ; and Patience and Fortitude: Wherein a Colorful Cast of Determined Collectors, Dealers and Librarians Go About the Quixotic Task of Preserving a Legacy by Nicholas A. Basbanes (author of A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books, and who I saw speak at the Library of Congress last week talking about his new book, Every Book Its Reader: The Power of the Printed Word to Stir the World).

Oh yeah, and I joined a gym today. It's a little late for a New Year's resolution. So, if you are one of those who I talk to regularly, please ask me how it's going. Good night...I am outta here.