My expectations for this course were mainly to gather information about the latest programs and working methods in safeguarding and digitally preserving sheet music for the future. The SABC Music Library where I work is a fairly small library which was started as supporting library for the National Symphony Orchestra of South Africa. We house approximately 24 000 different music scores which include orchestral scores and vocal scores as well as choral music and chamber music. At present we have no permanent orchestra at the SABC and the scores and orchestral instruments are hired out to professional orchestras and musicians.
Some of these unique and valuable scores are becoming very old and worn and the ideal would be to digitally scan and preserve them for the future. A digitisation development program is in progress at the SABC and I felt sure that I would obtain some valuable information regarding the subject at this course.
On the first day of the workshop I met some of the university personnel, the two teachers, Jürgen Diet from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek and Silke Sewing from the Deutsches Musikarchiv of the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek and my fellow students. We were 9 course attendants from 9 different countries – Canada, Dominican Republic, Poland, Estonia, Croatia, Finland, Germany, Kenya and South Africa. Because the workshop was presented in English, language didn’t present a problem and we got along easily from the start. With all of us coming from music, library or information science backgrounds, it was soon apparent that we had similar interests, problems and questions regarding the digitising of print and sound collections.
Within the first couple of days’ classes I came to realize that, even in today’s technological environment, the safest way to preserve information is probably to have a properly published and preserved hard copy or book which is stored in ideal conditions. Similarly, vinyl or shellac discs or records in a pristine state and kept under ideal conditions still seem to be the best way to preserve sound recordings. The current problem is similar in all mediums - software incompatibility and the speed with which computer and other technology is developing are becoming their own enemy, as equipment and media become obsolete or unusable. Jürgen Diet quoted the following tongue-in-the-cheek saying from the digital library environment: “Digital documents last for five years or forever, whichever comes first.”
Herr Diet presented the first few days’ classes. Because he comes from a computer science background and is a musician himself, he was well qualified to introduce us to MusicXML, Parsons code, SharpEye software (making use of OMR – Optical Mark Recognition) and composition and notation programs such as Finale and Sibelius. He dealt with digital music formats including uncompressed audio formats such as AIFF, WAV and BWF, and compressed audio formats such as mp3, AAC and WMA as well as image formats for sheet music and music manuscripts. Entity-relationship modelling, FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records) and digital projects such as Probado and Variations2 and Variations3 were discussed in detail.
We were given practical exercises for every chapter of work finished, which meant that we could immediately obtain experience in working with some of the concepts and programs introduced. He also presented lectures on the Bavarian State Library, the audio material in Europeana, ViFaMusik and mentioned the plans to integrate RISM (Repertoire International des Sources Musicales) and Probado with ViFaMusik, and the Nestor competence (Network of Expertise in long-term STOrage of digital Resources).
After Wednesday morning’s classes, we strolled through the Schlossgarten and down the ‘Culture Mile’ of Stuttgart, past the Opera House to the impressive and modern State University of Music and Performing Arts where we enjoyed a hearty lunch before tackling the Stadtbücherei Stuttgart.
Shelves in the Stuttgart City Library
What I found interesting at the City Library is the fact that music scores, books and cd’s are not separated, but actually kept right next to each other, as can be seen from the photograph above. This makes it easier to find for example a music score together with sound recordings of the same work, as well as books about the same work or composer. Their on-line catalogue is supported by Bond Library systems and software. Members can take out up to fifty items at a time for a very reasonable annual membership fee. Their collection is at present already too big for the current accommodation but a new library is being built (close to the Stuttgart Media University) and should be completed by 2011. The library personnel members are excited and very involved in planning the layout of the new library.
Next on our list was the Württembergische Landesbibliothek or State Library Stuttgart, also on Konrad Adenauerstrasse. This is a legal deposit library which means that by law, the library must receive two copies of every work that is published or released in Baden-Württemburg. Legal deposit libraries therefore receive a large amount of material every week which needs to be classified and catalogued.
The pages are photographed …
and saved to computer.
Another fascinating machine is the line scanner below, called a “Grazer Kameratisch", which automatically turns the pages of the book once they have been scanned, thus also minimising physical handling and the risk of damage to old and delicate books.
Scanner at the State Library
Silke Sewing started with her presentations on Thursday. She dealt with the difficulties in digitising and preserving sound, discussing Edison cylinders, Berliner discs, shellac and vinyl discs and the problematic cd-family (including DVD-Audio and Blu-ray discs). A part of the work program consisted of studying and discussing the IASA guidelines. Other subjects presented by Ms Sewing included long-term preservation, metadata and persistent identifiers, PREMIS and Dublin Core, the Theseus-Projects Contentus and Alexandria as well as a license model from Denmark. Also the XML Schema METS (Metadata Encoding and Transmission Standard)
An interesting aspect for me was the project being developed in Switzerland called VisualAudio whereby audio discs can be photographed by a special camera. The films/photos can then be stored as digitised images which could be transformed back into sound.
Shellac discs can also be played with a laser beam, but the playback equipment is very expensive and the sound is very bad, as the laser picks up dust and every little imperfection.
Ms Sewing also gave two of our colleagues a chance to tell us something about their work and projects – Tiina Tollonen from the Oulu University of Applied Sciences in Finland talked about the university’s digital score library “Notelibrary” and “eConcerthouse”, and Polina Proutskova who is completing her doctorate in ethnomusicology in England spoke about her field research into rural Russian folk-music.
The workshop was not all work and no play, however. Amongst other memorable occasions we went out to a Schwäbische restaurant in Stuttgart to have typical Maultaschen, Rostbraten and Käsespätzle. We also met at a lovely small Greek restaurant to enjoy some superb Greek food and good company. This gave us time to get to know each other, to share some experiences and for some lively discussions!
The best outing was on the Friday night –we were invited by Professor Simon to a cheese and wine farewell party at her house, and we went up the mountain by zahnrad (an electric rack railway). This railway, which is affectionately called Zacke by Stuttgart residents, runs from the Marienplatz in town up to Degerloch, along the Alte Weinsteige. It climbs a height of 205 m and afforded us a lovely view of Stuttgart by night.
There was also just enough time to visit the Frühlingsfest at Cannstadt and for a quick walk and lunch in Leinfelden-Echterdingen. My visit to Germany was complete with a visit to the nearby university town of Tübingen with its little shops and the lovely Neckar river.
When I arrived at Stuttgart airport to return to South Africa, my flight to Paris had been cancelled because of the Eyjafjallajokul volcano in Iceland! I therefore had an extra night in Stuttgart and was fortunate to fly back to South Africa via Schiphol and landed in Johannesburg only 12 hours later than originally planned. I was totally overwhelmed by all I experienced but very grateful for the chance to have been in Stuttgart
to attend this workshop.
Neckar river in TübingenPlease find some useful links below:
Stuttgart Media University http://www.hdm-stuttgart.de/bi/startseite
Münchener Digitalisierungszentrum http://www.digital-collections.de/index.html
Report by Suzette Lombard, Principal Music Librarian, SABC Music Library