Month of February, 2010

Archive of Macedonian folk music

I'm intrigued by this new domain of Macedonian folk songs, which was reported in Global Voices Online. Two things catch my eye about this article. First, the collector Zoran Stalevski's attitude towards the official archives of the Macedonian state:

"I actually do not need financial contributions, because publishing online is not very expensive. But the project can really benefit from more audio files, especially of rare songs, which are almost impossible to find via regular channels. There’s a great need to digitize the audio/video archives of the Macedonian Radio & Television, which hides an invaluable treasury, rotting in the cellars of that black hole of a “public broadcaster.” Probably some of those rare materials have been appropriated by some ethnologists or collectors – people I cannot easily reach."

From what I understand about digital archives, the problems for large collections are primarily those of labor--who will load in all this material--and what sampling rates to archive at. I know that our archive at CU, for instance, digitized its collection of reel to reel tapes less than 10 years ago, and that we'll have to do it again now that that it's possible to get better transfer sound quality. This is the project of our generation - forcing large public institutions to make their collections (most of which are very inaccessable to the public.

The second is to figure out ways to digitally preserve their holdings of recordings, and how to responsibly share these sounds. The files of this new domain are full songs but encoded at 32kbps because "This is enough to hear the song or “to have it,” but no audiophile or folk music lover would be satisfied with such low quality." This is not the solution the problem of copyright and archiving, but it is a good workaround for bad copyright law. Private collectors have quirky and selective taste, but their archives are an invaluable resource (J.J. Sullivan's article about John Fahey's archive of the mind/body in last years Best Music Writing is a great example, RIP Fahey) that need to have some rights to publish their holdings for public use.