Information Bulletin no. 27, October 1998

IASA Website address change

The IASA url was changed (simplified) recently to:

If you try to reach it using the old url, access will be redirected automatically to the new address.

The websites of eighteen IASA members are now linked to this page and the site is host to a growing network of links to useful audiovisual sites around the world. If your institution has recently installed a website, be sure to let the Editor know.

IASA General Secretary contact

Following the merger of Südwestfunk and Süddeutscher Rundfunk as Suedwestrundfunk, area codes for the phone and fax numbers have been amalgamated. Here are the new telephone and fax numbers for IASA General Secretary Albrecht Haefner:

phone +49 7721 929 3487
fax +49 7221 929 2094

Likewise, the domain of his e-mail address has changed:

Inger Kielland retires

Inger Kielland wrote to say that she will be retiring in September from her job at Norsk Rikskringkasting Oslo "being old enough to get money doing that, and young enough to wonder whether there is a life outside the walls of this beloved organisation". We wish her well in her retirement.

Marit Hamre, head of the Record Library in Programservice Oslo, will be the IASA contact person from October 1st 1998 (e-mail Meanwhile Inger’s old job will be kept vacant for the rest of the year, to save money...

Rotterdam archive change

The Gemeentelijke Archiefdienst Rotterdam has recently changed its name and address to:

Gemeentearchief Rotterdam
Hofdijk 651 (visiting address)
Postbus 71 (postal address)
NL-3000 AB Rotterdam

Studio manager Aad van der Struijs can be contacted at:

tel. +31 10 2434 591
fax +31 10 2434 666

New members

IASA welcomes to two new full individual members:

Lluis Ubeda Rueralt, Santa Llucia 1, 08002 Barcelona, Spain, who works in the Department de Fonts Orals of the Arxiu Históric de la Ciutat, Ajuntament de Barcelona (Oral history collections, Barcelona City Archives) and Mrs. P.V. Bharathi Nambair, PO Box 1227, Ruwi, Code 112, Sultanate of Oman, who is an ethnomusicologist currently undertaking a comparative study of folk music in Oman and the Malabar Coast.

Welcome also to RTI (Record Technology Inc), 486 Dawson Drive, Camarillo, CA 93012-8090, U.S.A. as an Associate Institutional member. The contact is Don MacInnis, fax 00 805 987 0508.

IASA Awards research grant

The IASA Executive Board has recently awarded a research grant worth £2,000 ($3360) to a survey project known as Archiving the Music World. Archiving the Music World is a joint project of the International Music Collection at the British Library National Sound Archive (NSA), and Music for Change. (Music for Change is a new organisation which aims to support community music projects throughout the world, and to use music to promote respect and understanding of different cultures and people. It works with partner organisations in the UK and overseas, including Amnesty International, Christian Aid, Voluntary Service Overseas and the World Music Network.)

NSA Curator Dr Janet Topp-Fargion writes:

"Sound archives are a relatively new and in many cases unknown phenomenon in Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America and parts of Asia. Due to the wide range of social and political changes in all of these regions throughout the 20th century, there has appeared a desire to preserve tradition. This project is a first step in responding to the new demand.

Some archives are well financed and structured, others are very small, with little or no budget, and are run on a voluntary basis. The benefits of sound archives in developing countries are the same as those in the West - the preservation of unique music, educational value and places to gain inspiration - but they also have to tackle a number of different problems. Many archives (which are not always labelled as such, often being housed in radio stations, universities, and with record companies or with individuals) suffer from lack of monetary support, basic equipment and materials, and sufficient expertise. This can lead to deterioration and loss of recordings. Knowledge of the extent and content of sound recording collections in developing countries is limited, as no substantial research has been carried out to document them. This is the starting point of the Archiving the Music World project.

The project aims to compile a database of collections of recorded music throughout the world, to highlight their existence, condition, status, accessibility, and plans for their preservation. It will focus particularly on countries where resources and expertise are scarce, and existing collections are in danger of being lost.

By drawing on the International Music Collection’s (IMC) own world-wide network of contacts and linking with members of IASA, the Society for Ethnomusicology, and the International Council for Traditional Music, it will look beyond collections in established institutions such as archives, libraries and other repositories.

The project would potentially feed into established programmes such as UNESCO’s Memory of the World which aims "to guard against collective amnesia calling upon the preservation of the valuable archive holdings and library collections all over the world ensuring their wide dissemination". It also feeds into the broader aim of raising the profile of music recordings as documentary heritage within the "owning" countries to encourage local policy-making as regards their long-term preservation.

Using questionnaires and other data collection methods, the project will document recorded music collections and sound archives on a database and in a printed publication, thereby providing the first comprehensive source of such information. It will include the archives’ contact details, resources, accessibility, funding mechanisms, users, aims and policies, and needs. This stage of the project will take 6 months and will run from July to December 1998.

The information will be essential for ethnomusicologists, universities, sound archives and music students world-wide. It will also be beneficial for citizens of the relevant countries. It will broaden knowledge of the world-wide use and structure of sound archives, that will hopefully stimulate further research and investigation. It will help create a dialogue between institutions and encourage the sharing of information. Finally, sufficient knowledge will allow organisations to assist each other across the world, through advice, contacts and practical assistance.

Through the project, IASA will establish contact with a broad range of international bodies, individuals and resources, and where appropriate will enter into exchange programmes which will raise their profile in countries around the world, thus potentially extending membership. The report will be of use to IASA in developing strategies for the preservation of recordings in developing countries feeding into IASA’s outreach programmes."

IBM Germany : IASA sponsorship first

For the first time in the history of IASA, a company has agreed to the business of IASA. IBM Germany have donated an IBM ThinkPad 770 to the Association. On behalf of IASA, the Secretary-General was the happy person who received the generous donation from Bernd-Peter Hamels, Head of IBM’s Germany Media Division leading in digital mass storage systems. People working in a IASA project where this mobile computer can be profitably used please contact the Secretary-General (

New design for publications

Following the success of the design for IASA’s new leaflet, I have asked the British Library Design Office to transfer elements of that design to other IASA publications. I aim to display the new designs at the Paris Conference with a view to incorporating them in the next issues of this Bulletin, the Journal and the Directory.

Please note that IASA Journal no.12 will not be appearing until January. This is because the Annual Conference is much later in the year than usual and the Journal which follows it traditionally features papers and Conference business in its pages.

Medium term corporate plan for IASA

The IASA Executive Board has asked for this plan to be made available to the members ahead of the Paris Conference. The Board urges you to consider this plan before the Paris Conference and to make your views known during the Conference or directly to the Secretary-General.

The purpose of this document is to give a critical overview of the Association’s current state and an assessment of its future, focusing in detail on the following areas:

1. Purposes and aims
2. Financial resources
3. Organisational situation
4. The work of IASA

As a result, a medium-term working plan for the term 1997-1999 has been drawn up to support the Executive Board in the management of the Association.

IASA is a relatively small organisation with about 350 members from almost 50 countries. All activities within IASA require voluntary contributions by the elected officers and other willing members; there is no payment involved, neither to the individual officer nor to his/her parental institution.

1. Purposes, aims and objectives of IASA
According to the Constitution, the purposes of the Association are:

A. To strengthen the bonds of co-operation between archives and other institutions which preserve sound and audiovisual documents.
B. To initiate and encourage activities that develop and improve the organisation, administration and contents of recorded sound and audio- visual collections, and, in pursuance of these aims, to co-operate with other organisations in related fields.
C. To study all techniques relevant to the work of sound and audiovisual archives and other institutions which preserve these documents, and to disseminate the results of such study on an international scale.
D. To encourage, on an international level, the exchange of sound and audio- visual documents and of literature and information relating to these documents.
E. To stimulate and further by every means the preservation, documentation and dissemination of all recorded sound and audiovisual collections.

For the time being, the Board does not see any need to change the purposes, aims and objectives as laid down in the Constitution. The transposition into practice, however, needs to be intensified and carried out more energetically as well as the realization of the modification of the Constitution as adopted by the membership by postal ballot in December 1995.

A. Co-operation between archives should be intensified by:

  • exchange of know-how, knowledge, experience and information

  • exchange of staff (management as well as basic)

  • offering training places for guest students, probationers etc.

  • offering research capacity (free of charge, if possible)

  • offering research subjects (free of charge, if possible)

B. Initiation and encouragement of activities should be increased by

  • offering research grants, with assistance from the ‘richer’ members/large institutions for scientific work (diplomas, doctorate theses, etc.) supporting and furthering research by publishing, dissemination etc.

  • carrying out research projects

  • arranging and organizing national or regional exhibitions, workshops, seminars etc.

C. Selection of study objects, dissemination of results should be enhanced by

  • translation into English, if necessary, and make them available

  • use of the internet

D. Exchange of sound and audiovisual documents ... Regarding the purposes and aims of archives we have generally to consider whether it makes sense to collect material without putting due emphasis on re-use and exploitation. Probably, re-use and exploitation will, in the future, more and more be the justification for an archive’s existence. Hence, all measures which are useful for this purpose should be reinforced, such as:

  • facilitation of the mutual retrieval in archive holdings between members

  • facilitation of copyright clearance between members

  • use of all technical possibilities for the exchange of material between members

E. Stimulation and furthering the preservation and documentation of all sound and audiovisual collections should be increased, e.g., by

  • expertise submitted by the association or by members

  • co-operation of members as experts in/with organisations other than IASA

The implications and consequences of the constitutional change to include audiovisual materials have to be accommodated. IASA should try to make up for the lack of audiovisual experience. IASA must therefore:

  • agree a definition of ‘audiovisual’

  • identify members who are willing to focus on AV matters

  • gain new members who are AV practitioners

  • co-operate with institutions experienced in the AV field

  • deal with AV issues and matters by studying them, e.g. by internal or external working groups, seminars, exhibitions etc.

  • disseminate/publish results of IASA’s AV engagement

2. Financial resources
IASA is completely funded by membership dues. The only regular expenditure is on the printing costs of the IASA Journal and the IASA Information Bulletin. All work is carried out voluntarily. For some Board officers IASA pays travel costs associated with Board meetings and conferences. IASA also awards travel and research grants as resources permit.

IASA cannot afford extra expenditure on such items as fees for external speakers or costs of interpreters during a conference, travel expenses to send members officially to interesting meetings, training fees (to mention but a few). Therefore, IASA should explore the possibility of actively seeking sponsors. A distinction must be made between:

  • national/local sponsorship for e.g. organizing a conference, paying for a reception or supporting an exhibition

  • regional/international commercial sponsoring for the Association’s work

  • IASA itself as a possible sponsor

3. Organisation and officers
IASA has at present six committees, some of them being based on archive types such as

  • National Archives Committee

  • National Branches and Affiliated Organisations Committee

  • Radio Sound Archives Committee

others being function-based such as

  • Cataloguing and Documentation Committee

  • Discography Committee

  • Technical Committee

The formation and dissolution of a committee is decided by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Executive Board. Officers of the committees (chairpersons, secretaries) are elected within the committees. The committees exclusively decide, without any influence of the Executive Board, on the objects and tasks they deal with.

The committee structure of the Association needs to be revised. The number of the function- based committees should be reduced to those actually involved of necessity in permanent and ongoing development. Working/study/project groups, with the aim of a precise task to be performed in a fixed period, could be founded as a substitute or a replacement for dissolved committees. Those committees based upon archive types should therefore be organised as sections in order to distinguish them from the function-based committees.

The membership elects an Executive Board consisting of eight officers. As mentioned under (1) above, the work of these officers is voluntary. Among the officers, it is, above all, the Secretary-General, but also the President, the Editor and the Treasurer who have to spend a lot of hours every week just to keep the Association running. With the current structure, there is really not enough time for them to increase involvement, to develop improvements, to try to find sponsors, to keep continuous contact with international and/or regional bodies such as UNESCO or EC or to actively recruit new members. As a consequence, a lot of basic tasks which a professional association should deal with in order to spread its international standing, to enlarge its activities and to expand its organisation, such as advertising, sponsorship, public relations, recruitment, conference structures, etc., have been neglected; there was not any assigned responsibility within the Executive Board.

Whilst the Secretary-General, the Editor and the Treasurer have their responsibilities based upon the Constitution, there are no such assignments for the President, the Past President and the three Vice Presidents. A distribution of responsibilities to all Board members has therefore been considered.

At the midyear board meeting 1997 in Paris it was unanimously agreed upon the following assignments:

President: Association’s general policy, including reorganisation of structures and Constitution.
Secretary-General: Secretariat; reorganisation of structures and Constitution
Past President: Relations with national/regional branches and affiliated organisations
Vice President 1: Advertising, sponsorship and public relations
Vice President 2: Recruitment
Vice President 3: Conference structures
Editor: Publishing and information
Treasurer: Finances, membership administration and statistics

In addition to these assignments, all Board members are encouraged to develop ideas and make proposals for all areas. A clear separation between the areas will not always be possible; over-lappings may occur. Furthermore, the introduction of a resident administrative secretariat (paid, part time) having a permanent office is what could relieve the Secretary-General of routine jobs and help him or her to concentrate more on essential tasks.

4. The work of IASA
The work of IASA has two equivalent levels. One is the practical level where IASA acts internally: to keep the members satisfied by organising successful conferences, disseminating sufficient and interesting information via the IASA Journal and the IASA Information Bulletin, providing information such as a membership list, an information leaflet, an internet homepage etc. That is: to see to it that the average member really feels that she/he gets value for her/his membership dues.

The other is the political level where IASA acts externally to promote internationally the profession of sound and audiovisual archiving - both inside and outside of the archiving world - and to influence decision-making bodies and make them aware of the fact that sound and audiovisual recordings are an indispensable part of the cultural heritage which must be preserved for the future. This can be done e.g. by personal lobbying, by developing guidelines, recommendations, policy papers etc.. Co-operation with other international organisations and national/regional/local groups will make the case stronger and increase the possibility of real influence.

Both levels are equally important and the Executive Board must not carry out one at the expense of the other.

4.1 The practical level is made up of

  • Annual conferences

  • Information and publications

  • Recruitment

  • Reorganisation of structures

  • Constitutional changes

The annual conferences are important as a means of communication between members and to disseminate information on the latest developments in the audiovisual archiving profession. There is, obviously, a need for improvement both regarding the content as well as the structure and organisation of the conferences. The content and the organisation of IASA’s annual conferences must be arranged as attractively as possible in order to enable communication between and information of the members in the best way.

Together with the annual conferences, publication is essential for the promotion of the Association. The editor’s publication policy presented to the membership and agreed upon by the board in Perugia 1996 is a good working tool for the next years.

Apart from IASA’s periodicals, the IASA Journal and the Information Bulletin, further publications have to be strived for such as a regularly revised membership list, a revised information leaflet, an information package, and, most of all, the permanent evolution of the IASA homepage in the internet.

There have been very little active initiatives for the recruitment of new members so far. For the time being, we only respond to requests from outside. What is needed is to organise recruitment campaigns to special target groups, e.g. in certain geographical areas. A professional information package is an important tool for recruiting. The Association's resources and influence depend, among other things, upon the number of its members. Hence, recruitment is of strategic significance and has to be carried out considerably more actively than in the past.

The structure and organisation of IASA has been a topic for constant discussion during many years. Questions have been raised about the numbers of committees (see above), relations to national organisations and affiliated associations, the role of the institutional versus the individual members etc. Many members agree that there is a permanent need for a reorganisation of structures. Therefore, organisation and structure of the Association have to be screened periodically, taking into account whether it is necessary to follow up any international archival development or to adapt them to the needs of internal changes.

Likewise, IASA’s Constitution should routinely checked to ensure that it is up-to-date and to determine whether it needs amendments or changes.

4.2 The political level is made up of

  • Relations with other organisations

  • Relations with national branches and affiliated organisations

  • Policies and position papers

  • Special projects

Relations with other organisations

IASA is a non governmental organisation and, in the previous structure of UNESCO, had obtained category B status. Very recently, IASA has achieved ‘operational relations’ status. Even though IASA has good relations with, and has gained the confidence of UNESCO it is a fact that IASA alone is too small to obtain formal relations with UNESCO. This does not mean, however, that IASA will no longer get contracts for special projects. IASA will also continue to be invited to AV meetings and to be consulted in various AV archival matters.

It is, in principle, important that the AV archive organisations keep a high profile within UNESCO because that will raise the status of these associations and will give more
influence in promoting the profession both nationally and internationally. To strengthen the AV position vis-à-vis UNESCO, IASA advocates to join forces with the other AV-NGO's: FIAF and FIAT.

The Round Table of Audiovisual Records (RT) consists of representatives of IASA, FIAF, FIAT, ICA, IFLA and UNESCO (observing). The RT started as an informal working group formed by people from the various organisations, with a special interest in audiovisual records. The TCC (Technical Co-ordinating Committee) is a subcommittee to the RT. From the beginning, a lot of attention was paid by the RT to initiate projects which could be funded by UNESCO. IASA has taken many important initiatives at the RT and has also done a lot of work in specific projects such as the Curriculum Development, the Glossary, the
Bibliography, the AV Reader, the Survey of Endangered Collections etc. Now as before, the RT, although getting on and being in the need for some renewal, is one of the most informative forums between the AV archive organisations and the only one where joint projects can be agreed upon or arranged.

Another organisation with which IASA has relations traditionally is IAML. Moreover, IASA has signed the Tokyo Resolution on a Strategic Alliance of NGO's in Information to Serve Better the World Community and is, therefore, a member of The Global Information Alliance administered by the International Federation for Information and Documentation (FID), in which UNESCO has a great interest. Board members should be appointed to be responsible for contacts with IAML, FID, ICOM, AES, IEC and ISO.

Relations with national/regional branches and affiliated organisations

As a true international association, IASA has an important role to play in co-ordinating national and regional activities. It is essential that the branches, as well as the affiliated organisations such as AFAS, ARSC and ASRA, feel that IASA could speak for them, that IASA is their ‘umbrella organisation’ at the international level. Mutual exchange of information is necessary to improve the contacts between IASA and the branches and affilites. Moreover, branches and affiliates need much more rights to a say in IASA matters. The Board is discussing an appropriate model to achieve this goal.

Policies and position papers

Since the profession of sound and AV archiving is rapidly changing, there is an urgent need for advice and assistance from IASA. The Association has, for instance, been invited to join working groups on copyright and on technical standards. IASA must be prepared to send representatives to such working groups. Those representatives must be familiar with the views of the Association and ready to argue for them.

IASA needs to agree on common positions and to publish a set of recommendations,
standards and rules covering several aspects of the profession. These should be part of the information package and available free of charge to all members. Moreover, IASA needs an overall policy statement on the importance of preserving the sound and audiovisual heritage.

Special projects

The experience with the IASA Cataloguing Rules project shows that concrete work towards a specific goal is vitalizing for the membership. To see that results actually are achieved and reported makes one feel that IASA is a lively and dynamic association. Several members have said that they are willing to contribute to the work of IASA. IASA needs to encourage and support, morally and financially, projects that are successfully managed, to motivate those who are ready to engage themselves in project work and to initiate and set up more projects.

Millennium Memory Bank

Rob Perks, the British Library National Sound Archive’s Curator of Oral History, talks about how the NSA and the BBC are collaborating on the biggest European radio and oral history project ever devised. My thanks to the British Library’s staff newsletter Shelflife for permission to reprint this text.

After the success of the National Life Story Awards in 1993/4 I wanted to do another oral history project for the Millennium - to demonstrate the value of personal testimony and to generate an archive of interviews from ‘ordinary’ people, to fill gaps in the NSA’s oral history collections and provide a unique snapshot of what makes Britain ‘tick’ at a special moment in our history.

As we started talking to the New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC), which is responsible for the Dome and the Millennium Challenge [principal components of the U.K.’s millennium celebrations], we realised that the BBC and NSA were thinking along similar lines and it made sense to pool resources. We are now working together on an ambitious joint project (in collaboration with the Oral History Society, the National Life Story Collection and the Arts Council of England), backed by an investment of £1.3 million from BBC Regional Broadcasting.

The BBC is currently recruiting forty project producers, one for every local radio station in the U.K. From September this team will be creating forty parallel series of sixteen, themed, half-hour programmes (640 in all), and in the process gathering around 8,000 oral history interviews on MiniDisc.

People will be asked to talk about a number of themes: their homes and families, their changing experience of work and leisure, of growing up, getting older, and of their hopes and fears for the future. These interviews will form an important new oral history archive - The Millennium Memory Bank - at the NSA.

NSA staff are playing an important role, not only in archiving the material but in training BBC staff how to conduct oral history interviews and showing them how to document the recordings. Each interview will be barcoded and documented by BBC staff using a template compatible with the NSA’s CADENSA catalogue and the original MiniDiscs will arrive at the NSA once the programmes have been edited and are ready for transmission in September 1999.

Discussions are also taking place between the BL and NMEC on expanding the project. Our original vision was to create an online digital archive accessible anywhere in the U.K., but that depends on receiving funding from NMEC. Whatever happens with NMEC, the Millennium Memory Bank is well on track and will provide a remarkable new resource for all kinds of BL users in the future.

Talking of MiniDisc

Peter Copeland, Technical Manager, British Library National Sound Archive reports on using MiniDisc for field recordings.

"This report describes some experiences and experiments with Sony’s MiniDisc format, used as a sound-recording medium, mainly for wildlife, during a trip to Canada during the summer. I did not try the format for computer data, or for pre-recorded audio software. The equipment used was a Sony MZ-R30 portable (my property), and a Denon DN-045R minidisc replicator (the property of the NSA). Editing in-the-field was done on the former. I should explain that I consider myself an operator, not an engineer. I believe in the principle of doing formal tests on the equipment to be sure it is working to specification, and then breaking or bending the rules to get the effect I want. So you will find little here by way of formal engineering tests.

The discs Maxell and Sony 74-minute blank discs were tried (magneto-optical technology). I tried recording some music at home, and one of the Maxells developed a ‘skip’ when I came to play it back on location. Otherwise I am not aware of any problems (though wildlife recording is not a stringent testbed for ‘skips’).

The MZ-R30 portable recorder This is the top-of-the-range portable machine sold by Sony for amateur applications. It cost me £240 in London, including five blank discs and some AA-sized alkaline batteries. However, although it bears the trade name Walkman, the instruction book specifically states that it lacks the digital buffer-memory to allow music to be played continuously while jogging. I don’t jog - but waving the machine around quite violently as it played gave no problems. It may be worth remarking that the instructions also warn you to have the machine steady when you STOP recording, so the disc’s Table-of-contents (TOC) cannot become corrupted as it is updated.

All the inputs and outputs are stereo 3mm mini-jacks, including the digital input. This latter is achieved by plugging an optical adapter (not supplied) into the LINE IN jack, when the machine recognises it and (allegedly) omits the analogue-to-digital converters. Mini-jacks are not part of my standard kit and as connecting-leads vary as the square of the number of connectors, this was regrettable. Furthermore the minijack still suffers from the complaint I raised when it appeared about fifteen years ago: the female cannot withstand the weight of a reasonable amount of cable between a work-surface and the floor. It is therefore essential to put the machine on the ground to operate it while it’s connected to a reasonably long microphone-cable. However, I recognise the machine could not have been made so small and lightweight using any other type of connector. The digital connections are SP-DIF compatible, so both analogue and digital inputs will continue to invoke the digital compression native to this medium. The digital input will invoke SCMS copy-protection as well. I used Beyer DT40 headphones, which were 25-ohm impedance and drew a lot of current. The machine withstood this very well, so I could have extremely loud monitoring if I wished.

The LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) shows an impressive number of features and is well thought-out. The level-display works when recording and playing back. It has only twelve segments, and comprises a single channel which seems to be the sum of the left and right inputs; but this display proved essential for reasons which will become apparent below.

The machine was subjected to the usual analogue tests of frequency-response and distortion. It showed a flat overall response between about 20Hz and 18kHz which was satisfactory for my purposes; but I didn’t have a calibration disc, so I cannot assume the response would be the same when played on another machine. The noise-level was rather less satisfactory. I discovered the fault lay with the analogue inputs, exacerbated by the automatic volume control; a shorting-plug in the line-in socket resulted in a peak-signal-to-noise ratio between 80 and 90dB.

Power-supply considerations Normally, the machine would be used with a lithium-ion rechargeable battery accommodated within the machine’s casing. However this proved to be the principal weakness of the machine. The battery itself worked perfectly, but the charger plugged straight into a British 13A mains socket. It was at least twice the weight of the machine, and of course it cannot be used in foreign countries. So I fully charged the lithium-ion battery to give me a head start, and carried it to Canada as hand-baggage so it would not be subject to the stresses of an unpressurised cargo-hold.

It would normally be my policy to buy ordinary batteries in my destination country for three reasons. (1) To reduce the weight; (2) to avoid them exploding in the cargo hold; and (3) to circumvent the problems of different mains connectors and voltages. I did not try my alkaline cells before I left. I bought two makes of alkaline batteries in Canada, Duracell and Radio Shack. Two AA-sized ones were necessary, and could not be fitted into the machine. Sony provided an add-on plastic widget which screwed onto one end of the machine; I considered this highly vulnerable to knocks. A colleague prefabricated for me a strong cardboard case for the machine. When the two components were slid into this, it prevented the shear stresses which would inevitably have broken the connections; but it was not then possible to see the LCD.

In practice I found it impossible to work without seeing the LCD. As I needed spectacles for this, it made headphone monitoring unnecessarily complicated. The display wasn’t illuminated, so a torch was also vital at dawn.

Unfortunately this was not the end of the power-supply problems. The LCD display also included a representation of the state of the battery, and it was clear the machine drew much more current when it was recording. With alkaline batteries it would only record for about half-an-hour before it gave up. (However, it was clever enough to record the table-of-contents with its last gasp). This meant I was unable to record a complete dawn chorus, for which the 74-minute capacity of the disc would have been ideal.

The same batteries could then be used for replaying and editing the results, provided a careful watch was kept on the display. Two things caused the battery-voltage to drop significantly: rewriting the TOC, and rapidly searching for tracks. These caused the voltage to drop almost to the bottom limit again; but it appeared to recover after a second or two. There was no detectable change in the battery status when playing loud sounds on the headphones.

I did not experience a system crash during editing. The edits were just like analogue tape - that is, if the backgrounds were consistent, the edits were inaudible. The only difference was that once you had deleted something, you couldn’t put it back. So it’s obviously better to clone the master and edit the clone when feasible; but released disc-space can be used again, so editing on-location reduces the number of blank discs you need. I preferred the latter course, since vast swathes of obvious rubbish could be deleted immediately while I remembered it. The other way would have required hours of playback first.

A further problem was that it was normal practice to ask the machine to seek the end of the recorded contents and park itself there. But voltage-dips made it forget this information, and I lost almost three days’ work when I started work in the dark and the machine overwrote the first few tracks. This forced me to adopt one of two strategies for recording by touch as soon as an interesting sound occurred.

One was to record a number of five-second tracks of silence at the beginning of the disc (I chose thirty). This could be useful during subsequent editing for providing the equivalent of yellow leaders between takes. If I started recording and saw the machine was doing another Track 1, the loss would not be significant. The other was always to start each day’s work with a brand-new disc. This would have meant carrying at least one disc for every day of the holiday (I only took ten).

Theoretically I overwrote only about fifteen minutes of data; but the new Table of Contents did not reflect the existence of about eleven other tracks with about thirty minutes of older sounds. Roger Wilmut has shown me some ideas taken from the Internet which show how to cheat a MDS-303 mains machine to play this data. It relies on the fact that this machine doesn’t write a table-of-contents until you eject the disc; but you can prepare a 74-minute blank disc with just one track and eject it with a suitable TOC. You then invoke a test system to allow you to eject the disc without rewriting the TOC, and use it to put the 74-minute TOC onto the corrupted disc. You can then get all the sound back (including all the unrecorded sections), and you can then re-edit your way out of the difficulty. However you can only use the original disc (not a clone). I have yet to ascertain whether this would work in my case.

One of the alkaline batteries developed a leak in the cargo hold as a result of a flight within Canada (one out of eight). So, in my opinion, the power difficulties can only be solved by buying another lithium-ion recharger in the destination country, or carrying the British recharger plus a 110 volt transformer, or carrying twenty or thirty precharged lithium-ion batteries as hand-luggage (they cost about £20 each). These considerations completely invalidate the medium in my opinion, so I shall not be using it again if I can avoid it.

Other presettable facilities It is possible to programme the machine to record in mono, doubling the length of a disc to 148 minutes. Both the machine and the cloning-kit allow mono and stereo tracks to be mixed on the same disc. But it's an operational nightmare to set the machine in the heat of the moment. Because alkaline batteries didn't last the length of one disc, I was happy to record the gun-mike in double-mono (which also give me a vestige of a backup!) In the field, the machine proved very rugged; I was even able to record in conditions of morning dew which soaked me and the machine. This would have ruined any digital tape-based medium unless the machine and tape had been kept warm overnight.

The instructions also alleged that the automatic volume control could be disabled. But this simply didn't work on my machine, and again it would be an operational hassle if it did. I was therefore forced (a) to choose microphone(s) of appropriate sensitivity for the subject-matter, and (b) to research how to reverse-engineer the automatic volume control.

For the first situation, the gun-mike (a Sennheiser 405, one of the highest-output mikes ever) was still not sensitive enough for typical birdsong, and my colleague, Hugh Mash, had to provide a step-up transformer in the cardboard case; this worked well for bird sounds. I also planned to record some trains in stereo. My Marantz stereo electret mike was about right for this, but stereo wildlife atmospheres were undermodulated. However the limit was the background-noise of the microphone itself; the machine did justice to what little it was getting.

For the second situation, I experimented by copying wide-range music through the analogue inputs. When I played the minidisc back, I compared it against the originals on a double meter, and found that the minidisc could be made the same by routing it through a dBx117 expander with the threshold ON, the recovery-time on SLOW, and the expansion-ratio set to 1.25 : 1. I recorded one train incorrectly, because I was using the gun-mike to pick up a distant whistle, and a train passed unexpectedly on a closer track. It sounded truly awful through the automatic volume limiter; but I found I could make it acceptable (although not perfect) by increasing the expansion-ratio to 1.8 : 1 on the loudest bits.

The Denon Minidisc Replicator This is a 2-U high 19" rack unit, with slots for a source disc and a destination disc. It can also be used to erase the destination disc. When the source disc is cloned, it copies the digital audio data and the track labels without decompressing them; but it also unfragments the master disc, so the destination disc has all the audio in the right order without the reproducer undergoing major repositionings. From the archival point of view, it should be pointed out that this allows edits to be concealed. The cloning takes between one-half and one-third real time, and seems to work OK. However, it did not make any difference to the ‘skip’ on the Maxell disc.

An RS232-port and computer-software are provided to allow selected tracks to be cloned. This would be the only way to clone and edit together sound from two different discs; I have not tried this facility. I suspect (as with many Windows applications) all sorts of clashes and incompatibilities might require the use of a dedicated PC.

Further Work To Be Done (1) Check how SCMS may hamper our operation. (It may be necessary to buy a minidisc player with AES connections to strip off the copy-protection; and this must be balanced against the quality degradation from having to re-compress the data).

(2) Magneto-optic discs are liable to degrade for both magnetic and optical reasons. This should be investigated further, qualitatively if not quantitatively.

(3) Decompression and recompression should be iterated, to build up experience of (a) recognising audible side-effects, and (b) how many generations will remain inaudible to skilled listeners with an original for comparison.

Conclusions MiniDisc has some unique advantages as a collection medium. It is lightweight (provided you don’t have to carry battery-charging equipment), it is rugged (and seems to work OK in unfriendly climatic conditions), and it is easy to edit (but difficult to recover what you've thrown away).

The quality is better than any analogue medium; but it’s essential to think of it as if it were analogue, to avoid cumulative quality losses through iterated digital compressions and decompressions. A cloning-machine such as the Denon DN-045R is essential; alternatively, only original discs should be collected by archives, not copies.

The digital compression uses human psychoacoustics to achieve its end without becoming apparent through one generation. I have no way of assessing the effects for playback to wildlife! I also have no way of emulating the experiments of Richard Margoschis (in which some defects of low-level sampling were apparent), because I could not turn off my automatic volume control.

[Peter asked me to make sure that readers know that he is not quite happy with the topic as it stands; "I've been trying to do an experiment with repeated compressions and decompressions, and have been held up because the copy protect flag keeps preventing the experiment. This seems a major drawback to using MiniDisc in a professional context for the present".]

BASF hitch

Inger Kielland has sent this message to IASA members who may be using BASF 528 tape. "We had a lot of trouble before our Maintenance Department found the reason why the tape recorders several times reset themselves on air. BASF have changed their production, but maybe they have not told their customers". Here is the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation’s report concerning problems with BASF PER 528 tapes produced in 1997 and 1998.

"From spring 1998, problems occurred with tape-recorders of type Studer A810 and A80. The A810 machines suddenly made a total reset in play, record and spooling mode. The A80 machines made a clicking noise that were sometimes even recorded. After some investigation, we understood that the new tapes from BASF were the cause of the problems. The design of the tapes was changed in 1997, and the two parts of the reel were mounted with screws from each side instead of screws that connected the parts electrically together. The result was a static charging of the upper part. After a while, it discharged against the chassis, the processor made a reset and the machine stopped. BASF admitted very soon to the weakness of this design, and in week no. 34, we received new tapes to test. This time the reels were put together with conducting plastic in the centre ring (about 60 kohm's between the two metal parts). In this way, the mounting of the reels could continue as before. With these new reels, we have not been able to reproduce the former problems. For further information, contact Arne Pedersen, Norwegian Broadcasting Corp, e-mail

Sino-Austrian Joint Field Excursion

Dietrich Schüller, Vienna Phonogrammarchiv, writes:

"During July and August 1998, the Music Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Arts and the Vienna Phonogrammarchiv joined forces in a field excursion to record musics of national minorities in north-western regions of China. Qiao Jian-zhong, Director, and Xiao Mei, Associate Researcher, of the Beijing-based institute, and Dietrich Schüller from Vienna visited the Autonomous Region of Inner Mongolia and the Provinces of Qinghai and Gansu and made recordings amongst the following ethnic groups: Mongols, Hui, Tibetans, Tu, Sala, Bao’an, and Dongxian. The audio recordings (on R-Dat) were augmented by video recordings in the DV format. The excursion, beyond its recorded outcome, provided the opportunity for intensive discussion about mutual experiences of the technical and methodological aspects of audio-visual documentation in the field.

The Music Research Institute specialises in the documentation of and research into Chinese traditional music and the music of the various national minorities of the Peoples Republic of China. Founded in the early 1950s, it has accumulated over 7000 hours of audio recordings in this field. UNESCO acknowledged the importance of this collection by listing it as one of the first sound archives on the World Register of its Memory of the World programme. Having survived the turbulence of the Cultural Revolution, the Institute’s concerns are presently concentrated on the preservation of its precious collection. In the course of a UNESCO mission to assess the physical state of the collection, Dietrich Schüller visited the Beijing institute in autumn 1996. Since then contacts have been maintained on a bilateral basis. The joint field excursion was but one item of the common agenda, the future co-operation will also include re-recording and preservation issues."

Sites and Sounds

Exciting prospects for digital sound archives of the future have recently been unveiled on the internet at MusicTrial is an integrated licensing system for online trading in sound recordings. It has stemmed from the work of the IMPRIMATUR project (see Information Bulletin 19) and has been created by the UK music rights societies MCPS and PRS together with Liquid Audio, a leading digital music distribution company based on California ( The companies have formed a partnership to conduct a technology trial to provide an integrated Web based licence application system. It has not been possible for the Editor to try this out yet. Following the command "Get Liquified" the first barrier I encountered trying to download the player software was that the operating system in my PC was not sufficiently up-to-date. You will require Windows 95, Windows NT or Mac OS.

To update Chris Clark’s article ‘Audio-visual resource discovery on the Web’ (IASA Journal 11) a description of the Dublin Core Metadata Element Set has now been published as Internet Engineering Task Force Informational RFC (Request For Comments) 2413. Dublin Core Metadata for Resource Discovery is available at This means that the Dublin Core has attained significantly more status as a recognised and stable standard for creating simple descriptions of networked resources, and should help to encourage its more widespread adoption.

Also relating to that article, the Nordic metadata project has been completed. The final report is available at A printed version has also been

Free from LC

The following items related to the preservation of audio, film, and or video materials are all available free of charge from the Library of Congress's Preservation Research and Testing Division. Please request them from (e-mail request preferred): Gerald D. Gibson, Preservation Research and Testing Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540-4560. Fax: (202) 707-6449,

  • Baker, James M. and George E. Klechefski. Risk analysis study for a representative magnetic tape collection (Preservation Research and testing Series No. 9808).- L.C., 1998

  • Gibson, Gerald D. Cylinder audio recordings : an annotated bibliography (Preservation Research and Testing Series No. 9604) .- LC, 1996

  • Nugent, William R. Digitizing library collections for preservation and archiving : a handbook for curators (Preservation Research and Testing Series No. 9705).- LC, 1997

  • Reilly, James N., et al.. Condition survey of motion picture holdings in the Library of Congress: evaluation of storage environments for motion picture collections (Preservation Research and Testing Series No. 9807).- LC, 1998

  • Storm, William D. Unified strategy for the preservation of audio and video. Preservation Research and Testing Series No. 9806).- LC, 1998

In preparation, request copy for delivery when published:

·  Library of Congress preservation guidelines : # 002-labelling of compact discs

·  Library of Congress preservation guidelines : # 003-environment for storage of motion picture film

·  Library of Congress preservation guidelines : # 004-environment for storage of magnetic tape

·  Library of Congress preservation guidelines : # 005-environment for storage of shellac discs

·  Library of Congress preservation guidelines : # 006-environment for storage of vinyl discs

·  Library of Congress preservation guidelines : # 007-environment for storage of acetate discs

·  Library of Congress preservation guidelines : # 008-environment for storage of cylinder recordings

·  Library of Congress preservation guidelines : # 009-preservation audio recording in analog format (magnetic tape)

Calendar of events

Date Event Location
November 15 - 20 IASA Annual Conference Paris
November FIAF Executive Committee San Juan, Puerto Rico
March SEAPAVAA Annual Conference Kuala Lumpur
April FIAF Annual Congress Madrid
July 18 - 24 IAML Annual Conference Wellington, New Zealand
August IFLA Council and General Conference Bangkok
August 19 - 25 ICTM World Conference Hiroshima
September FIAT/IFTA Conference Rio de Janeiro
September 18 - 23 IASA Annual Conference Vienna
November FIAF Executive Committee Toulouse
April FIAF Annual Conference London
August 6 - 11 IAML Annual Conference Edinburgh
August IFLA Council and General Conference Jerusalem
September ? IASA Annual Conference Singapore
November FIAF Executive Committee New York

This Information Bulletin was compiled by:

The Editor of IASA, Chris Clark,
The British Library National Sound Archive, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB, UK,
tel. 44 171 412 7411, fax 44 171 412 7413, e-mail,

Elsebeth Kirring, Statsbiblioteket, Universitetsparken, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark,
tel. 45 8946 2055, fax 45 8946 2050, e-mail

Printed in Budapest, Hungary