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Music Library Preserves Departmental Performances
by Karen Snively

Did you know the Music Library has been archiving and preserving recordings of the JMU School of Music’s departmental performances?  The School of Music has recorded departmental performances for at least half a century, with the earliest known performance recorded in 1956 on reel-to-reel tape.  JMU School of Music logoThis collection includes everything from large ensemble performances to solo recitals by students and faculty.  These archival recordings are housed in the Music Library and are entered into an online searchable database created and maintained by music library staff. 


With the advancement of technology over the years, recording formats have progressed from reel-to-reel to audiocassette to DAT (Digital Audio Tape) to Compact Disc (CD).  Currently, the bulk of the recordings are stored on DAT, a format that was used by the JMU recording studio from April 1991 to May 2003.  Beginning in Sept. 2003, the performances have been recorded onto CD. 


Digital Audio Tape, Reel-to-reel, and CD formats

Digital audio tape (DAT), reel-to-reel tape, and CD formats.

As older recordings deteriorate and the equipment for playing those formats ages and become less available, we risk losing these performances forever.   The Music Library is in a race against technology to transfer these recordings to a more stable medium.  This process starts with attentive listening to the entire performance by music library staff to determine the viability of the original recording before transfer.  If the recording’s fidelity is preserved or salvageable, it is then transferred by staff onto an archival quality CD-R.  Once the transfer is complete, the online record is updated to reflect the changes.  The performance is given a new call number; the accompanying paper program is then copied and reduced to fit into a CD jewel case and serve as liner notes for the recording.  These recordings may not last forever, but will provide many additional years to the life of each recording until transferred again onto the next “latest and greatest” format.


You can learn what titles are in this collection by visiting the Music Library Homepage and clicking on the link to the Performance Tape Collection.   Anyone may listen to them by visiting the Music Library.  In order to preserve the integrity of these unique performances, recordings are played from a remote location behind the Public Services Desk.


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