I.1. three keynotes, three perspectives I.2. two panels discussing the current Dutch situation I.3. recommendations I.4. conclusions
II. List of participants
III. Additional material provided by speakers and panellists
V. Full report
* Morning session: The A-side
V.1. Introduction: Stan Rijven (World Music Forum NL, music journalist)
V.2.‘The importance of preserving old African popular music recordings’ Prof. John Collins (Legon University, Bokoor African Popular Music Archive Foundation- Ghana)
V.3.‘Discussing the legacy of Duvelle, Disques Ocora and Collection Prophet’ Hisham Mayet (Sublime Frequencies- France)
V.4.The WHY of preservation- reflections on the current situation in The Netherlands Panel: Harry van Biessum (Beeld & Geluid/ Sound & Vision), Fred Gales (IMMS- Institute Multicultural Music Studies), Bernard Kleikamp (Pan Records)
V5. Bookpresentation: Highlife Giants and Fela Kuti, Kalakuta Notes by J.Collins
* Afternoon session: The B-side
V.6. ‘An archive in the UK – the British Library’s popular music collections’ Andy Linehan (British Library, National Sound Archive- UK)
V.7. The HOW of preservation- different ways of collecting, developing ideas Panel: Marcus Cohen (DEN, Digital Heritage Netherlands), Paul Gompes (Netherlands Jazz Archive), Felix van Lamsweerde (ex- conservator etno- musicology Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam), Tim de Wolf (audio archeologist)
World Music Forum NL is both a network and an alarmbell. June 14th 2017 it rang loudly to attract attention for disappearing musical archives and collections. In Bimhuis Amsterdam three notes turned the key to a global context, two panels opened doors to national issues. With a new Dutch government in the making time is tight to feed its Cultural Board with fresh ideas on the importance of preserving our past for the future, asking ‘What is the value of our intangible heritage?’ As far as the preservation of that heritage is concerned music is generally overlooked. In recent years the shutdown of venues (Tropentheater- Amsterdam, RASA- Utrecht), organisations (MCN- Music Centre Netherlands, NMI- Netherlands Music Institute), the closing down of Radio Netherlands Worldwide and of the Broadcast Music Library meant a great loss. Thus: Who is concerned about our collective musical memory when wiki-wisdom dominates? What is the current state of affairs concerning digital sustainability? Why is world music often relegated to the bottom of the list? Valid questions to be answered during ‘Old vinyls, new views – the A & B side of our musical future’.
I.1. Three keynotes, three perspectives
1) Professor John Collins (Legon University- Ghana) stressed the importance of preserving old African popular music recordings.
“Popular music itself maps out generational change. So you can look at different generations as they emerged in Ghana since the 1880’s and pinpoint them to various styles of music.” Also African popular music “Throws a lot of light on cultural blending. With western music, with black diasporic music from the Americas and music from Asia.” Lyrics are relevant as well: “All books were written by the elite but what about the poor? The history of the inarticulate was originally directed at folk songs and folk art to get a glimpse of what peasants were thinking. It’s precisely the same with popular music: it provides historians and sociologists with the history of the inarticulate”. Collins prooved his points with two book presentations: Highlife Giants (Cassava Republic Press-UK) and Fela Kuti, Kalakuta Notes (Wesleyan University Press- USA). http://www.bapmaf.com/about-us/
2) Hisham Mayet (Sublime Frequencies- USA/ France) discussed the legacy of Charles Duvelle, Disques Ocora and CollectionProphet. Ocora started in the mid-fifties by Pierre Schaefer, founder of musique concrète, commissioned by the French. “They wanted to counter the post-colonial propaganda. It was meant to physically scramble the signals of the British. Schaefer suggested to put up an infrastructure in West-Africa by building radio towers allowing Africans to disseminate their own culture via this new medium”. Duvelle helped to build these towers and to train locals. They started a local recording industry and Duvelle- composer of contemporary music- turned into an ethnomusicologist by accident, blown away by the ‘bush sounds’ he discovered. Ocora became a government funded organisation linked to Radio France “At the time it was a small independent where Duvelle made the decisions.” Beyond being an archive, Ocara had a broad cultural impact. Duvelle was approached by The Beatles and by Serge Gainsbourg “His records were being distributed in some capacity to the right ears and were creating a huge influence and a desire to look beyond the American influence which was dominant in those days.” Half the soundtrack of Fellini’s film Satyricon is made up of Duvelle’s field recordings. Brian Eno and David Byrne who produced the crucial album My life in the bush of ghosts (1981) said that “Ocora was very instrumental in helping them develop this idea of fourth world music, combining field recordings and natural sounds with tribal music in an avant-garde context.” In 2003 inspired by the Ocora legacy Mayet- together with Alan Bishop- founded Sublime Frequencies: “The idea that we could take these influences and then explore some of what we felt was missing, the folk and pop music of those peoples.” They still travel around the world “Collecting all sorts of dead media in shops, in dusty neglected corners of markets, and then trying to contextualize this as a recent, living and breathing history.” Mayet concluded with the presentation of his The photographs of Charles Duvelle- Disques Ocora. Check: https://sublimefrequencies.bandcamp.com
3) Andy Linehan (British Library, National Sound Archive- UK) tackled the many problems concerning collecting popular music The official task of the British Library is “To ensure that the nation’s cultural and intellectual memory is sustained and accessible forever. My job is to promote the study of popular music based on sound recordings and other items.” Obtaining records is a problem: “By law, a copy of every print publication must be given to the British Library by its publishers. However legal deposit does not include sound recordings. We get them direct from record companies, performers themselves, institutions and from private individuals”. The main vulnerability of their archive lies with the unpublished material: “We have over 150.000 CDr’s, 4.000 DAT tapes, as well as MiniDisc and VHS. But if you want to digitize these items…You simply cannot buy a professional standard digital audio tape player or minidisc player anymore.” About dealing with online streames: “There are so many platforms today, hard to figure out if we’ve got everything we need to collect. A problem that platforms like SoundCloud present archivists with, is that anyone can put really anything there.” The gateway that record labels used to provide is gone: “So there’s more of a judgement we now have to make about what to collect.” A recent digital era development is DIY archives and what some people call ‘activist archivists’: “These people are motivated by the fact that certain things are not provided whereas they should be provided, so a lot of people start doing their own thing.” There are no strict criteria Linehan concludes: “We are also interested in recordings of amateur musicians”, and “We don’t like to say no. The main reason we sometimes have to, is when we get offered material that we already have in our collection.” http://www.bl.uk/nsa
I.2. Two panels discussing the current Dutch situation
Panel 1: The Why of preservation- reflections on the current situation in the Netherlands.
Harry van Biessum (Beeld & Geluid/ Sound & Vision), Fred Gales (IMMS- Institute Multicultural Music Studies), Bernard Kleikamp (Pan Records) Conclusions- Emiel Barendsen (WMF advisory board, KIT).
Many of the problems are the result of drastic cuts in arts funding by subsequent Dutch governments during the last fifteen years or so. But money is not the only problem, nor is it the solution to all problems. The audio archives in this country are indeed very poor. They are fragmented and incomplete, many of them are small, private outfits without any form of umbrella organization supervising things and providing searching facilities. Some genres are not covered at all. The accessibility is generally poor. We are facing problems regarding copyright and these impose further restrictions on accessibility. Existing archives are sometimes digitized but often not in a sustainable way. Digitization is not an end in itself – it is a continuous process, as even digital media are subject to decay and mingle-ups and the continuous development of soft- and hardware causes incompatibilities between files and programs, resulting in loss of data.
Panel 2: The How of preservation- different ways of collecting, developing ideas
Marcus Cohen (DEN, Digital Heritage Netherlands), Paul Gompes (Netherlands Jazz Archive), Felix van Lamsweerde (ex- conservator etno-musicology Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam), Tim de Wolf (audio archeologist)
Van Lamsweerde: “In the 1970’s there was an organization called the Extra-European Arts Committee, organizing performances by non-European artists. Another initiative was a collaboration between museums of musical instruments in various countries. One of the things they tried to establish, was a universal system of naming and describing instruments, so an international database could be built.”
Nomen est omen.
Gompes: “If you mention the words ‘institute’, ‘music’ and ‘heritage’ to anyone in the vicinity of the government, they will all run away. A better approach would be to start from existing structures. Even though we don’t have a central facility like the British Library, we do have centres that provide partial solutions, like Beeld & Geluid and Muziekweb. Once you have surveyed and mapped these, it might be possible to determine which holes need to be filled.”
Cohen: “DEN is the Network for Digital Heritage, a co-operation between Beeld & Geluid, the Royal Library, the Royal Academy of Science, the National Archive and the National Agency for Monuments. They developed a strategy that has three building blocks: a digital infrastructure for content to be sustainable, creating connections between the various collections, and means to present material online. With regards to world music, I think the main focus should be on developing networks with similar organizations on the basis of a common interest in sound.”
De Wolf expanded his research in the Dutch Caribbean and also started digitalizing archives of a local radio station: “The technical aspect of these old recordings is often overlooked. And yet it is very important to understand the technique that was used, if only to know which kind of distortion should be removed and which should be preserved. I don’t think you should try to make historic recordings sound as if they were made yesterday. That would be a falsification of history.”
– Andy Linehan: “What needs to be done, is a survey and mapping out of who is doing what and where. Is it a passive or an active collection? Do they have a digital presence? Because then you can approach people and say: all the work has been done. It’s worth doing but it needs co-ordination and you are the people to do it.” –
Ingmar Vroomen (Muziekweb): “We are a music library, set up in 1961, just like it happened in the UK by one individual who was very interested in music. We’re still there and have the largest music collection in the Netherlands and one of the largest in Europe. We have around 600.000 CD’s, 300.000 LP’s and 30.000 music-DVD’s. Every week we acquire around 300 CD’s, catalogue them, digitize them and make them available on our website. We were set up as a lending library, and people can still visit us to borrow physical discs, or do so via a public library in their neighbourhood. At the same time we are becoming a musical information centre.”
– Emiel Barendsen: I have heard only two solutions. One is the ‘British’ model of getting adopted by the national library – not very realistic today – and the bottom-up approach, which is seen as typical for The Netherlands. Which means connecting all these separate islands but there must be some form of supervision on aspects of quality, standardisation and sustainability of the archives. The bottom-up method is the way to proceed. We need to develop a tool and set up a board with people who know what they’re talking about.”
– Paul Gompes: “What we are missing here in The Netherlands is a door to knock on. We are not part of European funding schemes that are now very beneficial to other European countries that do take part in international projects. We no longer have representatives like MCN in those European networks.”
– John Collins: “I have a problem with the Eurocentric approach to copyright in third world countries, because other African countries have also gone down this line of nationalizing folklore. But it’s NOT folklore; it’s folkLIFE. It’s a living tradition which has to be recycled and the younger generation in Ghana is now denied to recycle their own culture, because it belongs to the president.”
1. Why should music archives and collections be preserved?
Due to government cuts most Dutch archives suffer. They are incomplete, fragmented, have low accessibility, meet copyright / author problems and struggle with lack of expertise. Their sustainability is in danger because of digitalization or corrosion problems.
2. How to preserve?
Solutions and opportunities can be found in world-wide collaborations by connecting to other networks; also in the development of new initiatives and business models, both public and private. There is no need for new institutes but for international cooperation, thus now missing out on European funds. Still, and again, we have to make clear what the importance is of collecting and archiving. For instance by better use of Wikipedia and other social networks, also by defining the different needs for different disciplines.
3. Round-up recommendations
A bottom-up approach is the only viable solution but we will have to elaborate more on the subject. We must invest in expertise and need to find new ways for funding. Locate the voids and stimulate cooperation, work with existing structures, map out who is doing what and where.
Although not as extensive as the British National Sound Archive, Rotterdam based Muziekweb could be the answer. An already existing umbrella-organisation that caters for public libraries all over The Netherlands. It runs a huge collection, also in print, digitizes 300 albums weekly and recently adopted the vanishing RASA-collection. However, Muziekweb lacks structural funding and the necessary expertise to fulfil its mission. A follow-up expert meeting could make both ends meet, indeed like the A- and B-side.
II. List of participants
|British Library- UK||Andy Linehan||Andy.email@example.com|
|Xango-cd||Arnulf den Boesterdfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|PAN Records||Bernard Kleikamp (Pan Records)||email@example.com|
|ex-curator etnomusicology KIT||Felix van Lamsweerdefirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Francis de Souza|
|ARSC member / Gesellschaft für Historische Tonträger||Frans Jansenemail@example.com|
|IMS/ Bake Vereniging||Fred Galesfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Guus van Duijn|
|Music & Words||Hans Peters|
|Beeld & Geluid||Harry van Biessumemail@example.com|
|Sublime Frequencies- FR||Hisham Mayetfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|DB Consult / WMFNL||Jeanneke den Boeremail@example.com|
|BAPMAF- Ghana||John Collinsfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|RvC||Lodewijk de Reijsemail@example.com|
|NL Jazz Archief||Paul Gompes||Paul@jazzarchief.nl|
|JBN duo||Pyke Pasmanfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|ATANA||Rob Boonzajer Flaesemail@example.com|
|Dutch folk archives||Rob firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Audio-archeologist||Tim de Wolfemail@example.com|
|documentary maker||Ton Soderfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Record Palace||Erik van Diemenemail@example.com|
|Jan van Bellefirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Van Rijn Muziek||Carel van Rijnemail@example.com|
|AMAR foundation||Hatim Suleimanfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|St. Zigeunermuziek||Laurens Morenoemail@example.com|
III. Additional material provided by speakers and panellists
www.den.nl – The website from the DEN Foundation
www.den.nl/pagina/500/english-version – The Basics provide a set of guidelines for the digitization of cultural heritage that ensure a minimum level of quality. We strongly advise you to use these guidelines if you want to digitize, store and open up your digital collection in a sustainable and pliable manner.
www.digitalecultuur.nl – This is a DEN site aiming at artists, which was launched in may 2017. The focus is on the performing arts, this website will also present cases on digitization and music.
www.packed.be – The website form DEN´s Flemish counterpart.
www.projecttracks.be – In Belgium all organizations with governmental subsidies have to follow a minimal set of requirements on archiving and digitization http://www.hetfirmament.be/english – Centre of expertise for the cultural heritage of performing arts in Flanders.
www.resonant.be – The Flemish centre of expertise on musical heritage.
http://www.europeana.eu/portal/nl/collections/music – Explore around 380.000 music recordings, pieces of sheet music and other music items from across Europe. http://www.europeanasounds.eu/ – European Sounds at your fingertips
organisation/ production: World Music Forum NL- Sonja Heimann, Stan Rijven
MC: Armeno Alberts
report: Ton Maas, Stan Rijven
thanks: Emiel Barendsen, Bimhuis, Fred Gales, Pyke Pasman, Scott Rollins
V. Full report
V.1. Introduction- Stan Rijven (World Music Forum NL, music journalist)
In 2013 World Music Forum Netherlands held its first conference on musical archives to help save the soon disappearing collections from both Wereldomroep and KIT Tropentheater. 2013 also saw the shutdown of MCN (Music Centre Netherlands) and NMI (Netherlands Music Institute) plus the closing of the Broadcast Music Library in Hilversum. Recently the archives and collections of music centre RASA were saved at last minute. Then there are the private archives of two world music pioneers who died last year, Wouter Swets and Walter Slosse. Since we have a new government in the making, time is tight to feed its Cultural Board with fresh ideas on the importance of preserving our musical past for the future. As a motto ‘No future without knowing your a past’ sounds as familiar as it does gratuitous. After all as far as the preservation of intangible cultural heritage is concerned, music is generally overlooked. We cherish everything from Bach to The Beatles but what happens in a rapidly globalizing world with other music icons, cultures and collections? The meticulous way we manage the visual arts in the Netherlands, as attested to by the various national museums, is matched by the carelessness that is demonstrated when it comes to audio. What is the value of our musical intangible heritage? Who is concerned about our collective musical memory when it is the selective memory of the internet that dominates? What is the current state of affairs concerning digital sustainability? Why is world music often relegated to the bottom of the list? Valid questions, to be answered today during ‘Old Vinyl, New Views – The A & B side of Our Musical Future’.
* Morning session: the A-side
Two examples from abroad showing why archiving music is so important.
V.2. ‘The importance of preserving old African popular music recordings’
Professor John Collins (Legon University, Bokoor African Popular Music Archive Foundation- Ghana)
“I never planned to get into archiving. It happened to be part of my life when I was young. And I will also discuss some of the reasons why it is important to preserve old records of African popular music. There are archives preserving ethnic of folkloric music from Africa. But it’s not so obvious that popular music needs the same attention, because it’s current and ongoing. Therefore there are not many popular music archives in Africa. The thing is that popular music in Africa goes back to the late 19th century, so it’s quite old in its own right. Old styles are replaced by newer styles and so on.
The record industry in West-Africa goes back to the mid to late 1920s. So there’s actually a hundred years of recording African music. In Ghana itself these records are deposited in state archives. Nkrumah (Ghana’s first president) was very much interested in preserving not just traditional music but also popular music. Even developing popular music. He also set up the Ghana film industry with very advanced studios. The Ghana Broadcasting Company (GBC) has a grammophone library which contains over 60.000 items, including records and tapes. These have recently been digitized with the help of a German grant. It was actually buried or sealed for almost forty years. Nobody even knew about it. Some years ago etnomusicologist Wolfgang Bender tried to find out about the GBC-archives and was told it doesn’t exist anymore. It was buried like Tutanchamons tomb and then this German professor broke the seal. So they are there, and they have now been digitized and catalogued. But I also want to mention the private archives. There are not many of those, but some people have played an important role. One of them is Kofi Ghanaba (Guy Warren).
He was a member of the Tempos band, which is the equivalent in Ghana to the Duke Ellington band for jazz, in the same sort of era. He as also a disc-jockey and developed a form of Afro-jazz in America. You may have heard of Babatunde Olatunji from Nigeria working with John Coltrane. Well, in fact Guy Warren predates this by several years, releasing Afrojazz in the US in the mid-fifties. But he was also a squirrel, in the sense of an archivist, who collects records. His library included a collection of grams and tapes. Another person is professor Nketia, a renowned ethnomusicologist. In 1992 he founded the International Centre for African Music and Dance, which was largely dedicated to traditional music, but he did include popular music in his record collection. Most of it is now deposited with the Institute of African Studies at Legon University. I’ve been in Ghana since 1952. My father set up the philosophy department in Accra, so I didn’t come to Africa to study music or to search for my roots. I came to be with my father, after my parents were divorced. Ghana got internal self-rule in 1952, although it only got full independence in 1957. But in 1952 Nkrumah boosted up the university system, turned the college into a full university and recruited a lot of expats, particularly from England, Ghana’s former colonial mother or father. Now luckily my father was a musician as well, playing both mandolin and guitar.
When I started travelling with Ghanaian guitar bands in the late 1960’s, I didn’t know my father had done the same in the early fifties. Through my dad I got an orientation in music and he introduced me to some of the few people interested in popular music at the time. The academic world regarded popular music and local popular music such as highlife with contempt. When I got my degree at Legon, which was in archaeology and sociology, I wanted to do an MA in highlife music in 1972. And I was forbidden to do so by the Institute of African Studies, that claimed it was a subject unworthy of academic pursuit. In 1958 prof. Nketia was the first person to write about the history of the Ghanaian recording industry. In the same year he and my father set up the African Music Society, dedicated to guitar band music or highlife. At that time the students at Legon wouldn’t go near a guitar band. They considered themselves to be above that kind of music. Guitar bands were largely rural oriented. They were illiterate and therefore considered as “bush musicians”.
The students at Legon would only bring the prestigious highlife dance bands. So at the time the students were quite conservative and it was a small group of lecturers that would bring in the so-called bush bands. Robert Sprigge – a historian, like my father – was also a pianist and ended up playing in a highlife dance band called the Red Spots. In 1961 he wrote the first ever article on highlife music: Ghanaian Highlife – Notation and Sources. When I was young, music was just a hobby. I had no mind to set up an archive. I never thought it would be necessary to set up an archive dedicated to highlife music, because it was everywhere. I didn’t know that it was going to be wiped out through a series of military regimes. Well, not really wiped out, but certainly declined. During the military era, which spanned two decades, music was put on a back burner, and many musicians ended up in Europe – especially Holland and Germany – and in America. Around 1990 a lot of the live music in Ghana was disappearing. The record industry had collapsed. Cassettes were coming in, but the old vinyl industry had disappeared. And highlife was disappearing too. Some of the older generation became concerned about all this and wanted to preserve highlife music. In other words: a museum dedicated to popular music. That is how BAPMAF (Bokoor African Popular Music Archives Foundation) started.
There was no institution in Ghana dedicated to highlife at the time. Even in the university highlife was not taught until 1995, when I started teaching there. Because of my expertise I was involved with the Ghanaian Folklore Board. But in the case of Ghana, the term folklore is rubbish. It should be called “folklife”, because folklore is not dead in Ghana. Folklore is a typically European concept for something that is dead and gone, and has to be preserved. But Ghanaian traditional music isn’t dead and gone. It still needs to ne preserved, bit it’s living, so it can interact with popular music and evolve. We have neo-traditional music, evolving traditional music. One of the major problems with this organization is their attempt to get money from people like Paul Simon, who use traditional African music, to repatriate money to Ghana. It was a good idea and it was done. But then some very stupid people on our committee – particularly lawyers – decided to extend it to Ghanaians. So written into the new Ghanaian copyright bill is a clause which says that any Ghanaian using Ghanaian folklore commercially, has to get a permit from the government, pay a fine or go to prison for up to three years. We fought against it, but were overwhelmed by the bureaucrats. So it’s now part of the law, but nobody has actually been arrested yet. It’s one of those silly laws that may never get pursued. After my father’s property was flooded and 10 percent of the collection got lost, I decided I should no longer keep all my archives in one place. With a grant from the Goethe Institute I was able to digitize the records and photographs and handed copies over to the Institute of African Studies.
It was around 600 hours of music and 100 albums. So now there are safety copies there, which can be accessed by students and researchers. It’s always good to have multiple copies of an archive. The importance of that was made clear when the Ghanaian Film Archive went up in flames and we lost all the old film stock from the 1960’s. One of the roles of traditional music in Africa was to preserve memory. If you think about ancient Greece, the mother of music, poetry and dance was Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory. There has always been a deep recognition – in all societies – of the strong connection between music and memory. If you want kids at school to remember something, turn it into a rhyme or a poem and it will stick in their brains forever. Popular music itself maps out generational change. So you can look at the different generations as they emerged in Ghana since the 1880’s and pinpoint them to various styles of music. Right now we’re in the age of hiplife, which is hiphop-highlife, and Afro-dance hall. When I was young, it was Afro-soul. In my father’s time it was dance band highlife, and so on. And it goes all the way back to the guitar bands of the 1880’s. The guitar was introduced by black sailors from Liberia, who Africanized the guitar from the high seas. Also African popular music throws a lot of light on cultural blending. With western music, with black diasporic music from the Americas and music from Asia. The lyrics of African popular music are also relevant to changing gender relations.
About ten years ago the Centre for Gender Studies in Ghana was running a program for changing representations of women in popular music. Looking for clues about what people were thinking at the time. Popular music is often considered ephemeral or fleeting. Here today, gone tomorrow. It has a short shelf life. A lot of classical musicians look down on popular music for precisely that reason. But compare it with the difference between a book and a newspaper, and you can’t say that one type of information is more important than the other. They serve different purposes. Because it’s current, popular music can reflect current events. Along come the colonialists and they rewrite the history and educate the African elite. But who writes the histories of the poor people? That’s’ where African popular music comes in. The thoughts and feelings of the marginalized subordinate classes, the urban masses, the rural poor, they’re all embedded in a lot of these popular songs. Sometimes they are written in proverbial form, so you have to be able to decipher them.
Popular music is anti-hegemonic. It’s music by the lower classes that reflects on their feelings. Only in the 1980’s romantic love became a major theme in Ghana. Before that highlife music was everything but romantic love. Only ten to fifteen percent of songs were love songs. All the others were about social matters. So it wasn’t individual, narcissistic or sentimental stuff, it was actually reflecting on the society, about the independence struggle and pan-Africanism. How does one gather the histories of the poor? There is a historic methodology called the history of the inarticulate. It was originally used by historians to find out what medieval peasants were thinking. All the books in those days were written by the elite, by aristocrats. The doings of the great. But what about the poor? The history of the inarticulate was originally directed at folk songs and folk art as it survives, to try and get a glimpse of what peasants were thinking back in those days. It’s precisely the same with popular music: it provides historians or sociologists with the history of the inarticulate.
V.3. ‘Discussing the legacy of Charles Duvelle, Disques Ocora and Collection Prophet’
Hisham Mayet (Sublime Frequencies- France)
Charles Duvelle – still alive at 83 – has always been a lynchpin for me with regards to inspiration. When I was much younger, the records from Ocora were a window to me to some of the most alien sounds in contrast to the music I grew up with, like the Beatles. Which then transformed into more obscure musics like punk, jazz and psychedelic music. But it wasn’t really until I discovered the catalogues of Ocora, Folkways and other ethnographic field recording labels, that my mind was truly opened up to the possibility of human expression in a way that for me represented a complete tabula rasa with regards to what could be allowed, with regards to sou nd coming from humans. Disques Ocora was started in the mid-fifties bij Pierre Schaefer, the founder of “musique concrète”, who was commissioned by the French government to start some sort of scrambling device to counter the British influence in East-Africa.
They wanted to be able to counter the post-colonial propaganda with their own devices. First it was meant to physically scramble the signals of the British. And then Schaefer suggested it might be a better idea to put up an infrastructure in West-Africa by building radio towers and allowing the Africans to disseminate their own culture via this new medium of radio. Charles Duvelle was one of the people who decided to go to West-Africa to help engineer and build these radio towers and train local populations how to use them. Once these things were in place, content was needed to transmit. So they started a local recording industry and Duvelle – who was a composer of contemporary music – turned into an ethnomusicologist by accident, because he was blown away by the “bush sounds” he discovered, which became a life long obsession. Ocora later became a government funded organisation linked to Radio France, but at the time it was a small independent outfit where Duvelle could make all the decisions.
So here we have, by the late fifties, early sixties, a series of wonderful recordings throughout the post-colonial Francophone region and the design sensibility of these things was, for me, something I became obsessed with collecting, to the point that I managed to collect every single item in this legendary catalogue and finally, a few years ago, I was able to meet him, which was quite difficult, as he is a reclusive person. So I felt very lucky and privileged and then we proposed to publish this volume of his photography. What’s relevant to the discussion we’re having today, is the fact that Duvelle and Ocora have managed to create this immense musical archive and I want to follow up on something John was talking about – the idea of democratizing a history that wasn’t written by elites. What Duvelle did – like many people before him, including Hugh Tracey and the Lomaxes – was to go out into the bush and record living traditions, a living history of African music in various regions. Duvelle didn’t create these albums for academic purposes, but also for public consumption. For pop records they were pretty serious, since they included booklets with photographs and very thorough contextual background information. Some musical scales were included, some history of the region, translation of lyrics and so on. But beyond being an archive, it had a really broad cultural influence that people often don’t really realize, with regards to how much it influenced popular music and by that, contributed to the cultural revolution of the late sixties.
Duvelle told me that in the late sixties he was approached by members of The Beatles and by Serge Gainsbourg, seeking inspiration by some of these sounds. His records were being distributed in some capacity to the right ears and were creating a huge influence and a desire to look beyond the American influence which was dominant in those days. Even Fellini, for his film Satyricon, asked to have a meeting with Duvelle in order to borrow items from his archive. And at least half the soundtrack of Satyricon is made up of Duvelle’s field recordings. Brian Eno and David Byrne, who made My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, have said that recordings from Ocora were very instrumental in helping them develop this idea of fourth world music, combining field recordings and natural sounds with tribal music in an avant-garde context. The French have a certain affinity for the preservation of their colonial past and creating real works of art within the idea of what the archive is. We probably don’t realize how much, through these sounds, actually affects cultural change: the smashing, in the late sixties, of the old model of white colonial power and democratizing the idea that we could at least appreciate these other influences and – at least for a brief period – open up so many channels of communication and young people backpacking and exploring these remote areas, to have at least some communication with the world outside their own. That legacy of Ocora was a huge influence on Sublime Frequencies, the label that I founded with Alan Bishop in 2003.
The idea that we could take these influences and then explore some of what we felt was missing: the folk en pop music of those peoples. Their popular music was often also influenced by music from the West, and this hybrid music that we were interested in, didn’t seem to have any cultural currency with academia, as John explained before. It was being created by small record labels, in each regional location, in very limited editions, in formats that were meant to be disposable, like cassettes – exactly like what’s now happening with mp3. These are musics that bubble up, say what they want to say – a journal of modern day news. They are short-lived social movements that if not preserved or taken seriously, they are completely lost in the human narrative of the last thirty, forty years. So we at Sublime Frequencies, inspired by Duvelle and Ocora, are still travelling around the world collecting all sorts of dead media in shops, in dusty neglected corners of markets, and then trying to contextualize this as a recent, living and breathing history.
For us, Pakistani music that was influenced by The Shadows, that has surf music along with table and sitar backing is just as important as, say, Hindustani vocal music. The idea of authenticity with these things is problematic, but you can still appreciate the mutations that are happening and there is still some sort of a valid response. It’s always been a rather one sided conversation where the West has been analysing the voice of the other, but our aim is to democratize that other, to answer back at the West and give their own interpretation of what that music means to them. Q: How do you get your work financed? A: Ever since we founded the label 15 years ago, we financed everything ourselves. We worked regular jobs and saved our money, so we could pay for our own travel costs and equipment, and after returning for our own manufacturing and distribution. We came from a punk movement in the US in the eighties, which was all about the DIY process. As you know, in the US there is zero funding for the arts. So you learn at a very early age that there is no institutional support for what you trying to do and that you need to become very resourceful yourself. Our method was always to have one project pay for the next, and that’s what we were able to do for the last 15 years: reinvest any profit that comes in to build the catalogue further. It’s an intense amount of work but it’s very fulfilling.
V.4. ’The WHY of preservation- reflections on the current situation in The Netherlands’
Panel 1: Harry van Biessum (Beeld & Geluid/ Sound & Vision), Fred Gales (IMMS- Institute Multicultural Music Studies), Bernard Kleikamp (Pan Records) Fred Gales:
In the Netherlands we don’t have a proper sound archive – just a number of audio archives dedicated to specific genres. All of them are departments of larger organizations. Quite a few are in danger of being closed down. Because of this fragmentation, certain areas are not covered at all by official archives. Example: in former Dutch New Guinea almost no recordings were ever made and the few items that remain are found in a library of the protestant church, which has no clue of what they have. Then there is the problem of genres being neglected or not recorded at all, like styles of religious recitation that are still alive but under threat of disappearing. Another problem is cassettes. For some reason nobody has ever considered them as worthy of collecting. Public availability of archives is often restricted because of copyright issues. Then there is the problem of sustainability of digital media. On top of that metadata are often not included and there is no crosslinking between related genres or related items in other archives. In the specific case of world music, expertise is also a problem because of the complex and specialized nature of the subject matter. In many cases the archiving is delegated to students. Lastly there is the problem of excluding any material that cannot be labeled as “Dutch”. Harry van Biessum: Our task is to collect Dutch audio visual heritage and audio visual productions made in the Netherlands and make them available to media professionals. I have a background in film studies and I agree with Fred that at our institute ‘beeld’ (image) is considered more important than ‘geluid’ (sound), and also that “Dutch” is a limiting factor. I have a personal passion for world music, which is also why I am here, but I must say that that part of our collection – including the KIT-collection we acquired in 2002 – is not part of our main focus. Having said that, we have an initiative called “Revive”, by which we attempt to bridge the world of music production with that of archives. Many electronic musicians are afraid to knock on our door, so we decided to start knocking on their doors with material from our archives, We started out with the Polygram collection and then we stumbled upon the KIT collection and I became very enthusiastic about all the field recordings. I went to see our copyright lawyer and he said that it if we could sign an agreement with the Tropeninstituut we could go ahead and make the material available. As a result, this summer three albums will be released that were made with the use of material from the “Revive” initiative. One problem with preserving world musical heritage, is the fact that most national institutes have a policy of ignoring anything that’s not part of their national heritage. So international collaboration will be needed if it comes to preserving crossovers and fusions, which make up a large portion of what is now called world music. Bernard Kleikamp: My label, Pan Records, is mainly focusing on ethnic music, folk music, traditional music and related musics. By training I am both an ethnomusicologist and a dramatist. Later in life I became a tibetologist as well, but by profession I am an entrepreneur. Pan Records released more then 350 albums so far since the mid-seventies. And more than a hundred productions are waiting to be released. I never wanted to be an archivist, but having been in this business for so many years, I involuntarily became one, since the company itself turned into an archive. Over the years I have also acquired several collections of musicologists who passed away and helped other people find a new home for their collection. About ten years ago I was introduced to a retired music teacher by the name of Cootje van Oven, who had worked in Sierra Leone in the 1960’s and 70’s. She became interested in the musics of the various ethnic groups and during weekends she went out with a huge tape recorder in her small Fiat 600, and made recordings. Being almost ninety years old, she was getting worried about what would happen to her collection after she died. So I decided to make it my responsibility and visited her a number of times, made scans of all her notes and photographs, digitized her recordings and eventually a CD was released. Also, her notes and photographs were included in a website dedicated to the oral history of Sierra Leone. This was a success, as far as I’m concerned, but there are other collections within the Pan archive that I don’t know what to do with. In my opinion the Netherlands is not a good place to build and archive, because political decisions about funding are made on a short term basis, so the future of any archive is always uncertain. I used to thing that the US might be a good place to transfer some of our archives to in the future, but two weeks ago I received an email from the Rubin Museum in New York, warning me about massive cuts in arts funding proposed by the White House. (Fred Gales): The importance of recording and archiving of sound is important for the simple reason that it is an important aspect of our experience of the world. Therefor we should not only record and collect music, but other sounds as well. Q: (Rob Boonzajer Flaes) I’m hearing so many negative things – most of which I actually agree with – that make me feel very very sad. So my question is this: is there really no hope at all? A: (Bernard) As I said before, I am an entrepreneur, which means that I exploit music commercially by releasing CD’s and selling digital downloads via iTunes and Spotify. And I’m happy to say that this business model still generates a profit from distributing this kind of music. (Harry): To answer to Fred’s remark on the importance of recording sound, I should mention the platform Europeana Sounds. It’s not the most user-friendly platform, but it does connect all kinds of archives that focus on audio. Other signs of hope are the foundation of Wikipedia and Wikimedia and of course the Internet Archive, which is a private initiative without interference from governments. (Fred): One example that illustrates how it should be done, is provided by the Rijksmuseum, which made its whole collection publicly available for free on the internet. Q: (Barbara Titus, Cultural Musicology, UvA) I largely agree with the worries expressed here, but I would like to point out that there may me more help available than we sometimes think. My questions to the panel are: Whose music are we preserving? For whom are we preserving this? Whose pasts are we preserving? And what kinds of pasts are accessible to the kind of research that we do? And finally: Who owns them and who is entitled to own them? A: (Fred) Copyright is indeed a huge problem, especially in the case of world music. Current copyright legislation is too simplistic, since it only deals with authorship and public domain. In general world music is put in the public domain, while in fact a song can be owned by a village or a clan. In the case of purely traditional music this is not a big problem, for lack of commercial potential. But as soon as a traditional melody pops up in a popular song and becomes a hit, it tends to become a big problem, since the artists usually refuse to pay copyrights and claim the melody to be their own. With regards to the question about whose past we are preserving and who is the rightful owner, I suggest we move away from the notion of national heritage and toward the notion of world heritage. Q (Rob Smaling) The Meertens Institute has a collection of all the local recordings of traditional music that were made in the 50’s and 60’s, which is available for free on the internet. It’s called liederenbank.nl. A: (Fred) I would like to add that the Meertens Institute also provides the best audio quality available. All their recordings have been digitized at 24Bit/96KHz. No one else is offering that quality.
Summary of Side A – Emiel Barendsen (WMF advisory board, KIT) Many of the problems outlined this morning are the result of drastic cuts in arts funding by subsequent Dutch governments during the last fifteen years or so. But money is not the only problem, nor is it the solution to all problems. The audio archives in this country are indeed very poor. They are fragmented and incomplete, many of them are small, private outfits without any form of umbrella organization supervising things and providing searching facilities. Some genres are not covered at all. The accessibility is generally poor. We are facing problems regarding copyright and these impose further restrictions on accessibility. Existing archives are sometimes digitized but often not in a sustainable way. Digitization is not an end in itself – it is a continuous process, as even digital media are subject to decay and mingle-ups and the continuous development of soft- and hardware causes incompatibilities between files and programs, resulting in loss of data.
* Afternoon session: The B-side
V.6. ‘An archive in the UK – the British Library’s popular music collections’
Andy Linehan (British Library, National Sound Archive- UK) So how did the Sound Archive come about? It is really the story of one individual – a man called Patrick Shaw – who in 1930 read reviews of this magnificent piece of music that had been recorded. He wanted to hear it, but when he tried to find it, he was told the recording had been deleted. Disturbed by this, Shaw contacted the head of the British Museum, who appreciated the idea of a collection but thought Shaw was too young, and therefor advised him to try it again later. Quite a few years went by but after the war Shaw did succeed in realizing his dream. By the 1950’s he managed to get some funding for his British Institute of Recorded Sound. He got funding from Decca Records and from a Quaker foundation for education in the arts and in 1955 the British Institute of Recorded Sound actually opened in a physical location. It was an educational charity and in 1966 it got its full-time permanent home on Exhibition Road in South Kensington. It’s quite significant that they chose that location, as it is right behind the Royal Albert Hall, it’s where the Royal Geographical Society is and the Science Museum, so with that choice they said: This is important, it ranks alongside these places. Somewhat later the name was changed into the somewhat more user-friendly National Sound Archive. In 1983, after a change of management, an approach was made to the British Library, to see if they might be interested in taking over the Sound Archive as part of the National Library. Since 1997 the Sound Archive has been based in the British Library at St. Pancras and is very much part of the cultural institutions of Central London. The official task of the British Library is “to ensure that the nation’s cultural and intellectual memory is sustained and accessible forever”. My job there is to promote the study of popular music based on sound recordings and other items in the British Library’s collections. By law, a copy of every print publication must be given to the British Library by its publishers. This is called “legal deposit”. Since April 2013 legal deposit also applies to material published digitally and online. This includes websites, CDr’s etc. However legal deposit does not include sound recordings. We would like it to for many reasons – we had a system in place for a long time, which sort of worked – and it keeps being debated. So how then do we obtain our recordings? We get them from a number of sources: direct from record companies, from performers themselves, from institutions and from private individuals. What we collect, are published recordings – records that are released commercially in the UK – and unpublished recordings: things that we may commission people to do, things that people recorded themselves at home, things that have been recorded by institutions etc. Starting with published material, we go all the way back to the start of sound recording, wax cylinders, 78rpm’s etc. We have more than 250.000 vinyl records. We have been collecting everything retrospectively, on as many formats as we can. As I mentioned earlier, we also have a lot of non-commercial recordings. On this slide you can see stacks of spools with quarter inch tape. This collection came from a radio station called Capital Radio, which was the first commercial station in London. And when they first formed in 1973 they tried to be a little bit of everything for London, so they did classical concerts, they sponsored opera, they had plays, Books at Bedtime, discussions, pop music, live sessions etc. Eventually they became what is now a very narrow-cast pure pop music station, and they have no need for all these tapes, as they won’t rebroadcast them, so they were actually going to throw them away. When we heard about this, we intervened and were able to rescue something like 8000 tapes in this collection. It contains incredible things: live recordings of B.B. King, U2 and the Cure, early world music programs by Charlie Gillett. So we were very lucky to get them. One problem with unpublished recordings is usually the gathering of metadata, sometimes by trying to decipher the scribbling on a carton box. We also collect moving image. This is a recent development that we took up in the 1980’s with the rise of MTV and music videos. And when we discovered that the British Film Institute and Film Archive are not collecting pop videos, we decided that we would and so far we collected some 17.000 pop music videos. The main vulnerability of our archive lies with the unpublished material. For instance, we have over 150.000 CDr’s, 4.000 DAT tapes, as well as MiniDisc and VHS. And we are very much aware that all these media are very vulnerable. Not just because the physical item will deteriorate, but because if you want to digitize these items, you must have the equipment to play them on. And you simply cannot buy a professional standard digital audio tape player or minidisc player anymore. And unless we get everything off these media as quickly as we can, their content will be lost forever. So we are presently embarking on a massive digitization program to do just that. In the case of my area of expertise, which is pop music, we also collect print media like NME and Melody Maker. Our print archive on pop music goes back to the early fifties. We have a long history of manuscript music, sheet music and hand written material. Mainly from classical composers, but we started to try to get more contemporary things. One of the problems with that is that they go for a lot of money at auctions. The collector’s market has completely priced out most institutions, so we’re relying on generosity of people to donate them. We have something like ten different Beatles lyrics, which we rotate on display. You’ll not that I’ve taken a distant photograph of this, because all these lyrics are still in copyright, and if I was to make a digital copy of them, I’d be in breach of copyright. Now the 20th century model of what’s happening out there has to be addressed. Simply because of the volume of new releases coming in, we have to put in place the mechanism to be able to change over to digital acquisition of recordings rather than physical items. So what we did, was to develop software that enables us to receive a digital file, automatically retrieve all the metadata from that file and move that to our catalogue without actually have to take an item, look at it and enter it manually into the catalogue. By automating our catalogue we can free up more resources to get more recordings coming in. By entering a barcode we can ask MusicBrain what this recording is, take the data from MusicBrain and transfer that to our database. So there is a lot of automation that can now be done in the digital world. Another thing we will have to look at, is how to deal with material that is only being streamed online. There are so many platforms for that now, that it’s hard for us to figure out if we’ve got everything we need to collect. It is making our task – which we though was going to be simpler – much more complicated instead. Another problem is that some things appear to be huge – that are launched with a lot of fuss – and then later turn out to be not so huge. As we don’t have the means to get everything, we have to make choices: do we put all our resources on this site or on that one? Take MySpace. Ten, fifteen years ago everyone said “that’s where the future of music is going”, and where is MySpace now? So we’re very glad we didn’t put all our resources on MySpace back then. In the past, what was issued in the UK was our prime reason for collecting. But now, with my laptop I can record something from someone in Finland or North America or Peru and put it out on Bandcamp or SoundCloud. Is that a UK recording? In fact we will have to rewrite our whole acquisition and collecting policy, as a result of the way things have developed digitally. A problem that platforms like SoundCloud present archivists with, is that anyone can put really anything there. There is no longer the sort of gateway that record labels used to provide. So there’s more of a judgement we now have to make about what to collect. Whereas in the past music fans got their information from sources like NME en Melody Maker, they now get it from websites. Luckily we are now able to archive those as well. Another recent development and again a digital era development, is DIY archives and what some people call “activist archivists”. I suspect there is a number of them in this room. These people are motivated by the fact that certain things are not provided whereas they should be provided, so a lot of people start doing their own thing. These sites are very relevant to what we’re doing. At the moment we’re not acquiring them, simply because they’re there. The problem is that we have no way of knowing how sustainable these websites are. The owner might die, find a full-time job or simply lose interest. As far as accessibility is concerned, we have a website that provides access to all material that is not protected by copyright. So you will find relatively little contemporary material there, but more and more is added as soon as it is free from protection. We work together with Europeana Sounds, which was mentioned this morning, and with other libraries at home and abroad. We believe that an archive is not just for putting things away, so we also actively promote people to use it and get stuff out of it for creative purposes: to use our sound recordings to make new sound recordings. In order to enable us to digitize all those problem recordings I mentioned earlier – digital ones on early formats and on acetate discs, not just in our collection but around the UK – we did a survey around the British sound collections, established what there was in universities and other institutions, radio stations etc. – we mapped them out, went to the Heritage Lottery Foundation and said: all this material needs to be digitized or it will be lost. And they gave us a grant – we have to match the funding, so it’s not just free money – to be able for this to take place. Q: What is currently the most sustainable format to store digital audio visual material? A: The library has five mirror sites where everything is backed up. And we have an IT team that can give you all the details. In terms of audio files, we go for the highest possible resolution. We use mp4 for easy access, but wav files are also available. Q: Is there anything you don’t collect? What are the criteria? A: There are no strict rules. We are also interested in recordings of amateur musicians. For instance: the owner of a jazz club in Leeds used to record every performance. Only one of two musicians went on to become names, but it’s a really good slice of culture showing the continuity of a scene, so we are very keen to collect those recordings. We treat pretty much everything on its merits. And we don’t like to say no/ The main reason we sometimes have to, is when we get offered material that we already have in our collection.
V.7. ‘The HOW of preservation- different ways of collecting, developing ideas’
Panel 2: Marcus Cohen (DEN, Digital Heritage Netherlands), Paul Gompes (Netherlands Jazz Archive), Felix van Lamsweerde (ex- conservator etno-musicology Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam), Tim de Wolf (audio archeologist)
Paul Gompes: The Dutch Jazz Archive was founded in the early eighties by Michiel de Ruyter. Not long after its founding, the archive received funding from the ministry of culture. In 2008 the archive was forced to merge with other music organizations (classical, contemporary music and pop) into MCN. Since then the jazz archive has proceeded without funding and our main focus is to find an audience for what we are doing. We release CD’s, we publish a magazine and we organize events. Last year we launched a website with 100 audio visual portraits of Dutch jazz musicians.
Felix van Lamsweerde: I have been working at the KIT almost all my adult life, after studying ethnomusicology with Jaap Kunst. I have been involved with several collections: the collection of musical instruments at KIT, and also the collection of sound recordings and later video recordings, which I thought was very important because many of the musicians who came to perform at the Tropentheater, had never played outside their own countries before. I was mainly responsible for the Indian musicians, starting with Ravi Shankar in 1957. The original collection consisted of recordings made there, but later we acquired collections from other people in the Netherlands. After retiring in 2000 I went on making recordings, so I was able to build a large private collection. I have been trying to find a new home for that collection. Via connections at Amsterdam University contact was made with the university of Göttingen in Germany and my collection was moved there early this year. They will take care of it very well and have some interesting new ideas about collecting.
Marcus Cohen: Since November last year I work for the knowledge institute of digital culture, which is part of the Network for Digital Heritage, a co-operation between Beeld & Geluid, the Royal Library, the Royal Academy of Science, the National Archive and the National Agency for Monuments. They developed a strategy that has three building blocks: a digital infrastructure for content to be sustainable, creating connections between the various collections, and means to present material online. At the DEN website you will find a knowledge base with basics that can help develop digital plans and strategies. This year we are especially looking into the network of performing arts and music, to find out what are the needs in these areas. In contrast with heritage institutions like archives, which focus on collecting, in performing arts the focus is on production and performance, which means the needs for digitization are completely different. With regards to world music, I think the main focus should be on developing networks with similar organizations on the basis of a common interest in sound.
Tim de Wolf: I studied social and economic history, which has nothing to do with sound recording, but provided me with the skills to do research. When I was twelve, my father gave me a few 78rpm’s and what fascinated me from the start, was how they were made. How were they recorded? At age eighteen, when I already was a fanatic collector of records, I had a girlfriend who came from Curaçao. So I asked her mother if she knew about any records made on the Dutch Antilles. She told me she didn’t. But a few weeks later at a flea market I found a number of 78rpm’s that had been made there, and when I showed these to her, she started telling me story after story about the music. She knew all the artists and the songs. This made me realize there is a story behind this all that I wanted to explore. As an amateur researcher I travelled to Curaçao, talked to musicians and especially about how the records were made.
What equipment was used? Who decided what was going to be recorded, etc. By 1979 the Prince Clause Fund was founded and I received funding from them to continue my research on a professional basis. This resulted in a book I published in 1999, a discography in which I described the history of the studios. I then started my own company, which is now called “Bureau voor Audio-archelologie”. I have expanded my research in the Dutch Caribbean and also started digitalizing archives of a local radio station. The technical aspect of these old recordings is often overlooked. And yet it is very important to understand the technique that was used, if only to know which kind of distortion should be removed and which should be preserved. I don’t think you should try to make historic recordings sound as if they were made yesterday. That would be a falsification of history.
Q: (Armeno Alberts) Felix, have you ever been involved in trying to set up a national archive for visual and sound? A: I remember vaguely that before the NAA was established, there have been discussions about that. But even before that, there were initiatives on an international level. In the 1970’s there was an organization called the Extra-European Arts Committee, that was involved in organizing performances by non-European artists. Another initiative I was taking part in, was a collaboration between museums of musical instruments in various countries. One of the things they tried to establish, was a universal system of naming and describing instruments, so an international database could be built.
Q: Felix mentioned new ideas being developed in Göttingen. Please elaborate. A: I don’t know all the specifics yet, but from what I understand from a German paper they sent me, is that they approach a collection as being more than the sum of its parts. That it in some way also represents a person. In any case the aim is to develop a new way of studying collections.
Q: (Armeno Alberts) Paul, how could we try and make all those separate collecting institutions in the Netherlands join forces? A: If you mention the words “institute”, “music” and “heritage” to anyone in the vicinity of the government, they will all run away. A better approach would be to start from existing structures. Even though we don’t have a central facility like the British Library, we do have centres that provide partial solutions, like Beeld & Geluid and Muziekweb. Once you have surveyed and mapped these, it might be possible to determine which holes need to be filled. Wikipedia might be considered as a tool for accessing open source data in the various archives.
Q: Armeno Alberts) Isn’t it all just a question about money?
A: (Tim de Wolf) Well, of course, the problem is that in the past there was a lot of money available for culture, in the form of government funding that has been more and more reduced over the last fifteen years. But there is more to it. We now live in an age where everything has to be proven effective before it can be funded. So the question becomes: how can we demonstrate the value that old recordings have? All of us here probably want the same thing, but the decisions are made in The Hague. So what we need, are lobbyists in The Hague. What we should convey to policy makers, is that this music helps people feel good about their culture and about themselves. It has emancipatory potential, as I discovered with the songs in Papiamento I restored: they made the Antilleans proud of a language they had come to regard as inferior. Which shows again one of the paradoxes of colonialism: in many cases we have the former colonizers to thank for preserving recordings and other artefacts. Another thing is personal involvement. The enthusiasm shown here by Andy about his work at the Sound Archive is something I rarely see in my dealings with local institutions over here.
Q: (Stan Rijven) Are there other channels to be explored for getting out the music we like? I’m thinking of Kees de Koning, who is bringing out long forgotten music from Surinam on his hiphop-label. A: (Paul Gompes) First of all it’s not all about money. We at the jazz archive have been continuing our work for several years now without receiving one dime of government funding. I’m not saying that’s the way forward, but do keep in mind that government funding always comes with demands and conditions.
Q: (….) I have been a musician for 60 years and my question is: are you doing it – the digitalizing that you have been talking about – for fun or for money?
A: (Felix van Lamsweerde) I always collected music because I loved it so much. But at a certain moment one has to be realistic enough to look at how it can continue, how to find someone who is willing to help out financially. So I guess that for most of us here, it was love from the start. Speaking for myself, I also wanted to share the music I loved with others, so there is also a social aspect to it. Andy Linehan comments about what he heard I’ve seen a lot of enthusiasm here today. But I also get the impression things are very fragmented. Many people seem to be doing things very well, with particular interests that need to be drawn together. We at the Sound Archive of the British Library have been very lucky. We have the enthusiasm of the person who started it up, got some funding a long time ago that allowed us to become an institution, and then at a very crucial time in the 1980’s became part of the national library. Before that time the British Sound Archive was known as a quango – quasi autonomous non-governmental organization – exactly the sort of organization that gets its funding cut when a new government comes in and tries to save money. There is a role for the national library to play over here as well, I think. So my advice would be to go to the top there, because in my view a national library should be responsible for audio collections of the culture that it is collecting the memory of. What needs to be done, is a survey and mapping out of who is doing what and where. Is it a passive or an active collection? Do they have a digital presence? All those things. Because then you can approach people and say: all the work has been done. It’s worth doing, but it needs co-ordination and you are the people to do it.
Ingmar Vroomen (Muziekweb- Rotterdam): We are a music library, set up in 1961, just like it happened in the UK by one individual who was very interested in music. We’re still there and have the largest music collection in the Netherlands and one of the largest in Europe. We have around 600.000 CD’s, 300.000 LP’s and 30.000 music-DVD’s. Every week we acquire around 300 CD’s, catalogue them, digitize them and make them available on our website. We were set up as a lending library, and people can still visit us to borrow physical discs, or do so via a public library in their neighbourhood. At the same time we are more and more becoming a musical information centre. Unfortunately we have to buy our CD’s, because in the Netherlands there is no legal deposit as it exists in neighbouring countries. We also acquire collections. This year we were lucky enough to acquire the collection from Rasa in Utrecht. We are offering precisely what someone else suggested earlier today: a music archive with the possibility to actually listen to all the music in it online. We must charge a small fee for that service, but since we are a non-profit organization with Anbi-status, we have no commercial interest. As a foundation, we receive some funding from public libraries around the country and from the Royal Library in The Hague.
Q: In what way are artists profiting from what you do?
A: (Vroomen) If you borrow a book from the library, a small amount of money is paid to a copyright authority like Stichting Leenrecht. And they are the ones that pay the author. For music it’s exactly the same.
Q: (Roland de Beer) We have been talking today about the demise of archives and recordings, but what about the demise of living culture? Isn’t that the more important issue at hand, something which justifies another of these expert meetings?
A: (Tim de Wolf) I think we have to adjust to changing circumstances. The situation in the UK as outlined by Andy, was also true for the Netherlands some twenty years ago. But we are now facing different challenges. There is a lot of money around – not only from the government – but from wonderful institutions like the Prince Clause Fund and the Mondriaan Foundation. They all help me with my projects. Why? Because I have an enthusiastic story about why what I do is important. (Emiel Barendsen): I have heard only two solutions so far. One is the “British” model of getting adopted by the national library – not very realistic in this day and age – and the bottom-up approach which is seen as typical for the Netherlands. To me that means connecting all these separate islands, but there must be some form of supervision on aspects of quality, standardisation and sustainability of the archives. So I think the bottom-up method is the way to proceed, but my question is: how can it be managed? We need to develop a tool and set up a board with people who know what they’re talking about. This morning we have concluded that a lot of expertise has been lost, and a lack of expertise is disastrous for archives. So we must invest in expertise. (Paul Gompes): I agree that we need some coherence. And although I said earlier that we don’t need new institutes, what we are missing here in the Netherlands is a door to knock on. Just because those institutions and doors to knock on are missing, we’re not part of European funding schemes that are now very beneficial to other European countries that do take part in international projects. We no longer have representatives like MCN in those European networks.
Q: (Fred Gales) The number of musical cultures in the world is rapidly decreasing, like the number of languages being still spoken. This means that many of the recordings of Hugh Tracey and Charles Duvelle are in fact historical documents. That means there should be a sense of urgency about recording all music that is still being made but under threat of disappearing. Active music archives in my opinion have an obligation to do so.
John Collins comments I would like to talk some more about copyright. Some music in the West is classified as “folklore” because that provides an excuse for not paying the artists, since it is in the public domain. This morning I explained how it was decided in Ghana to nationalise local folklore, with the result that all the folklore of Ghana is actually owned by the president, as an individual. Well, of course he holds it in trust for the society. And they set up a Folklore Board to collect money from foreigners who are using Ghanaian folklore. And then it backfired, so now Ghanaians too have to pay for the use of their own folklore. I have a problem with the Eurocentric approach to copyright in third world countries, because other African countries have also gone down this line of nationalizing folklore. But it’s NOT folklore; it’s folkLIFE. It’s a living tradition which has to be recycled and the younger generation in Ghana is now denied to recycle their own culture, because it belongs to the president. This legislation also means that there is no public domain in Ghana. There is no free music for the Ghanaians anymore. And this is not the doings of some malignant colonial agency, it’s the brainchild of some daft lawyers. The world is not an equal playing field. So you cannot use the law of equity in trying to solve these matters. So how then to deal with theft of cultural heritage as it was done with for instance Deep Forest? A German ethnomusicologist suggested that for educational purposes we should use the lowest quality audio possible, to make it unfit for slick studio productions by clever artists from the West. Roundup by Emiel Barendsen: During the morning session we pointed out the problems we are facing with the archives, and in the second session we were trying to find solutions. I still think that the bottom-up approach is the only viable solution formulated here, but we will have to elaborate more on the subject. We need the expertise, we need to guarantee the quality, the technology and the sustainability. And with whom? That will be the next question. Who should be on that board, who should do the monitoring? That is what we should work on, as an outcome of this expert meeting.