UTEMS Tape Library
1. Introduction to the Collection
The EMS of the University of Toronto was Canada’s first university-based electroacoustic studio. Opening in 1959, it was at the centre of much of Canada’s earliest electroacoustic history.
Starting in 1959 the archive was housed within the University of Toronto Electronic Music Studio. Sometime in the 1990s the tapes were moved to the Robarts Library (University of Toronto’s Humanities and Social Sciences library) and stored in a subterranean storage area along with other Faculty of Music materials. In boxes the collection does not take up that much room.
The collection contains original works by composers who worked in or passed through the studio as well as many commercial works as reference or classroom materials. Canadian, American and international composers are represented fairly equally.
The catalogue of tape works at UTEMS was begun by Myron Schaeffer who employed part-time student help for the typing and filing of this material. There was a small component of the studio’s annual budget earmarked for this activity. With each passing year the collection grew larger and more difficult to maintain. Of the various student assistants hired for this activity, Lowell Cross, Anthony Gnazzo and Larry Lake made significant contributions to the maintenance of the project. In the late 70s grad student William Moylan worked on archiving material.
In the early 1980s the “cataloguing” stopped. Tapes were stored but not numbered and carded etc.; it was a question of time and resources. In the late 80s, following Jean-François Denis’ initiative in cataloguing the collection held at Concordia University, Kevin Austin catalogued the UTEMS collection. A document detailing the holdings of the collection at that time is available here [PDF].
2. Overview of the Holdings in the Collection
Name of the collection
UTEMS Tape Library.
Where the collection is housed
The main part of the collection is stored in the University of Toronto’s Robarts Library (below ground, level 4) as a part of the music library storage. Perhaps 100 tapes of uncatalogued works are stored in the current EMS studio.
Number of works in the collection
A total of 621 reel to reels make up the collection, consisting of 5-inch (214) and 7-inch (337) tapes, mostly mostly 1/4") and 10-inch tapes (70), a mix of 1/4" and 1/2".
Range of years of composition / performance
Formats found in the collection
5-inch, 7-inch, 10-inch reel to reel tapes, 1/4” and 1/2”, full track, half track, 4-track, 1/4 track stereo.
General state of the collection
Good, stable, tapes from 1970s may or may not have binder problem of Scotch and Ampex making recovery difficult.
Works recovered and archived
3. Artistic and Cultural Importance of the Collection
The artistic value of the collection is questionable given current performance standards. The value of the collection is primarily historical — particularly for the first 10–15 years of the studio’s output.
4. Recovery / Archival Activities
Recovery/digitization of the collection has been done on an “on demand” basis. There are no plans at this time to digitize/recover all works.
Reel to reel transfers were made to computer — 24-bit analogue to digital. Occasional problems with “sticky” tapes with binder problem were encountered. Preferred method is cleaning and lubrication.
5. Financial, Human and Institutional Resources
Dennis Patrick — Custodian of the collection
University of Toronto, Music Faculty Library — Owner of the collection
University of Toronto, Robarts Library — Long-term storage of the collection
6. Dissemination of and Access to the Collection
The collection is the property of the Faculty of Music library. Requests to access the collection can be made to the head librarian. It is not publicly available, and no effort has been made to make the collection accessible to the general public.
As far as the target group of the collection is concerned, most inquiries in recent years were of a personal nature. Many parts of the archive are available on CD or have been transferred from vinyl to CD (some of the archive is recordings from vinyl).
7. Future of the Collection
At this time there are no plans for future activities related to the digitization or recovery of the collection that I know of.