Locating online scores

Since the physical closure of McGill University and the Library in March, we have all been navigating new territory with regards to finding suitable and accessible resources for practice, performance, and research. One particular challenge that music students and faculty face is getting access to scores. However, there are several options available to the McGill community to locate online scores for perusal or even for printing. Here is a guide to some useful resources and websites beyond IMSLP and the Internet Archive. 

Online Score Collections (McGill community only) 

Classical Scores Library is a large collection of full, study, piano, and vocal scores and encompasses a wide range of classical music genres from the Medieval period to the 21st century. Scores can be viewed online, downloaded, and printed in full. You can access, for example, the study score of Mendelssohn’s op. 64 Violin Concerto, the full score of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, and a modern edition of Orlando di Lasso’s motet Videntes stellam Magi. Some editions even include individual parts for chamber music.

Browse by genre, time period, or composer, or use the Advanced Search function to search for specific works using keywords, opus number, instrumentation, or publisher.  


BabelScores is an excellent resource for exploring contemporary music. You can browse by instrument, genre, or composer, or use the Advanced Search function (under the Catalog tab), which can filter results by difficulty or the use of extended techniques. Once you have made your selection, you are provided with information about the work, the instrumentation, the full score (with an excellent zoom function and the ability to download a PDF), and a recording. You can even contact the composer by email! 


Publisher Websites (Open to the public) 

A number of music publishers offer access to online scores for perusal. You can create a free account on the Boosey & Hawkeswebsite and log in to view their selection of online scores.

Screenshot of the perusal score of Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians (1976) from Boosey & Hawkes Online Scores Collection. Source: https://www.boosey.com

Although there are fewer online scores available for historical composers such as Brahms, Mozart, and J.S. Bach, 20th and 21stcentury composers are well represented in their online catalogue, including Leonard Bernstein, Elliott Carter, Unsuk Chin, Elena Kats-Chernin, and Steve Reich. 

Universal Editionincludes complete perusal scores of a selection of works from their catalogue. The range of works available for online perusal is fairly wide. Here, for example, you can view scores by Gustav Mahler, Alfred Schnittke, Luciano Berio, and Victoria Borisova-Ollas. There are also audio samples of some works. Not every work in their catalogue includes a complete perusal score, however, and, unlike the Boosey & Hawkes website, there is no direct link to their complete online score collection. That being said, it is definitely worth checking their website to see if they include the perusal score for a particular workYou can browse their catalogue by composer, work, instrument or genre. 

Screenshot of the perusal score of Victoria Borisova-Ollas’s Golden Dances of the Pharaohs from Universal Edition. Source: https://www.universaledition.com

Another option for finding perusal scores is ScoresOnDemand, provided by members of Wise Music Group. Publishers include Chester Music, Novello & Co, G. Schirmer/AMP, Edition Wilhelm Hansen, and Unión Musical. There are more than 5,000 scores available for perusal. Locating a specific work proves challenging, however, because the search functionality is limited. Choosing the tab “Stacks” is helpful: it groups the scores by composer, thereby allowing you to scroll through a more manageable list. You can follow ScoresOnDemand, or particular “stacks”, and receive updates when new scores are added. 

Remember that Music Library staff are here to answer your questions and to assist you in finding the resources you need for your coursework, practice, performance, and research. Please contact a Music Library staff member and we will support your needs as best as we can.  


Introducing Arvind at the Marvin Duchow Music Library!

Did you know the Marvin Duchow Music Library has over 200,000 music scores, recordings, books, journals, and online resources? And that the Library has a computer room, a highly specialized environment for music and multimedia creation and editing, which is available primarily to students enrolled at the Schulich School of Music? These are just some of the many fascinating discoveries I uncovered while working at the Marvin Duchow Music Library (MDML).

Hello! My name is Arvind Krishendeholl. I am a second-year student studying Flute Performance and Political Science and I am very excited to join the MDML team as both a Student Navigator and a Special Projects Assistant! Both of my roles at the Library can be summarized in one mission statement: to raise awareness about the wide range of services available to students, staff, and faculty at McGill.

Working at the MDML has been an excellent opportunity for me to learn about the essential role libraries play in helping students achieve academic and performance success. Not only is the Library a quiet space for students to study, but the unique noise level organization wherein each floor has a different sound level also offers students the possibility to meet for group work and meetings.The Music Library also has a large collection of music scores and texts. The ability to access such a large quantity of materials is vital to my studies as a student at the Schulich School of Music.

Did you know that if the MDML does not hold a particular work you are looking for, it can be borrowed from another university through the Interlibrary Loan service? I recently ordered a work from Harvard!

The Library can be a very exciting place to work. Not only do I get great work experience in developing my knowledge of the Library, I also love interacting with students to ensure that their inquiries and requests are resolved.

If you see me organizing audio equipment at the 4th-floor service desk or taking pictures of books for our new social media accounts, be sure to say hello! I would love to speak to you and make sure your visit to the Music Library is an enjoyable one.

Arvind’s position is supported by the SSMU Library Improvement Fund (SSMU LIF) and the McGill Music Undergraduate Student Association (MUSA).

Clara Schumann (1819-1896)

Born on this day 200 years ago, Clara Schumann has moved slowly but decisively from the periphery to the centre of the music history canon, now included in music history survey courses alongside composers such as Chopin, Mendelssohn, and Robert Schumann of the Romantic generation. A brilliant virtuoso pianist, as famous in her day as Franz Liszt, she performed her own compositions in concert and premièred almost every composition with piano by her husband Robert. Clara’s relationship with Robert provided her with an intense, generous, and, at times, conflicting musical partnership. Even as she continued honing her compositional technique to produce several exceptional instrumental works, such as her op. 17 Piano Trio or her op. 22 Drei Romanzen, she expressed ambivalence about her own creations. Although she stopped composing after Robert’s death in 1856, she remained active as a musician for decades, maintaining a demanding performance and teaching schedule in order to provide for her seven surviving children and her grandchildren.

Clara Schumann, age 35. Daguerreotype by Franz Hanfstaengl (1854). Wikicommons.

Lithography of Clara Wieck by Andreas Staub, c. 1840. Wikicommons.

Through the work of many dedicated musicologists, music theorists, and performers, Clara Schumann’s legacy as a composer, pianist, editor, and pedagogue is emerging more clearly. Nancy Reich’s meticulous biography, which sensitively explores Schumann’s struggles and successes as a professional musician, remains a foundational text. Clara and Robert’s complete correspondence edited by Eva Weissweiler allows us to better understand the relationship between these two artists, their influence on one another, and their historical context. Julie Pedneault-Deslauriers and Michael Baker have recently published insightful analyses of Schumann’s compositions. Several new recordings have been released this year: Isata Kanneh-Mason’s debut album Romance is entirely devoted to Clara Schumann’s piano compositions, while Ragna Schirmer’s Madame Schumann reproduces two of Schumann’s concert programmes to provide a better sense of her presence as a concert pianist.

To celebrate Clara Schumann’s 200th birthday, we have curated a playlist on Naxos Music Library featuring some of her most cherished compositions.

Please note: Access to Naxos Music Library is restricted to the McGill community; be sure to authenticate using EZproxy or VPN when off-campus.

Barbara Strozzi @400

Celebrating the 400th anniversary of composer and singer Barbara Strozzi (1619-1677).

Resource obtained from Wikimedia Commons

Barbara Strozzi launched her career as a professional composer in 1644 with the publication of Il primo libro de madrigali a due, tre, quattro e cinque voci.

Strozzi, Barbara. Il primo libro de madrigali a due, tre, quattro e cinque voci. Stuttgart: Cornetto-Verlag, 2002. Marvin Duchow Music Library, M1549 S77 M3 2002

You can listen to a selection of Strozzi’s madrigals in Opera McGill’s 2019 performance of Francesca Caccini’s opera, La liberazione di Ruggiero dall’isola d’Alcina.

Moon Dreams

Fifty years ago, on July 20th, 1969, astronauts from the Apollo 11 mission captivated earthly onlookers as they landed on the moon. The event was famously televised, but did you know it was also captured for posterity on LP, narrated by Walter Cronkite?

CBS News. Man on the Moon. Narrated by Walter Cronkite. CBS Enterprises EL 161, [1969]. Audiovisual Archives, Marvin Duchow Music Library, McGill University

The moon, celestial bodies, and astronomical phenomena have long been topics of interest to musicians, composers, and theorists alike and we can find that on different websites thanks the updates from professionals in website design like the ones from bestwebsitehosting.ca. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, we wanted to share some moon-related items from our collection!

  • Haydn, Joseph. Il mondo della luna: dramma giocoso. Orchestre de chambre de Lausanne conducted by Antal Dorati. Philips 6769003, 1978, 4 LPs. Marvin Duchow Music Library, McGill University
  1. Haydn_luna
  2. Clair_de_lune
  3. Moon_dreams
  4. Epic
  5. Introduction_moon
  6. Ives
  7. Rusalka
  8. Fellini

Music also played an important role in early space missions. During their long voyage to the moon, the Apollo astronauts took comfort in listening to their favourite tunes, compiled into mixtapes by Mickey Kapp. You can listen to the Apollo 11 playlist here. What music would be on your playlist if you could travel to the moon?

Happy 4th of July!

Guest post by / Billet de blogue: Geneviève Beaudry

Did you know that the Marvin Duchow Music Library (MDML) holds many special collections?

Geneviève Beaudry, practicum student from l’École de bibliothéconomie et des sciences de l’information de l’Université de Montréal, and violinist with l’Orchestre des Grands Ballets Canadiens, is currently working on several archival projects at the MDML as part of the requirements of her graduate degree. It was very timely that today she came across this illustrated cover of sheet music titled National enblem march by E. E. Bagley. The piece was first published in 1906 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Item part of the Salon Sheet Music series of the Marvin Duchow Collection.


Saviez-vous que la bibliothèque Marvin Duchow (MDML) possède des collections d’archives?

Geneviève Beaudry, finissante à l’École de bibliothéconomie et des sciences de l’Information (Université de Montréal) et violoniste à l’Orchestre des Grands Ballets Canadiens, participe à de nombreux projets en archivistique chez nous cet été dans le cadre de son stage de fin d’études. Elle a déniché cette partition illustrée juste à temps! La pièce de E.E. Bagley, intitulée National emblem march, a été publiée pour la première fois en 1906 à Boston (Massachussetts).

Tiré de la série Salon Sheet Music de la Collection Marvin Duchow.

Women, Work, and Song in Nineteenth-Century France: new exhibition

The Marvin Duchow Music Library’s new exhibition, Women, Work, and Song in Nineteenth-Century France, explores women’s work and the cultural work about women in popular music, drawing on a selection of pieces from the Library’s 19th-Century French Sheet Music Collection.

Album 1842 de Melle L. Puget. Paris: J. Meissonnier, [1842].

Women contributed in important ways to the popular music industry in nineteenth-century France. They worked as composers, poets, and performers; they also hosted salons, directed theatres, and earned a living as pedagogues and publishers. The exhibition highlights women’s activities not only within the popular music industry but also more generally within French society, as women joined the workforce, participated in revolutions and armed conflicts, and supported the burgeoning women’s movement.



Les étudiantes: chanson-marche. Saint-Gilles & V. Damien (lyrics); Léopold Gangloff (music). Paris: F. Brondert, [1894].



The exhibition follows a chronological narrative, tracing the shift in genres, venues, and means of dissemination of French song over the course of the century. It begins on the third floor by considering the culture of music-making in salons in the early nineteenth century, and highlighting women’s compositions and performances of romances and other song genres. The fourth floor explores the development of the commercial entertainment industry in Paris in the second half of the century, with the café-concerts of the Second Empire and the music halls and cabarets of the Third Republic. A map of Paris along with illustrative material and songs from some of the more famous venues and performers help to acquaint the public with the atmosphere of the café-concerts and cabarets. The influence of the Parisian café-concert industry reached all the way to Montréal: the exhibition displays the rise and fall of Montréal’s Eldorado café-concert, and follows the Parisian cabaret star Yvette Guilbert on her tours to the city over a twenty-year period. The fifth floor analyzes the musical responses to the women’s movement in the final decades of the century, and investigates the instrumentalization of women’s images for ideological and political purposes.

La femme s’émancipe: chansonnette. Léo Lelièvre (lyrics); Gustave Dreyfus (music).Paris: F. Brondert, [1894].

The exhibition seeks to open new avenues of music research by asking compelling questions about the circulation, commercialization, and consumption of nineteenth-century popular music in France. In conjunction with the virtual exhibition, curated by Kathleen Hulley and Kimberly White in 2017, the exhibition provides access to a wide selection of nineteenth-century French popular songs, and supplies the public with an intellectual framework for understanding the various musical genres and the social issues at play in the music industry during the period. Commercial sheet music provides an exceptional window into experiences of daily life. Not only do many songs reflect on and respond to contemporary events and cultural concerns, but each piece of music also presents an opportunity to trace a complex network of agents who contributed to its creation, performance, and circulation.



Women, Work, and Song in Nineteenth-Century France opens November 8, 2018, and will run until June 2019. The exhibition is located on all three floors of the Marvin Duchow Music Library, Elizabeth Wirth Music Building, 527 Sherbrooke Street West (library entrance on the 3rd floor).

The Score’s the Thing: Humour and the Absurd in the Music of Brian Cherney: new exhibit

The Marvin Duchow Music Library’s latest exhibition entitled, The Score’s the Thing: Humour and the Absurd in the Music of Brian Cherney celebrates the Canadian composer Cherney’s recent 75th birthday and focuses on five theatrical pieces written over a thirty year span.

Three of the first four works (Tangents I, Group Portrait with Piano and Playing for Time), composed between 1975 and 1981, explore and expand upon several integrated and overlapping themes. Cherney examines, in various humourous and improbable ways, the influence of nineteenth-century Romantic music on late twentieth century performers and composers who share a love for its beauty but also must bear the weight of its unshakable influence. He also critiques classical music performance traditions and pokes fun at the absurd relationships between live performers and seemingly inanimate musical instruments.  The “irrational” and “ghostly” appearances of 19th century musical excerpts and the theatrical conjuring of the composers themselves reinforce expressions of anxiety and ambivalence. The fourth theatre piece from this period is born out of Cherney’s frustration with the lack of live and recorded performances of Canadian music.  In Trois petites pièces, the second movement joins together snippets of traditional music notation with a collage of 19th and early 20th century lithographic images thereby creating a score that is according to the composer, “so visually interesting that it doesn’t need to be played.”   Decades later, Cherney combines the fruits of these early theatrical and absurdist experiments in the 2009 piece entitled Brahms and the German Spirit.  In this extended and complex work he expands his examination of 19th century German high-art music and culture and contrasts it with Jewish musical traditions and history, culminating in the powerful imagery of the Holocaust.

We hope you will take the time to look carefully at the scores and read the small essays or captions (English, French, Yiddish) accompanying each work in the display cases facing the elevators and on the third floor wall north of the Library front entrance. For your convenience, there are also two video performances of Brahms and the German Spirit located on iPads in front of the complete score.

Phonomenal! Rare sides from the history of sound recording

The latest Marvin Duchow Music Library (McGill University) exhibit explores the history of recorded sound through its rare collection of 20th century recordings and related ephemera. Cylinder, shellac, and vinyl records with varying disc and groove sizes, speeds, composition materials, colours and uses offer insight into the evolution of the medium.

Recordings preserve the soundscapes of bygone eras but can also ensure a certain type of immortality. Nipper, the ubiquitous symbol of early commercial recording marketing, illustrates this point rather poignantly. Poised atop of what appears to be a wooden table, he is listening to sound or music through a gramophone. Upon further inspection, the table turns out to be a coffin and the only remaining evidence of Nipper’s master’s voice, is a recording.

Francis Barraud [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


And then there was sound…

Thomas Edison was the first inventor to successfully record and play back sound on a tinfoil-covered cylinder in 1878. After experimenting with materials and playback technology, Edison released the earliest commercially-available recordings on cylinders as early as the 1890s.

Blue Ameberol Cylinder

Blue celluloid with plaster of Paris core, 160 rpm, mono, 200 TPI (threads per inch), vertical cut.

Mr. Edison’s Message (In Morse) to the Telegraph Fraternity. Thomas Edison. Edison Blue Amberol Record, 1920, cylinder.

Audiovisual Archives Collection, Marvin Duchow Music Library



As Edison was working on the development of cylinders and phonographs, Emile Berliner was producing the first recordings on flat discs. The round flat disc would eventually dominate the market, and, as a result, Edison would cease production of his cylinders in 19291.

This 12 inch brown shellac record was released by Berliner Gram-o-phone Co. (Victor Talking Machine Company) circa 1907-1908. Note the use of brown shellac as opposed to the more common black colouring, showing early experiments with coloured discs. Also, this record is recorded on one side only, common to early 78 rpm recordings.


12 inch Brown Shellac Record

Brown shellac, 78 rpm, mono, coarse groove, lateral cut, one-sided.

In a Clock Store (Orth). Victor Orchestra. Walter B. Rogers. Berliner Gram-o-phone Co., Victor Talking Machine Company, 31618, ca. 1907-1908.

Audiovisual Archives Collection, Marvin Duchow Music Library




Lateral vs Vertical Grooves

Most discs are recorded with the stylus cutting lateral grooves (side to side), though some, such as Edison Diamond Discs, Pathé discs, and Muzak 16-inch discs have vertical, or” hill and dale” cut grooves (up and down). Edison Diamond Discs were not only produced using this type of groove modulation, but were also made to play at 80 rpm (revolutions per minute). Although 78 rpm would eventually become the standard, recording speeds varied considerably in the early days of commercial recordings. Also worth noting is the considerable thickness of the Edison Diamond Discs (6 mm as opposed to 2 mm for the average record).


10 inch Edison Diamond Disc Record

Condensite (resin varnish) with wood-flour based core, 80 rpm, mono, fine groove (150 TPI), vertical cut.

Kahn, Gus, Albert E. Short and Del Delbridge. Beside A Garden Wall. Mering, Constance. Edison Record, 11268, 1926.

Audiovisual Archives Collection, Marvin Duchow Music Library



Flexible Discs

There is seemingly no end to the variety of materials which have been used to record sound onto discs. Flexible discs were made with light and pliable materials in order to allow for ease of distribution, and, occasionally, production. Sold at newsstands in the 1930s, “Hit of the Week” cardboard records are early examples of commercially-available “flexible discs”. Vinyl “flexi discs”, such as this Reader’s Digest disc, were produced on thin sheets of vinyl, and inserted in publications such as books or magazines. Among the more unusual materials used to produce flexible discs were discarded X-rays, which were used to produce bootleg recordings of “forbidden” music in the Soviet Union during the Cold War, fittingly dubbed “bone music.”


10 inch Cardboard Record

Cardboard with Durium acetate resin coating, 78 rpm, mono, coarse groove, lateral cut, one-sided.

Vance, Howard. Old New England Moon. Phil Spitalny’s Music. Hit of the Week, 1082, 1930, record. Donaldson. Hello! Beautiful! Sam Lanin’s Dance Ensemble. Hit of the Week, 1136, 1931.

Audiovisual Archives Collection, Marvin Duchow Music Library


7 inch Flexi Disc

Flexible vinyl, 33 1/3 rpm, mono, microgroove, lateral cut, one-sided.

Selections from Country & Western Music Jamboree. Reader’s Digest, Park Lane Recordings, ca. 1960s.

Audiovisual Archives Collection,
Marvin Duchow Music Library


Coloured Records

Since the early days of commercial recording, record companies have used coloured discs (and cylinders) in order to gain a competitive edge in the market. While some used these discs to colour-code certain genres of music within their catalogues, others produced coloured discs for their visual impact alone. Produced during the Great Depression, blue shellac Columbia 78 rpm records were deployed to entice people to purchase recordings during difficult economic times. The purple 10 inch record shown here was issued by the Hot Jazz Club of America Record Company. Not only is the colour rather striking but this record was made at a time when formats and materials were changing. Therefore, not uncommonly so for a record of its time, this disc is made of vinyl, but recorded at 78 rpm.


12 inch Blue Shellac Record

Record Blue Shellac, 78 rpm, mono, coarse groove, lateral cut.

Milhaud, Darius. La Création du Monde. Darius Milhaud and Symphony Orchestra. Columbia, 68094-D, early to mid-1930s.

Audiovisual Archives Collection, Marvin Duchow Music Library




10 inch Purple Vinyl Record

Purple vinyl, 78 rpm, mono, coarse groove, lateral cut.

Morton, Jelly Roll. Smoke House Blues. Jelly Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers. Hot Jazz Club of America, HC 48, recorded 1926, reissued late 1940s.

Audiovisual Archives Collection, Marvin Duchow Music Library



This 16 inch Muzak record stands out not only due to its colour, but also its size. The larger disc surface allowed for music to be played continuously for a longer period of time. The 16 inch format was adopted by radio broadcasters for this very reason. Muzak’s catalogue was colour-coded by genre, “provid[ing] a “red” service featuring dance music and a “purple” service of light concert music.”2 When RCA Victor launched the first 45 rpms discs they also used coloured vinyl to differentiate the various genres in their catalogue: “red for classical, midnight blue for light classics, green for county-western, yellow for children’s music, sky blue for international, and cerise (orange) for R&B.”3


16 inch Red Vinyl LP Record 

Red vinyl, 33 1/3 rpm, mono, coarse groove, vertical cut.

Bill McCune and His Orchestra. Muzak Corporation, W-803, ca. 1950s.

Audiovisual Archives Collection, Marvin Duchow Music Library




7 inch Coloured Vinyl 45 RPM Records

Vinyl, 45 rpm, mono, microgroove, lateral cut.


Symington, Williamson, and Kolgan. When the Ice Worms Nest Again. Wilf Carter and the Calgary Stampeders. RCA Victor, 48- 0139, 1949.

Wieniawski, Henryk. Concerto No.2 in D Minor, Op. 22. The Robin Hood Dell Orchestra of Philadelphia. Mischa Elman. Alexander Hilsberg. RCA Victor, 49-3128, ca. 1949-1951.

Kalitka (At the Garden Gate). Emery Deutsch and his Gypsy Orchestra. RCA Victor, 51-0025, ca. 1949-1951.

Audiovisual Archives Collection, Marvin Duchow Music Library


Picture Discs and Vogue Picture Records

Picture discs feature images on the grooved part of the record, for aesthetic appeal. One short-lived and relatively early example of this are Vogue picture records which were produced from 1946 to 1947 by Sav-Way Industries. Noted for their artist-rendered illustrations, “Vogue picture records were sold individually, as well as in albums containing two records (…). [They] were of a very high quality, with little surface noise. The records were produced using a complicated process whereby a central core aluminum disc was sandwiched between the paper illustrations and vinyl.”4


10 inch Vogue Picture Record

Vinyl coating, paper illustration on aluminum core, 78 rpm, mono, coarse groove, lateral cut.

McCarthy, Tierney. Alice Blue Gown. The Hour of Charm All Girl Orchestra under the direction of Phil Spitalny featuring Evelyn and her Violin. Sav-Way Industries, R725, 1947.

From the private collection
of Cynthia Leive



Instantaneous Recordings

In parallel to the development of commercial recordings, home and “one-off” recordings were made increasingly accessible due to the development of portable disc-cutting lathes which allowed users to produce instantaneous discs. Although these types of recordings were most commonly made on lacquer discs, a number of other materials were used including aluminum. Given their composition, lacquer discs have a high risk of deterioration. Discs were often made by coating a fiber, metal or glass substrate with nitrocellulose. Over time, the castor oil used in the composition of the nitrocellulose coating could leach out, potentially causing a white film of palmitic acid to form on the record, and/or causing the record to delaminate5. Also of interest is the starting point of the playback. This record is to be played from the inside outward and can be found in both commercial and private recordings, though it is not nearly as common as the habitual outside start.

This 10 inch transcription disc was produced as a “one-off” recording by the National Recording and Producing Co., located in the Willis Building (on the corner of St. Catherine and Drummond Streets), a former piano manufacturing plant in Montreal, Quebec.


10 inch Transcription Disc

Lacquer disc with metal substrate, 78 rpm, mono, coarse groove, lateral cut, inside start.

Narration. National Recording and Producing Co., ca. 1940-50s.

Audiovisual Archives Collection, Marvin Duchow Music Library




Phonomenal! Rare sides from the history of sound recording is located at the entrance of the Marvin Duchow Music Library, 527 Sherbrooke Street West, 3rd floor.



1 Edison Blue Amberol Cylinders (1912–1929).” UCSB Cylinder Audio Archive. Accessed February 24, 2017. http://cylinders.library.ucsb.edu/history-blueamberol.php

2 Morton, David. Off The Record (New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2000), 175.

3 Granata, Charles L. ―The Battle for the Vinyl Frontier. In 45 RPM: A Visual History of the Seven-Inch Record edited by Spenser Drate, 9. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2002.

4 “What’s a Vogue Picture Record?” The Association of Vogue Picture Record Collectors. Accessed February 13, 2017. http://www.voguepicturerecords.org/records.html

5 “Electric Transcription Discs” The Audio Archive. Accessed March 22, 2017. http://www.theaudioarchive.com/TAA_Resources_Disc_Transcription.htm

50th Conference of the Association of Recorded Sound Collections: Recorded Sound in the Twenty-First Century: Preserving, Collecting, Collaborating, Connecting.

For a few days in May, as spring was just beginning to show its colours in Montreal, I had the pleasure and honour of attending the 50th Association of Recorded Sound Collections’ (ARSC) Conference as well as the pre-conference workshops held from May 10th to the 14th at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.

Indiana University, Bloomington Campus at Night

Indiana University, Bloomington campus at dusk

As reflected in this year’s theme, Recorded Sound in the Twenty-First Century: Preserving, Collecting, Collaborating, Connecting, the conference and workshops brought together industry professionals, librarians, archivists, record collectors and audio enthusiasts to share their knowledge and expertise on a variety of subjects from preservation, restoration, copyright, as well as media and cultural research on a range of musical genres.

The pre-conference workshops served as a primer for the topics which were to be addressed during the week’s conference sessions. Over the course of two busy days, we were invited to participate in a variety of workshops which enabled us to get hands-on experience, as well as an overview of theoretical considerations regarding many aspects of media preservation including phonograph disk playback and digitization, phonograph disc equipment setup and alignment, managing media digitization workflows, open-reel tape machine setup and alignment, open-reel tape playback and digitization, as well as video formats, file types and best practices. These workshops were provided by staff members from MDPI (Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative) at Indiana University and Memnon (a division of Sony, working in partnership with MDPI).

The three-day ARSC conference covered a wide range of topics from historical perspectives on sound recordings to metadata, digitization, emerging technologies, archival practices (from small to large archives, crowd-sourced to institution-based), restoration, preservation and accessibility. A number of the presenters hailed from academic and governmental institutions including the Library of Congress, Indiana University, University of Louisville, Library and Archives Canada, and Rutgers University, as well as a few private firms dealing with media restoration and preservation such as Richard L. Hess Audio Tape Restoration, George Blood Audio, and Meyer Media.

Other highlights from the week included tours of The William and Gayle Cook Music Library at Indiana University, the Archives of Traditional Music (including the Hoagy Carmichael Room), and the MDPI and Memnon facilities.

This year marked the 50th anniversary of ARSC, and, in conjunction with this, a new collective of Women in Recorded Sound was created to unite women working and sharing an interest in recorded sound, whether as archivists, librarians, collectors or general enthusiasts. TWomen in Recorded Soundhe kickoff meeting was held at Nick’s English Hut in Bloomington on Friday, May 13th, and was attended by close to 50 members! This welcome initiative was launched by Maya Lerman, Archivist at American Folklife Center, Library of Congress and Sandy Rodriguez, ‎Digital Special Collections Coordinator, University of Missouri-Kansas City. More information about the Women in Recorded Sound collective is available on the official Twitter page and Facebook group.

A number of social activities were planned during the week, including An Evening at the IU Cinema, also held on Friday the 13th, which was hosted by Rachael Stoeltje (Indiana University) and Matt Barton (Library of Congress). Over the course of the evening, we were treated to a carefully curated selection of films from the IU and LOC vaults. The evening began with Edison “Kinetophone” films from circa 1913. According to Matt Barton, Recorded Sound Curator at the Library of Congress, the Kinetophone films and oversized Edison Blue Amberol cylinders (on which the soundtracks were recorded) were digitized and synchronised before being output to ProRes video for the screening. This impressive restoration was made possible by George Willieman (nitrate film curator at Library of Congress) in collaboration with Gerry Fabris at the Edison site. The evening came to a close (quite appropriately given the date) with a screening of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” on pristine Technicolor 35mm film!

In all, the week was rich in both content and presenters and was made even more memorable by the generosity of spirit of ARSC’s members. Not only were they willing to openly share their knowledge and insight, but they were also eager to engage ARSC newbies such as this archivist in conversation and give us a very warm welcome. And for that, I am truly grateful.