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Heyser Lecture

Last Updated: 20070419, mei

Saturday, May 5, 13:30 — 14:00

Invited Paper

-1 Sound Archiving—A Challenge for the Audio Engineering Society [Invited Paper]Dietrich Schüller, Austrian Academy of Sciences - Vienna, Austria
In the course of the past 20 years, issues related to sound archiving and restoration have increasingly conquered a stable position at AES conventions. These issues are also permanently dealt with and further developed by the respective groups within the AES Technical and Standards Committees. In 2001, the 20th AES Conference held in Budapest was devoted to Archiving, Restoration, and New Methods of Recording.

The world’s first sound archive, the Phonogrammarchiv, was founded in 1899 by the then Imperial Academy of Sciences, and that, inter alia, may be one of the reasons why the Vienna AES Convention has made “Archiving” one of its main topics.

This paper will introduce to a full afternoon of specialized presentations, reminding us that, at the cradle of sound recording, nobody would have imagined a recording and entertaining industry which today serves one of the greatest markets of the world. Sound recording was the result of scientific interest predominantly aimed at studying the nature of spoken language. And it was scholars—linguists, anthropologists, and musicologists—who systematically employed sound recording technology from its very beginning. Consequently, the academic world played a key role in founding sound archives from around 1900 onward, and the longevity of sound recordings was given special emphasis, specifically in the archives of Vienna and Berlin. The emerging phonographic industry, however, shaped the development of sound recording technology since that time; yet the permanence of the record that once had attracted the scholarly world was not among the driving forces, particularly not in the development of magnetic tape recording. Only in the late 1950s, when libraries had already been collecting sound recordings as significant cultural sources on a greater scale, did preservation start to become an issue. Today, the world-wide holdings of audio recordings are estimated to amount to some 100 million hours, many of them still on analog or digital single carriers, which sooner or later are prone to decay. Current thinking suggests, however, that obsolescence of replay equipment is an even greater threat to the long-term survival of the audio heritage.

This constitutes substantial challenges to AES, of which the greatest may be: while little can be done to counteract the present terrifying speed of withdrawal from the manufacture of replay equipment and spare parts, how can we maintain the knowledge and the skills needed for the maintenance of equipment and for the optimal retrieval of signals from our audio documents?