WILL THE WORLD’S MUSIC ARCHIVES BE LOST?

or

A CRISIS WORSE THAN THE FILM ARCHIVE CRISIS

or

THE PREDICAMENT OF THE WORLD’S GREAT SERIOUS RECORDING ARCHIVES

©2007 Mark B. Anstendig

The Anstendig Institute has heard breathtaking news about the Juilliard School of Music’s recording department. That important recording department in the world’s leading music school, and all other serious archives, that have rightly used the best, safest, recording medium over the last decades, are faced with a crisis far worse than even that of the film industry. But the film industry has recognized their crisis and done something about it for decades now! They at least have acquired large funding and have seen to it that adequate machines exist to play and transfer their fading and disintegrating archives.

Not only is the Juilliard recording department, as well as similar departments around the world and all other high quality analog archives, faced with disintegrating tapes, but it is also waking up and finding that, even if it now starts doing something about it, its remaining machines will not last long enough to transfer more than a small percentage of its archives unless someone gets some manufacturer to supply more such machines, as well as tapes. And it does not even have another recording medium to which to transfer the archives.

In sum:

1) The world’s great sound recording archives no longer can get the machines to play their recordings. 
2) The recording archives are disintegrating. 
3) There is no affordable, viable medium to which those archives could currently be transferred, even if they had a means of playing all of them. 
4) Most of those responsible for the archives have utterly failed in recognizing the seriousness of the problem and may have already lost their opportunity to adequately do anything about it! 
5) The recording-manufacturing industry has not fulfilled its obligations and is ultimately responsible for it all!


Sound recording is even more important than image-recording (film, either still or moving). Sound/hearing, as The Anstendig Institute has pointed out, is the more powerful of the two higher senses, seeing and hearing. Hearing determines the content if both sound and images are present simultaneously! The human soul, which contains the bulk of human emotions in all their rich variety, resides in sound, not in images. Therefore, sound recording archives are more important than even film archives. Sound recording (the duplication of sounds, any sounds) is barely a century old. The soul of a century was preserved for the first time ever in history in the sound recordings of our sound archives. And also what was remembered from the far past and perpetuated through musical and other theatrical performance, was preserved through recordings of the spoken word. In one fell swoop, it could all go down the drain.


Juilliard’s recording department has finally bashed up against the fact that their machines are no longer being manufactured and have not been for some time now. Parts are also becoming hard if not impossible to get. Even recording tape is hard to find, is now made sporadically by only one company, has become more and more costly, and will soon become unavailable, unless something or someone manages to shore up that company’s failing profit margins.  Juilliard’s recording and archiving problems are enormously important. They reflect all similar archives around the world. But as I have pointed out, the problem clearly reaches way beyond even that.

Somewhere, somehow, some people have finally to step up and start doing something universal about this. As the leading music-training institution of the world, no place has more obligation to do that than The Juilliard School of Music. But all other such institutions are just as obligated, and the rest of the world should also wake up and try to solve this problem.


The Anstendig Institute is ready to assist in any way we can. And this statement of the problem is our start.