Thursday, December 29, 2011

Library of Congress Helps Unlock Experimental Sound Recordings of Alexander Graham Bell

Nearly 10 years ago, the Library of Congress initiated a research collaboration with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to study the application of digital imaging to the extraction of sound from phonograph records and other grooved media. This non-invasive approach protects delicate or damaged historical items.

That collaboration has resulted in unlocking experimental sound recordings made more than 100 years ago by Alexander Graham Bell and associates.

The recordings, now available for listening by the public, can be found at

In the early 1880s, three inventors—Alexander Graham Bell, Chichester Bell and Charles Sumner Tainter, collectively making up the Volta Laboratory Associates—tried to record sound. In one experiment, on Nov. 17, 1884, they recorded the word “barometer” on a glass disc with a beam of light. This disc, along with nearly 200 other experimental recordings, was packed up for safekeeping and deposited at the Smithsonian Institution.

In the past year, Library of Congress Digital Conversion Specialist Peter Alyea; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Scientists Carl Haber and Earl Cornell; and National Museum of American History Curators Carlene Stephens and Shari Stout worked jointly to recover sound from those recordings. Using high-resolution scans made from the original Volta discs, they were able to hear the word “barometer.”

The team has successfully submitted six discs—all experimental recordings made by Volta—to the sound recovery process known as IRENE/3D (Image, Reconstruct, Erase Noise, Etc.), a process developed by Berkeley Lab in 2003-04 and installed at the Library of Congress in 2006 and in 2008.

The process creates a high-resolution digital map of the disc or cylinder. This map is then processed to remove evidence of wear or damage, such as scratches and skips. Finally, software calculates the motion of a stylus moving through the disc or cylinder’s grooves, reproducing the audio content and producing a standard digital sound file.

IRENE/3D research has been supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Library of Congress, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Archives and Records Administration, the Department of Energy, the University of California, the Andrew P. Mellon Foundation and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, with more than 147 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. The Library’s Preservation Directorate is the oldest and largest library preservation facility in the nation. The directorate’s mission is to ensure long-term, uninterrupted access to the Library's collections, either in original or reformatted form. It focuses on solving preservation problems facing collections of all types, whether traditional, audiovisual or digital. For more information, visit

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory and is located in Berkeley, Calif. It conducts unclassified scientific research and is managed by the University of California. Its website is The Berkeley/Library of Congress research website is

The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays American heritage in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific and military history. To learn more about the museum, visit

Heavenly Music From Hildegard Of Bingen, A Soon-To-Be Actual Saint

"Pope Benedict XIV has indicated he plans to canonize the 12th-century female composer, mystic, author, physician and abbess Hildegard von Bingen and then proclaim her a Doctor of the Church in October 2012."

For the full story, please see

In Memoriam: Musicians We Lost In 2011

For the full list, please see

K-Pop Blows Up: Korean Music Finds Fans Worldwide

Listen to the story at

What Does a Conductor Do?

"I’m standing on a podium, with an enameled wand cocked between my fingers and sweat dampening the small of my back. Ranks of young musicians eye me skeptically. They know I don’t belong here, but they’re waiting for me to pretend I do. I raise my arm in the oppressive silence and let it drop. Miraculously, Mozart’s overture to Don Giovanni explodes in front of me, ragged but recognizable, violently thrilling. This feels like an anxiety dream, but it’s actually an attempt to answer a question that the great conductor Riccardo Muti asked on receiving an award last year: 'What is it, really, I do?'"

For the full story, please see NY Magazine.

The End of Modern Dance?

"Before Merce Cunningham died at age 90 in July 2009, he had decided that his company would die with him, preceded by a two-year world tour. And so, after the grand finale performances Dec. 29-31 at the Park Avenue Armory, the company will be snuffed out. Its demise carries with it a huge chunk of the American modern dance tradition. Besides Paul Taylor and Trisha Brown, there are no U.S. modern dance troupes whose leader is still alive, whose company still tours consistently and whose choreography stems from a technique developed by its founder."

For the full story, please see Musical America.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

New Books, Scores, Recordings & More!

Check out the new books, scores and media materials added to the Music Library in December!

Jazz Musicians Start a Pension Push

"New York City’s musicians’ union has begun leafleting outside a major jazz club, the first salvo in what union leaders say is a campaign to gain pension benefits and a minimum wage for jazz artists."

For the full story, please see the New York Times.

Celebrate the Stan Kenton Centennial with UNT Libraries

"In honor of the 100th anniversary of Stanley Newcomb Kenton's birth (December 15, 1911), the UNT Music Library offers the following medley of content from our various special collections which are connected to this influential American jazz band and orchestra leader."

To view the online exhibit, please see

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Call for Papers: Pacific Northwest Graduate Student Conference

Pacific Northwest Graduate Student Conference

University of British Columbia

February 24-26, 2012

The University of British Columbia's School of Music is pleased to host the 2012 session of the Pacific Northwest Graduate Student Conference (PNWGSC) in
Vancouver, Canada. The conference will take place Friday to Sunday, February 24-26. We welcome proposals on any topic related to music theory,
musicology, ethnomusicology, or composition (lecture recital proposals will also be considered). Presentations will be twenty minutes, with ten minutes
for discussion.

January 15, 2012 is the deadline for submissions; full details and guidelines for proposals can be found in the attached call for papers.

Questions can be addressed to

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Giant Theremin Is Watching You Down Under

"Here's a travel tip: If you find yourself in Melbourne, Australia, with time on your hands, check out the Giant Theremin. The 23-foot-tall electronic musical instrument sits on a pedestrian walkway near the Yarra River. As people pass by — or dance or jump in front of the theremin — it tracks the motion and creates sounds. Judging by YouTube videos, a lot of people are taking part in this musical public art project."

For the full story and a video, please see

Emboldened Orchestras Are Embracing the New

"RECENTLY Bartok trounced Schubert in an impromptu audience poll at Carnegie Hall. I was surprised and delighted. It seemed an indicator, albeit fanciful, that the battle for contemporary music had been won."

For the full story, please see New York Times.

Bach Cello Suites visualized

"Using the mathematics behind string length and pitch, it came from a simple idea: what if all the notes were drawn as strings? Instead of a stream of classical notation on a page, this interactive project highlights the music’s underlying structure and subtle shifts."

For the full visualization, please see

Happy birthday, Elliott Carter

"Not many composers will ever celebrate their 103rd birthday – but then, not that many people in the history of humanity have ever reached or will ever reach that astonishingly advanced prime number of an age. But no one has ever marked their 103rd, I can confidently predict, with three world premieres. But in New York last weekend, that's exactly what Elliott Carter did with concerts on 8 and 11 December."

For the full story, please see The Guardian.

Check out scores and recordings of Carter's works from the UW Libraries.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Mozart's Letters Online!

Check out anew version of Mozart's letters from Italy is online here:

The website offers access to the letters in English, Italian and French, and of course the original German version plus its modernised German spelling

For the majority of the letters, both the holograph and its diplomatic transcription are available (left-hand side menu).

Mozart's scores are linked to each work, like here:

The letters are fully annotated by Cliff Eisen , Academic Director of the edition and one of the most reputed Mozart's scholars.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Vinyl's Not Final

"Last week, we posted a photo of the object to the left, an object that serves a very particular, and perhaps slightly antiquated, function, and asked if you knew what it was. If you were among the 34% that didn't know, chances are you'd never seen it in its proper place. Yup, it's a 45 adapter, the tool that made the big hole on those small records fit on a turntable that only had a shaft sized to fit a 16, 33 or a 78."

For the full story, please see