Cal­gary univer­sity gets grant to pre­serve mu­sic ar­chive

Times Colonist - - Arts -

CAL­GARY — The largest mu­sic ar­chive in Canada is be­ing pre­served at the Univer­sity of Cal­gary and con­tains com­pi­la­tions from some of this coun­try’s most well-known artists that have never been heard be­fore.

Uni­ver­sal Mu­sic Canada gave the univer­sity more than 5,500 boxes full of mu­sic and ar­ti­facts that doc­u­ment its his­tory from 1949 to 2012 and a $2-mil­lion grant that will help the team to pre­serve the rare col­lec­tion.

EMI Mu­sic Canada, which was ac­quired by Uni­ver­sal Mu­sic in 2012, brought a num­ber of the world’s most fa­mous artists to Canada in­clud­ing The Bea­tles and Pink Floyd. A cover by Tom Cochrane, which has never been heard be­fore, was found among the thou­sands of record­ings in the di­verse col­lec­tion.

The record­ings are in 40 dif­fer­ent for­mats and track­ing down the equip­ment to play and dig­i­tize them can be a chal­lenge.

“The au­dio­vi­sual ma­te­rial is per­haps the most frag­ile and the most likely to be­come ob­so­lete,” Tom Hick­er­son, vice-provost and univer­sity li­brar­ian, told CTV Cal­gary.

“When we start talk­ing about tapes that are 30 or 40 years old, the is­sue is that the ma­chines that play them are also 30 or 40 years old,” said tech­ni­cian Nathan Chan­dler.

“If you look at mod­ern tech­nol­ogy, like a lot of it, cell­phones and things and com­put­ers, they’ll last for maybe five to ten years tops, so find­ing 30-year-old equip­ment that ac­tu­ally still works is al­ways a chal­lenge.”

The col­lec­tion also in­cludes thou­sands of im­ages, lyric sheets, pro­duc­tion notes and even drafts of al­bum art­work.

“Now that you have be­hind the scenes of a record la­bel the amount of re­search that can be done is go­ing to be re­ally pos­i­tive for Cana­dian cul­ture. It’s just an amaz­ing re­source for figuring out the iden­tity of Cana­di­ans in the last half cen­tury,” said ar­chiv­ist Robb Gil­bert. “There’s tons of mu­sic to dis­cover in this col­lec­tion.”

The goal of the project is to doc­u­ment Canada’s mu­sic his­tory and to share the unique sto­ries be­hind some of this coun­try’s favourite tunes.

The Univer­sity of Cal­gary has also part­nered with the Na­tional Mu­sic Cen­tre to help bring parts of the col­lec­tion to the pub­lic. —

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