"The Internet Archive is determined to preserve these at-risk records"
October 25, 2019 8:29 AM   Subscribe

There are 50 million songs on Spotify (Expanded Ramblings), but there are still generations of music locked on physical formats. Imagine if your favorite song or nostalgic recording from childhood was lost forever. This could be the fate of hundreds of thousands of audio files stored on vinyl, except that the Internet Archive is now expanding its digitization project to include LPs. Earlier this year, the Internet Archive began working with the Boston Public Library (BPL) to digitize more than 100,000 audio recordings from their sound collection. How the Internet Archive is Digitizing LPs to Preserve Generations of Audio (IA blog)

Not everything in the BPL vinyl collection is available to stream in full. Most are available as samples only, such as The Nonesuch Guide to Electronic Music, as seen in the IA blog as an example of the high resolution cover scans of the album art. In fact, at the time of writing this, the statistics show that only 3 digitized records are covered by the U.S. Music Modernization Act (EFF) of 2018 (Wikipedia), but the Internet Archive has a much larger collection of such unlocked recordings.
posted by filthy light thief (21 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is SO COOL. The roomful of turntables and the digital segmentation are making my inner completist audio dork so, so happy.

(And calling songs on a record "audio files stored on vinyl" is... probably correct in some important way and also slightly brain-melting.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:08 AM on October 25, 2019 [3 favorites]


It's interesting that the opposite problem isn't considered. All of these digital files can be disappeared in the same way as physical, digital storage after all is still physical. When the electricity starts to go out, there will be many digital-only media that will be lost. Though by then, it seems likely everything will be at similar risk.
posted by GoblinHoney at 9:24 AM on October 25, 2019 [8 favorites]


When the electricity starts to go out, there will be many digital-only media that will be lost.

There will be plentiful ukuleles though
posted by thelonius at 9:28 AM on October 25, 2019 [5 favorites]


Preservation of digital-born audio is absolutely something that archivists consider and actively work through. See also the ARSC Guide to Audio Preservation, which is free to download.

Archivists are, thankfully, working to preserve both our physical-born audio formats and our digital-born audio formats. It’s an uphill climb, no question. But they definitely aren’t ignoring what’s digital-born.
posted by nightrecordings at 9:32 AM on October 25, 2019 [14 favorites]


I wonder if there is going to be a black hole in the historical record of this period more generally. The kind of written record, (diaries, memos, letters,) that is how you can have some insight into what people were thinking and doing let alone the price of rice or troop movements seems like it isn't going to be done for the foreseeable future. Everything is electronic and abstracted to begin with but also it seems like most people don't want to write anything down to begin with because of secrecy.
posted by Pembquist at 10:06 AM on October 25, 2019 [4 favorites]


This is so great.

I am a total pack rat because I love the history that imbues the most ordinary things. I am blissful when I find a 15-year-old folder full of to-do lists.

But music - art - each one of these songs is the product of hours and hours of effort by multiple people, an effort to say something. To imagine them being lost breaks my heart.

I wish all the music were fully available right now for everyone to stream and enjoy, but I am so glad and so grateful that the Internet Archive is making the effort and expending the resources to do this. In a hundred years when this stuff FINALLY falls out of copyright, the world will have a real treat waiting.

Thank you for posting this, filthy light thief!
posted by kristi at 10:08 AM on October 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


BPL vinyl digitization previously: The Boston Public Library 78rpm Collection, which is available for free in full.

And digital audio archival by Internet Archive previously: A dose of audio nostalgia for early netizens: much of IUMA, back online
posted by filthy light thief at 10:10 AM on October 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


There will be plentiful ukuleles though

so ... a horror beyond the worst imaginings of yrrr zombie apocalypses.
posted by philip-random at 10:10 AM on October 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


But music - art - each one of these songs is the product of hours and hours of effort by multiple people, an effort to say something.

This reminds me of a line that rattles around in my head with some frequency: "People used to make records, As in a record of an event, The event of people playing music in a room..."
Ani Difranco - "Fuel"
posted by filthy light thief at 10:12 AM on October 25, 2019 [1 favorite]



damn it, FLT, I needed to work this afternoon! ;)

That 12-at-a-time-setup is impressive!
(semi de-rail?)
Browsing those album covers, oof, reminds I have been assessing my parents' and grandparents' vinyl collection that they passed onto me, on and off, over the past year. Nearly all were then-popular standards (The Lettermen, Sinatra, Herb Alpert, Barry Manilow, Lawrence Welk, mitch miller) showtunes (rogers and hammerstein, west side story), or a classical that are generally still 99 cents + shipping on discogs and found at your local thrift store.

Viewing this were another reminder how ephemeral American popular culture is and the presence of classical music as the dominant genre of the early 20th century America.

I was initially concerned about the scanning quality of the album covers - because I noticed moire patterns in the zoomed-in image of the nonesuch guide to electronic music cover art but I browsed a few others and the nonesuch moire appears to be an exception.
posted by fizzix at 11:09 AM on October 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


I'm trying to find a way to filter this so that only albums that are full recordings and not just samples shows up. It looks like the vast majority of the albums are only available as samples. (It says "some of the albums are only available in 30 second snippets," but I'm having no luck finding any that aren't samples only...)

I'm glad they're doing this. The Archive does amazing work. It's a pity our copyright system doesn't allow material to enter the public domain more swiftly - especially when material has essentially been abandoned.
posted by jzb at 11:58 AM on October 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


so if IA only has the samples, where are the full length pieces stored? are those accessible?
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:59 AM on October 25, 2019


I believe IA is storing the full digital copy, but only making samples publicly accessible for legal reasons. From what's been the case in similar projects by the IA in the past, it's likely that you can access the full recording if you visit their physical location in San Francisco.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:16 PM on October 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


This is great. Hopefully they'll put up more full albums to listen to. That Nonesuch Electronic Music album linked above was so quaint. This one is slightly more advanced.

Over the past couple years I've picked up a couple hundred or so LPs from thrift shops, mostly classical or oddities, usually at a buck a piece. I'd like to digitize them but haven't been satisfied with the digitizer I'm using (creative x-fi hd). Cleaning the records is also hit or miss. I do like having the physical objects around (cover art, etc). I don't like looking at everything on a screen. But the amount of room they're taking up is curbing my ability to buy more.
posted by DarkForest at 12:57 PM on October 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


jzb: I'm trying to find a way to filter this so that only albums that are full recordings and not just samples shows up.

BPL's unlocked recordings -- this list is created by checking "Unlocked Recordings" under the "Collection" filters. But because there are currently only 3 titles (Music for Baton Twirlers, Things They Never Taught At School ! by Nipsey Russell, and The Music Of Russia), I also linked to the broader unlocked recordings collection in my main post, below the break.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:03 PM on October 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


Thanks. I must have missed that on first pass. Uncovered The Best Of The Movie Themes 1970, which features "Mah-na mah-na." That has made a pretty awful Friday much better, so many thanks!
posted by jzb at 3:30 PM on October 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


For some reason I was expecting to read that they were laser scanning the things and storing their physical shape, but I suppose that would only be interesting for records that do funny things with branching tracks.
posted by lucidium at 6:28 AM on October 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


" fate of hundreds of thousands of audio files stored on vinyl"

Evidence that the author of the article is < 50 yrs old: Those aren't "audio files", those are TRACKS!!
posted by storybored at 7:49 PM on October 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


After the giant Universal warehouse fire which destroyed all the master tapes for decades of beloved recordings across multiple genres (and countless, literally countless hours of outtakes, unreleased tracks, studio banter, and other things from the artists afflicted by this disaster), we might as well get as much vinyl as possible saved because it's LITERALLY THE ONLY RECORD WE HAVE OF THESE ARTISTIC EXPRESSIONS LEFT.
posted by hippybear at 12:51 AM on October 29, 2019 [1 favorite]


For those wondering what I'm talking about, the 2008 Universal Studios fire, the extent of which was only within the last year truly revealed.
posted by hippybear at 12:58 AM on October 29, 2019 [1 favorite]


There are private torrent sites that are the greatest digital repositories/archives of music and audio recordings that have ever existed. While the trackers can be taken down, the decentralized nature of torrents and their associated files make the system a great way to preserve and safeguard history.
posted by rbf1138 at 10:33 PM on October 29, 2019 [1 favorite]


« Older I could have told you that   |   Snorkelling grandmothers uncover large population... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments