Category Archives: Music

Music Library Association Opens Publications at Internet Archive

For librarians who specialize in caring for music collections, it can be challenging to keep up with the latest technology and resources in the profession. The Music Library Association recently helped address this problem by making many of its publications openly available online.

The MLA donated 21 of its monographs to the Internet Archive for digitization and worked with authors to make the material free to the public under Creative Commons licenses. 

The new collection of backlist titles includes information on careers in music librarianship and history of the field. It also covers planning and building music library collections, which can be complicated and involve individual creators and small publishers, said Kathleen DeLaurenti, who helped lead the partnership with the Internet Archive in her role as MLA’s first open access editor. There are also valuable materials on music library approaches to technical services—everything from how to preserve music materials to how to bind and catalog them.

“Increasingly in librarianship, we have people who are being tasked to do this work who don’t have a specialized background, especially in smaller organizations, rural places, and public libraries,” DeLaurenti said. “We’re really excited to be able to make this content available to folks who may not have access to professional development in those spaces, and who may be looking for some materials to bolster their training and their own work.”

The MLA has been publishing new research of interest to music librarians since the 1970s and wanted to find a platform to make the information easier to discover, said DeLaurenti, director of the Arthur Friedheim Library at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The Internet Archive provided the open infrastructure to share and leverage the work of the MLA, which is a small organization with about 1,000 members.

While the MLA began with 21 of the monographs, it is working to obtain rights clearance for an additional 20 titles and DeLaurenti hopes the online collection will grow. So far, authors have been excited that the association is making their work available as it increases access for scholars with the potential for more citations of their research.

The audience for the online collection will likely be “accidental music librarians”—people tasked with music library responsibilities who aren’t musicians but are looking for professional development resources in the area, DeLaurenti said, as well as individuals considering music librarianship as a career.

“As libraries are looking at what kinds of open infrastructure is out there and available, I think the work that the Internet Archive has done through COVID has really changed our perception and how they can work as a potential collaborator in that space,” DeLaurenti said. “We hope to continue different kinds of collaborations with [the Archive] in the future.”

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Meet the Librarians: Alexis Rossi, Media & Access

To celebrate National Library Week 2022, we are taking readers behind the scenes to Meet the Librarians who work at the Internet Archive and in associated programs.


Alexis Rossi has always loved books and connecting others with information. After receiving her undergraduate degree in English and creative writing, she became a book editor and then worked in online news. 

Alexis Rossi

In 2006, Rossi joined the staff of the Internet Archive. She was working on the launch of the Open Library project when she recognized the need to learn more about how to best organize materials. She enrolled at San Jose State University and earned her Master’s of Library and Information Science in 2010.

“It gave me a better grasp of how to hierarchically organize information in a way that is sensible and useful to other libraries,” Rossi said. “It also gave me better familiarity with how other more traditional libraries actually work—the types of data and systems they use.”

Rossi concentrated on web interfaces for library information, understanding digital metadata, and how to operate as a digital librarian. In addition to overseeing the Open Library project, at the Internet Archive, Rossi managed a revamp of the organization’s website, ran the Wayback Machine for four years, founded the webwide crawling program, and is currently a librarian and director of media & access.

“One of the themes of my life is trying to empower people to do whatever they want to do,” said Rossi, who grew up in Monterey, California, and now lives in San Francisco. “Giving people the resources to teach themselves—whatever they want to learn—is my driving force.”

“Giving people the resources to teach themselves—whatever they want to learn—is my driving force.”

Alexis Rossi, Media & Access

Rossi acknowledges she is privileged to have means to avail herself to an abundance of information, while many in other parts of the world do not. There are so many societal problems she cannot solve, Rossi said, but she believes her work is making a contribution.  

“We can build a library that allows people to access information for free, wherever they are, and however they can get to it, in whatever way. That, to me, is incredibly important,” Rossi said. It’s also rewarding to help patrons discover new information and recover materials they may have thought were lost, she added.

When she’s not working, Rossi enjoys making funky jewelry and elaborate cakes (a skill she learned on YouTube).

Among the millions of items and collections in the Internet Archive, what is Rossi’s favorite? Video and audio recordings of her dad, now 73, playing the piano, organ and accordion: “It’s just so good. It’s such a perfect little piece of history.”

Passing on a Musical Love Letter to the Next Generation

As a teenager in the 1940s, Ben Smith became a huge fan of swing and big-band music — especially the masterful Duke Ellington, known for the classics “Mood Indigo” and “Take the ‘A’ Train.” 

Smith started collecting Ellington records in 78rpm format in high school and continued during World War II when he served in the Air Force stationed in various U.S. cities before being deployed to the Philippines and Japan. “That was my band, I was crazy about them,” he said of Ellington and his Orchestra, a centerpiece of his early swing jazz collection along with Benny Goodman, Woody Herman and other greats.

Watercolor of Johnny Hodges, famed jazz saxophonist and longtime Duke Ellington collaborator, by artist & donor Ben Smith.

Now, the 95-year-old is sharing some of the music he collected and curated over the years with the world. Smith recently donated 300 of his beloved CDs, LPs and 78s to the Internet Archive, including a mix of classical, jazz, western swing, country, folk, and blues. A first set of the 78s is now online, and the remaining collection is queued for digitization.

“I thought somebody else should have access and be enjoying them,” said Smith, who lives in Austin, Texas. “I’m just thrilled. I’m the winner here.”

View Collection

When Smith was in the hospital earlier this year, he talked with his family about what would happen to his music someday. His son, Mark Smith, recently retired as director and state librarian at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, suggested the Internet Archive could digitize the items and provide a permanent home.

“My dad isn’t a big Internet guy, so I took my computer over and showed him how it would work, and how people could listen to his music,” said Mark. “He was excited and thought it sounded wonderful.” 

Mark then contacted Liz Rosenberg, donations manager at the Archive, who gave him instructions on how to ship the records and media to the Archive. He brought the CDs and records to the UPS store, where they were boxed up and sent. “It worked out great. It was easy,” said Mark.

Cubist-inspired Duke Ellington cover art illustration by Ben Smith ca. 1940, part of Smith’s donation to the Internet Archive.

Growing up, Mark says he was more into rock and folk music, but he understands how his dad’s generation loved the swing era and admired the musical genius of legends such as Ellington.  Ben met Ellington once at a show in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1947. After the concert, he approached Ellington for an autograph, but his pen didn’t work. “He was so cordial and in his mellow voice said, ‘I have a pen’ and reached into his vest pocket and took out this beautiful pen and wrote his very ornate signature,” Ben recalls. 

Born in Orange, Texas, in 1926, Ben was a staff artist at the University of Texas for 38 years. In his donation to the Archive, he included an illustration of Ellington he drew in the 1940s and a watercolor of longtime Ellington alto sax soloist Johnny Hodges. 

Artist and music collector Ben Smith, Jr.

Mark says he’s pleased to have his father’s collection featured alongside other digitized items available to the public.

“I think the Internet Archive is one of the coolest things on the whole internet – the Wayback Machine and all of the spoken word recordings, not to mention the vast Grateful Dead recordings,” said Mark Smith. “I’m very grateful to the Archive for taking in my dad’s collection, making it available and making my dad very, very happy.”

No Book/Music/Movie (All Media) Donation Too Big or Small: Please Donate

Looking around your home in the new year and wondering what to do with all the stuff you’ve accumulated? You’re not alone — turns out 54% of Americans are overwhelmed by the amount of clutter around them. As people move or downsize, they are often in a dilemma about what to do with their beloved books and records. The same goes for colleges and libraries when they close or relocate. So what’s a preservation-minded person or organization supposed to do with their extra books, records, or other media?

The Internet Archive is here to help! We welcome donations with open arms — from single books to entire libraries. The Internet Archive seeks to preserve and digitize one copy of every book, record, CD, film, and microfilm in support of our mission to provide “Universal Access to All Knowledge.”

Liz Rosenberg, donation manager at Internet Archive, helping digitize a donation of 78 rpm records.

“Increasingly, people are turning to the Internet Archive to preserve materials and give them new life online,” said Liz Rosenberg, donation manager. “Staff members can even help to arrange for a convenient pick up of larger donations.” 

 “We are always looking for items that we don’t have already or ones that are in better shape,” said Rosenberg, who encourages people to check online, if convenient, if a copy is needed. For large collections or donations with special circumstances, Internet Archive will go onsite to pack and ship items at no expense to the donor. “Our goal is to make this process easy for donors.”

Internet Archive receives a variety of materials from individuals and organizations. Boxes can be mailed to facilities in Richmond, California, or brought to drop off locations in the U.S. and England. The Archive tries to digitize materials and make them available publicly, as funding allows. 

Recent personal donations have included a collection of railroad maps and atlases from the 1800s. Also, a large collection of fragile 78rpm records was donated by a person in Washington, D.C., and 18,000 LP, 45, and 78 records were donated from a home in Arkansas.

Some recent institutional donations include 80,000 books from the Evangelical Seminary, 191 boxes of journals and periodicals from Hope International University, and 70,000 books, journals and microfilm from Marygrove College. These larger gifts are made into special collections to help Internet Archive users find the materials and celebrate the donor.

We are happy to give donors a receipt for tax purposes and celebrate the donation on the archive.org site if appropriate. 

“We would love to provide a forever home for your media wherever you are located, however much you have,” said Rosenberg. “I love doing this role. It restores my faith in the goodness of the world every day.”

For more information about contributing, please visit the Internet Archive help center.

Discogs Thank You! A commercial community site with bulk data access

https://thequietus.com/articles/24529-discogs-more-than-200-million-dollars

Discogs has cracked the nut, struck the right balance, and is therefore an absolute Internet treasure– Thank you.

If you don’t know them, Discogs is a central resource for the LP/78/CD music communities, and as Wikipedia said “As of 28 August 2019 Discogs contained over 11.6 million releases, by over 6 million artists, across over 1.3 million labels, contributed from over 456,000 contributor user accounts—with these figures constantly growing…”

When I met the founder, Kevin Lewandowski, a year ago he said the Portland based company supports 80 employees and is growing. They make money by being a marketplace for buyers and sellers of discs.  An LP dealer I met in Oklahoma sells most of his discs through discogs as well as going at record fairs.

The data about records is spectacularly clean. Compare it to Ebay, where the data is scattershot, and you have something quite different and reusable. It is the best parts of musicbrainz, CDDB, and Ebay– where users can catalog their collections and buy/sell records. By starting with the community function, Kevin said, the quality started out really good, and then adding the market place later led it to its success.

But there is something else Discogs does that sets it apart from many other commercial websites, and this makes All The Difference:

Discogs also makes their data available, in bulk, and with a free-to-use API.

The Great 78 Project has leveraged this bulk database to help find the date of release for 78’s.  Just yesterday, I downloaded the new dataset and added it to our 78rpm date database, and in last year 10’s of thousands more 78’s were added to discogs, and we found 1,500 more dates for our existing 78’s.   Thank you!

The Internet Archive Lost Vinyl Project leverages the API’s by looking up records we will be digitizing to find track listings.

A donor to our CD project used the public price information to appraise the CDs he donated for a tax write-off.

We want to add links back from Discogs to the Internet Archive and they have not allowed that yet (please please), but there is always something more to do.

I hope other sites, even commercial ones, would allow bulk access to their data (an API is not enough).   

Thank you, Discogs.

Correct Metadata is Hard: a Lesson from the Great 78 Project

We have been digitizing about 8,000 78rpm record sides each month and now have 122,000 of them done. These have been posted on the net and over a million people have explored them. We have been digitizing, typing the information on the label, and linking to other information like discographies, databases, reviews and the like.

Volunteers, users, and internal QA checkers have pointing out typos, and we decided to go back over a couple of month’s metadata and found problems. And then we contracted with professional proofreaders and they found even more (2% of the records at this point had something to point out, some are matters of opinion or aesthetics, some lead to corrections).

We are going to pay the professional proofreaders to correct the 5 most important fields for all 122,000 records, but can use more help. We are pointing these out here in hopes to interest volunteer proofreaders and to share our experience in continually improving our collections.

Here are some of the issues with the primary performer field: before-the-after that we have now corrected from the June 2019 transfers (before | after) that we hope to upload in the next couple of weeks:

Jose Melis And His Latin American Ensemble | Jose Melis And His-Latin American Ensemble
Columbia-Orchestra | Columbia-Orchester
S. Formichi and T. Chelotti | S. Formichi e T. Chelotti
Dennis Daye and The Rhythmaires | Dennis Day and The Rhythmaires
Harry James and His Orchestra | Harry James and His Orch.
Charles Hart & Elliot Shaw | Charles Hart & Elliott Shaw
Peerless Quartet | Peerless Quartette

Some of the title corrections:

O Vino Fa ‘Papla (Wine Makes You Talk) | ‘O Vino Fa ‘Papla (Wine Makes You Talk)
Masked Ball Salaction | Masked Ball Selection
Moonlight and Roses (Brings Mem’ries Of You) | Moonlight and Roses (Bring Mem’ries Of You)
Que Bonita Eres Tu (You Are Beutiful) | Que Bonita Eres Tu (You Are Beautiful)
Buttered Roll | “Buttered Roll”
Paradise | “Paradise”
Got a Right to Cry | “Got a Right to Cry”
Blue Moods | “Blue Moods”
Auf Wiederseh’n Sweerheart | Auf Wiederseh’n Sweetheart
George M. Cohan Medley – Part 1 | George M. Cohan Medley – Part 2
Dewildered | Bewildered
Lolita (Seranata) | Lolita (Serenata)
Got a Right to Cry | “Got a Right to Cry” Joe Liggins and His Honeydrippers
Blue Moods | “Blue Moods”
Body and Soul | “Body and Soul”
Mais Qui Est-Ce | Mais Qui Est-Ce?
Wail Till the Sun Shines Nellie Blues | Wait Till the Sun Shines Nellie Blues
Que Te Pasa Joe (What Happens Joe) | Que Te Pasa Jose (What Happens Joe)
SAMSON AND DELILAH Softly Awakens My Heart | SAMSON AND DELILAH Softly Awakes My Heart
I’m Gonna COO, COO, COO | (I’m Gonna) COO, COO, COO

Please Donate 78rpm Records to the Internet Archive’s Great 78 Project

Good news: we have funding to preserve at least another 250,000 sides of 78rpm records, and we are looking for donations to digitize and physically preserve. We try to do a good job of digitizing and hosting the recordings and then thousands of people listen, learn, and enjoy these fabulous recordings.  

If you have 78s (or other recordings) that you would like to find a good home for, please think of us — we are a non-profit and your donations will be tax-deductible, digitized for all to hear, and physically preserved. If you are interested in donating recordings of any type or appropriate books, please start with this form and we will contact you immediately

We are looking for anything we do not already have. (We are finding 80% duplication rates sometimes, so we are trying to find larger or more niche collections).  We will physically preserve all genres, but our current funding has directed us to prioritize digitization of non-classical and non-opera.

We can pay for packing and shipping, and are getting better at the logistics for collections of a few thousand and up.  These are fragile objects and we are having good luck avoiding damage.

Tina Argumedo Collection
Daniel McNeil
Boston Public Library

The collections get highlighted and if you submit a story we will post it prominently. For instance: Boston Public Library, Daniel McNeil and Tina Argumedo’s Argentinian Tango collection.

The reason to highlight the donors is twofold: one is the celebrate the donor and their story, but the other is to help contextualize these recordings for different generations. These stories help users find meaning in the materials and find things they want to listen to. This way we can lead new listeners to love this music as the original collectors have

Working together we can broaden this collection to works from around the world and different cultural groups in each country.

If you are a private individual or an institution and have records to contribute, even if they are not 78s, please start with this simple form, or email info@archive.org, or call +1-415-561-6767 and we will contact you immediately. Thank you.

A Public Peek into 1923

Commercial radio broadcasting began in the 1920s, bringing entertainment, news and music into people’s homes. Now, instead of needing to play a 78rpm disc on your phonograph, you could just tune in to listen to popular songs.

And in 1923 that means you would have been listening to one of the many versions of “Yes! We Have No Bananas” written by Frank Silver and Irving Cohn.  

You could listen to the Billy Jones version (play below), the Billy Murray version, a Yiddish version, or an Italian version, among others.

Yes! We Have No Bananas by Billy Jones from the 78rpm collection

Then you could have moved on to dancing the Charleston, popularized by the song of the same name from the 1923 musical “Runnin’ Wild.”   And with the explosion of recordings by African American musicians, you could also enjoy “Baby Won’t You Please Come Home” by Bessie Smith and “Dipper Mouth Blues” by Louis Armstrong.

Autogyro (1934)

In the news of the day you saw the first flight of an autogyro (the precursor to the helicopter).

Jack Dempsey defended his World Heavyweight Championship title against Tommy Gibbons and Luis Firpo.

And Howard Carter’s team finally entered the burial chamber of King Tutankhamen, as covered in books, sheet music and song

But why are we focusing on 1923? Because for the first time in 20 years, new works are entering the public domain in the United States (read more: 1, 2, 3). And those works were all published in, you guessed it, 1923.

Settle in with a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, a Butterfinger, or a refreshing Popsicle (all invented in 1923!) while you watch Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten CommandmentsThe White Sister starring Lillian Gish, or The Hunchback of Notre Dame starring Lon Chaney. Or any one of 50 other films available on archive.org from that year.

After your movie marathon, you can turn to your “new” reading materials to learn about sewing the latest women’s fashions, try an old recipe from a cook book (we recommend the Marshmallow Loaf), learn about theatrical lighting, construct yourself a bungalow (um, check the lastest building codes first), grab some sheet music, read up on Benito Mussolini, and learn “How You Can Keep Fit” from Rudolph Valentino (!).

Finally, settle in to read some Robert Frost, Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton, or Kahlil Gibran. And while you’re here, take a look at the 20,000 other texts we have available from 1923. 

We look forward to introducing you to 1924 NEXT January!

30 Days of Stuff

Jason Scott, free-range archivist, reporting in as 2017 draws to a close.

As part of our end-of-year fundraising drive, I thought it might be fun to tweet highlighted parts of the vast stacks of content that the Internet Archive makes available for free to millions. A lot of folks know about our Wayback Machine and its 20+ years of website history, but there’s petabytes of media and works available to see throughout the site. I called it “30 Days of Stuff”, and for the last 30 days I’ve been pointing out great items at the Archive, once a day.

You won’t have to swim upstream through my tweets; here on the last day, I’ve compiled the highlighted items in this entry. Enjoy these jewels in the Archive’s collection, a small sample of the wide range of items we provide.

Books and Texts

  • The Latch Key of my Bookhouse was one of the first books scanned by the Internet Archive in its book scanner tests, and it’s a 1921 directory of Children’s Literature that is filled with really nice illustrations that came out great.
  • As part of our ever-growing set of Defense Technical Information Center collection, we have The Role of the Citizens Band Radio Service and Travelers Information Stations In Civil Preparedness Emergencies Final Report, a 1978 overview of CB Radio and what role it might play in civil emergencies. Many thousands of taxpayer-funded educational and defense items are mirrored in this collection.
  • Also in the DTIC collection is The Battalion Commander’s Handbook 1980, which besides the crazy front page of stamps, approvals and sign-offs, is basically a manager’s handbook written from the point of view of the US Army.
  • There are hundreds of tractor manuals at the Archive. Hundreds! Of all types, languages (a lot of them Russian) and level of information. Tractors are one of those tools that can last generations and keeping the maintenance on them in the field can make a huge difference in livelihood.
  • A lovely 1904 catalog for plums called The Maynard Plum Catalogue was scanned in with one of our partner organizations and it’s a breathless and inspiring declaration of the future wonder of the plums this wizard of plum-growing, Luther Burbank, was bringing to the world.
  • Xerox Corporation released “A Metamorphosis of Creative Copying” in 1964, which seems to function as both promotion for Xerox and a weird gift to give to your kids to color in.
  • In 2014, a short zine called The Tao of Bitcoin was released, telling people the dream of $10,000 bitcoin would be real.
  • The 1888 chapbook Goody Two-Shoes has lovely illustrations, and a fine short story.
  • Working with a lovely couple who brought in a 1942 black-owned-businesses directory, I scanned the pages by hand and put them up into this item.
  • Inside that directory was an ad for a school of whistling that said it taught using the methods of Agnes Woodward, and a quick scan of the Archive’s stacks showed that we had an entire copy of her book Whistling as an Art!
  • The medical treatise Sleep and Its Derangements, from 1869, is William A. Hammond, MD’s overview of sleep, and what can go wrong. Scanned from the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, it’s one of many thousands of books we’ve scanned with partners.
  • Let Hartman Feather Your Nest could be described as “A furniture catalog” in the same way the Sistine Chapel could be described as “a place of worship”. The catalog is a thundering, fist-pounding declaration of the superiority of the Hartman enterprise and the quality and breadth of furniture and service that will arrive at your door and be backed up to the far reaches of time.

Magazines

  • Photoplay considered itself the magazine for the motion picture industry in the first part of the 20th century, and this multi-volume compilation of photos, articles and advertisements is a truly lovely overview.
  • There’s over 140 issues of the classic Maximum RockNRoll zine, truly the king of music zines for a very long time. On its newsprint pages are howls and screeches of all manner of punk, rock and the needs of musicians.
  • A magazine created by the Walt Disney Company to trumpet various parts of Disneyland and its attractions was called Vacationland, and this Fall 1965 issue covers all sorts of stuff about the park’s first decade.

Movies

  • Rescued from a warehouse years ago, a collection of Hollywood movie “B-Roll”, unused secondary scenes often filmed by different crew, has been digitized. My personal favorite is [Western Film Scenes], which is circa 1950s footage of a Western Town, all of it utterly fake but feeling weirdly real, to be used in a western. Don’t miss everyone standing around looking right at you and looking like they agree quite energetically with you!
  • No compilation could be complete without the legendary Duck and Cover, a cartoon/PSA that explained the simple ways to avoid injury in a nuclear blast. Just lie down! It’ll be fine. Please note: This Probably Won’t Work. But the song is very catchy.
  • The very weird Electric Film Format Acid Test from 1990 has a semi-interested model holding up a color bar plate in a wide, wide variety of film and video formats. Filmed just a few blocks away from the Internet Archive’s current headquarters.
  • I snuck in a 1992 interview with the Archive’s founder, Brewster Kahle, back when he was 33 and working at WAIS, a company or two before the Archive and where he is asked about his thoughts on information and gathering of data. It’s quite interesting to hear the consistency of thought.
  • The Office of War Information worked with Disney to create “Dental Health“, a film to show to troops about proper dental care. It’s a combination of straightforward animation and industrial film-making worth enjoying.

Audio

  • We have a collection of hours of the radio show The Shadow from 1938-1939, starring  Orson Welles at 23, at the height of his performance powers, playing the dual main role.
  • For Christmas Eve, we pointed to “Christmas Chopsticks”, a 1953 78rpm record of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” performed to the tune of the classic piano piece “Chopsticks”; one of tens of thousands of 78rpm records the Archive has been adding this year.
  • On Christmas, a user of the Archive uploaded two obscure albums he’d purchased on eBay – remnants of the S. S. Kresge Company, which became K-Mart, and which were played over the PA system for shoppers. He got his hands on Albums #261 and #294.
  • Earlier in the month before the user uploaded those Christmas albums, I linked to a different holiday collection of K-Mart items, a 1974 Reel-to-Reel that started with a K-Mart jingle and went full holiday from there.
  • Before he was a (retired) talk show host, and before he was a stand-up comedian, David Letterman worked and trained in radio. Happily, we have recordings of Dave Letterman, DJ, from when he was 22, at Ball State University.
  • Ron “Boogiemonster” Gerber has been hosting his weekly pop music recycling radio show, “Crap from the Past”, for over 25 years, and he’s been uploading and cataloging his show to the Archive for well over 10 of those years, including all the way back to the beginning of his show. The full Crap From The Past archive is up and is hundreds of hours of fun.
  • The truly weird “Conquer the Video Craze” is a 1982 record album with straightforward descriptions of how to beat games like Centipede, Defender, Stargate, Dig Dug, and more. This album has been sampled from by multiple DJs to bring that extra spice to a track.
  • Over 3,000 shows at the DNA Lounge are at the archive, including “Bootie: Gamer Night“, which combines mash-up tracks and video games. Bootie has been playing at DNA Lounge for years, and puts the audio from one song with the singing from another, and… it’s quite addicting, like games. This night was for the nearby Game Developers’ Conference being held the same week.

Software

  • In 2011, as part of a “retrocomputing” competition, we saw the release of “Paku-Paku”, a pac-clone program which ran in an obscure early PC-Compatible graphics mode that was very colorful and very small (160×100) and was built perfectly for it. You can play the game in your browser by clicking here.
  • Psion Chess is a game for the Macintosh that can play both you and itself with pretty high levels of skill and really sharp and crisp black and white graphics.  It makes a really great screensaver in self-playing mode.

People often overuse a phrase like “Barely scratched the surface”, but I assure you there are millions of amazing items in the archive, and it’s been a pleasure to bring some to light. While the 30 Days of Stuff was a fun way to stretch out a month of fundraising with stuff to see every day, we’re here 24/7 to bring you all these items, and welcome you finding jewels, gems and clunkers throughout our hard drives whenever you want.

Thanks for another year!

Dreaming of Semantic Audio Restoration at a Massive Scale

I believe we can do a fabulous job of bringing the music from the 78rpm era back to vibrant life if we really understand wear and if we could model the instruments and voices.

In other words, I believe we could reconstruct a performance by semantically modeling the noise and distortion we want to get rid of, as well as modeling the performer’s instruments.

To follow this reasoning—what if we knew we were examining a piano piece and knew what notes were being played on what kind of piano and exactly when and how hard for each note—we could take that information to make a reconstruction by playing it again and recording that version. This would be similar to what optical character recognition (OCR) does with images of pages with text—it knows the language and it figures out the words on the page and then makes a new page in a perfect font. In fact, with the OCR’ed text, you can change the font, make it bigger, and reflow the page to fit on a different device.

What if we OCR’ed the music? This might work well for the instrumental accompaniment, because then we would handle a voice, if any, differently. We could have a model of the singer’s voice based on not only this recording and other recordings of this song, but also all other recordings of that singer. With those models we could reconstruct the voice without any noise or distortion at all.

We would balance the reconstructed and the raw signals to maintain the subtle variations that make great performances.   This could also be done for context as sometimes digital filmmakers add in some scratched film effects.

So, there can be a wide variety of restoration tools if we make the jump into semantics and big data analysis.

The Great 78 Project will collect and digitize over 400,000 digitized 78rpm recordings to make them publicly available, creating a rich data set to do large scale analysis. These transfers are being done with four different styli shapes and sizes at the same time, and all recorded at 96KHz/24bit lossless samples, and in stereo (even though the records are in mono, this provides more information about the contours of the groove). This means each groove has 8 different high-resolution representations of every 11 microns. Furthermore, there are often multiple copies of the same recording that would have been stamped and used differently. So, modeling the wear on the record and using that to reconstruct what would have been on the master may be possible.

Many important records from the 20th century, such as jazz, blues, and ragtime, have only a few performers on each, so modeling those performers, instruments, and performances is quite possible.  Analyzing whole corpuses is now easier with modern computers, which can provide insights beyond restoration as well as understand playing techniques that are not commonly understood.

If we build full semantic models of instruments, performers, and pieces of music, we could even create virtual performances that never existed.  Imagine a jazz performer virtually playing a song that had not been written in their lifetime. We could have different musician combinations, or singers performing with different cadences. Areas for experimentation abound once we cross the threshold of full corpus analysis and semantic modeling.

We hope the technical work done on this project will have a far-reaching effect on a full media type since the Great 78 Project will digitize and hold a large percentage of all 78rpm records ever produced from 1908 to 1950.  Therefore, any techniques that are built upon these recordings can be used to restore many many records.

Please dive in and have fun with a great era of music and sound.

 

(we get a sample every 11microns when digitizing the outer rim of a 78rpm record at 96KHz.   And given we now have 8 different readings of that, with 24bit resolution, we hopefully can get a good idea of the groove.   There are optical techniques that are very cool, but those have their own issues, I am told

10″ * 3.14 = 31.4″ circumference = 80cm/revolution

@ 78rpm:  60 seconds/min / 78revolutions/minute = .77 seconds / revolution

80cm/rev   / (.77sec/rev)  = 104cm/sec

96Ksampes/sec

104cm/sec / (96ksamples/sec) = 11microns )