Concordia Archival Project
1. Introduction to the Collection
Explain how the collection came to be, how it grew over the years, which persons and institutions were involved in building and maintaining the collection (the “Custodian”) and any other related information.
The collection was begun by Kevin Austin with works performed in concerts organized at Concordia University by MetaMusic, later renamed CECG/GEC (Concordia Electroacoustic Composers’ Group / Groupe Électroacoustique Concordia). In the late 1970s and early 1980s the collection grew primarily through the activities of this group. With the founding of the CEC in 1986, the group would again be renamed, to ÉuCuE (Électroacoustique université Concordia university Electroacoustics), as it is still known today. ÉuCuE concentrates its efforts much more on concert presentation of tape works than on works involving live performers, although without excluding any form of electroacoustic presentation.
Donations by several individuals and associations also contributed to the growth of the collection. For example, a number of reels, cassettes and concert videos were acquired from the Association pour la création et recherches électroacoustiques du Québec (ACREQ) in 1997, and a large quanitity of materials were donated by John Wells’ widow in 2007.
This history of the collection and its relation to Concordia Univeristy is explained in more detail in an interview with Kevin Austin in eContact! 4.4, “The History of Concordia University’s Electroacoustic Program and Concert Series,” and in interviews directly related to the collection in this Special Issue of eContact! with Jean-François Denis (in French) and Kevin Austin (in English).
2. Overview of the Holdings in the Collection
Name of the collection
The Concordia Electroacoustic Archive and Collection
Where the collection is housed
Concordia University Music Department (Montréal, Canada)
Number of works in the collection
In 1989, the collection was diligently catalogued by Jean-François Denis. It then contained more than 1100 works, and consisted of around 200 hours of music. Between 1989 and the start of this project, more works were acquired from various sources. Currently, there are approximately 3500 works documented in the collection, as well as several hundreds of works not yet catalogued… and the collection continues to grow (see §1 and §4).
Range of years of composition / performance
For the needs of the 2007–08 archival project (see §4) we considered the period from the 1960s to approximately 1995 to be the critical period. The works in the collection however go back as far as the 1920s (although recorded at a later date) and extend right up to the present (November 2008 at the writing of this report).
Formats found in the collection
In 1989, when the collection was first catalogued, it contained analogue tape in various formats (quad [4- and 8-channel 1/4” and 1/2” tapes], 1/2 track), cassettes, VHS and Beta tapes and 33-1/3 r.p.m. vinyl LPs. The majority of the works were “tape pieces”, but there were also many mixed works (tape with instrument) as well as some concert documentation — both audio and video recordings. Later additions to the collection were on DAT, CD and CD-r, while today the majority of the new acquisitions are submitted on CD-r or in some cases sent in via ftp, with bit depth / sampling rates of up to 32-bit/192 kHz. The collection as a whole is a very accurate reflection of the changing interests and trends in the larger electroacoustic milieu: early works are predominantly stereophonic, 4-channel works are encountered later and eventually various multi-channel and surround formats are found, including the 10-channel (5 stereo CDs) “Butterfly Installation” format used in the Harvest Moon Festival at Concordia.
General state of the collection
Works recovered and archived
Over 600 works were recovered from reel to reel, Beta and DAT tapes. Some works that were only available on cassette have also been digitized.
Percentage of works which were unrecoverable
Less than 2%. The collection was in excellent state, but at least a small number of unrecoverable works is inevitable given the age of the collection and the period it covers )some tape are renowned for their non-longevity).
In addition to tape and mixed pieces, soundscape compositions and recordings of live performances, the collection also contains interviews, archive documents and recordings of radio broadcasts.
The collection contains a significant number of works by Canadian composers and performers, from a particularly fruitful and formative period (1960–1989) in the larger history of electroacoustics
3. Artistic and Cultural Importance of the Collection
The Recovery and Archival Project will help develop a more complete awareness and appreciation of the historical and cultural background of Canada’s community of electroacoustic practitioners than has thus far been possible, due to limitations on the availability of and access to materials such as those found in the collection. As such, it holds great potential for positive impact on the cultural face of Canada, and will ultimately translate into a renewed sense of community, of cultural and historical identity, for Canadian musicians.
4. Recovery / Archival Activities
4a) General Overview: Explain briefly what has been done to date to digitize / recover / archive the collection.
For pragmatic reasons a decision was made to concentrate on digitizing only those works in the collection which were composed up to and including 1995. There are several reasons for the choice of this date. The largest portion of the collection was concentrated in the 1970s and particularly in the 1980s. It was clear that with the resources available at this stage of the project it would be impossible to transfer all the works in the collection. On the other hand, this is a good date to choose as representing a mid-way point in the digital
The following equipment was used in transferring and digitizing the materials.
- Stereo 1/4" half-track: Studer B62 / électronique révisée with a Tascam DX-2D DBX Decoder.
- Beta Tapes: Sony SL-HFR70 with a Sony PCM-701ES PCM Decoder.
- Cassette player: Nakamichi RX-505.
- 8-track: Tascam 58 with two Tascam DX-4D DBX Decoder units.
2. Digitization. Sonic Studio Model 304 Analogue-Digital Converter
4. Recovery. A t.c. electronic PowerCore DeNoise was used for noise reduction, and a t.c. electronic PowerCore EQSat was used for equalization.
5. Financial, Human and Institutional Resources
The first individual who should be mentioned here is Kevin Austin, the Custodian of the collection. It is largely due to his efforts (through MetaMusic, later CECG/GEC and ÉuCuE) that the collection exists in the first place, and that it has grown to what it is today. Also of great importance are the contributions of Jean-François Denis; he was also instrumental in the concert series and building the collection, and in about 1986 catalogued the collection (over 1000 works at the time).
The welfare of the collection has been entirely dependent on the support offered by Concordia University over the years. The collection has been housed at the university since it was first begun, and technical support, working space, computer equipment and much more have been made available to the various persons and groups who built and maintained the collection. Concordia has also provided a number of forms of support to the CEC as it planned and coordinated the various stages of CAP. The online presentation of the collection would not be possible without the important contribution Concordia University has made in providing significant amounts of server space and bandwidth.
The project was entirely funded through Heritage Canada, via Canadian Culture Online’s Partnership Fund and further made possible by in-kind donations from all Project Partners.
Canadian Culture Online (Heritage Canada)
An annual programme to digitize and make Canadian cultural heritage collections available online. This programme provided the principal financial support to make this project possible.
There are a number of different persons and teams who have been involved in and essential to this project The full list can be consulted on the credits page of the main CAP site; here the main people involved are listed:
Project Patron and Custodian of the Collection: Kevin Austin
Project Manager: Yves Gigon
Communications: jef chippewa
Technical Partner: Dominique Bassal
Education Partner: Chantal Bénit
Translation Partner: Yves Charuest
Institutional Support: Concordia University
6. Dissemination of and Access to the Collection
6a) How does one access the materials in the collection? Is it available publicly? Online? By subscription? What form(s) of presentation have been developed for access to the collection (works available online, educational modules, CD-rom, journal featuring the collection, etc.)
The collection was previously only accessible by the general public if works were played in concert. Some students had access to the collection as well (Ian Chuprun actually listened to the entire collection one summer). The CECG/GEC coordinated concerts for several years, and most, if not all, works that were sent in were eventually played in concert.
The works are made available to the general public through the “Presentation” component of the project and can be accessed in a variety of manners according to the needs of the visitor.
A special site was created to present the works from the collection, accompanied by programme notes and composer biographies. The visitor can listen to the works as well, as MP3s, or via a mini “radio” that plays works randomly on the main pages of the site and works by the composer on the composer bio pages.
Some of the eLearning modules — one of the major components of CAP — use works from the collection as audio examples.
Works from the collection are also available in SONUS.ca, the CEC’s online electroacoustic Jukebox.
6b) Are there special “target groups” to whom the collection is of particular interest (students, educators, general public, other)? Are there any specific uses
The goal of this project was to make it accessible and of interest to a broad range of persons: students and educators, researchers, old and new electroacoustic amateurs, etc.
7. Future of the Collection
Describe plans for future activities related to the collection or the digitization / recovery / archival project.
This can only be seen as a first stage in the recovery of this collection; at the moment (December 2008) however, there are no concrete plans for its continuation. This can only be discussed after we have assessed the success of this stage of the larger project.