[Dixielandjazz] FW: A giant leap for the preservation of sound recordings

Ed Danielson mcvouty78 at hotmail.com
Wed Apr 21 11:02:26 PDT 2004

Wow!  Just think of all those 78s in everyone's basements sounding like new!

Ed Danielson

>A friend of mine writes:
>This is pretty amazing. I got it from a list for devotees of pre-LP 
>piano recordings.
>Public release date: 16-Apr-2004
>Contact: Dan Krotz
>dakrotz at lbl.gov
>DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
>From top quarks to the blues
>Berkeley Lab physicists develop a new way to digitally restore and
>preserve audio recordings
>BERKELEY, CA -- The 1995 discovery of the top quark and singer Marian
>Anderson's 1947 rendition of "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen" may
>seem unrelated. But through an interagency agreement with the Library
>of Congress, the same technology used to study subatomic particles is
>helping to restore and preserve the sounds of yesteryear.
>"We developed a way to image the grooves in a recording that is
>similar to measuring tracks in a particle detector," says Carl Haber,
>a senior scientist in Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Physics
>Division, who developed the technology along with fellow Physics
>Division scientist Vitaliy Fadeyev.
>Their work could ultimately enable the Library of Congress to
>digitize the thousands of blues, classical, Dixie, jazz, and spoken
>word recordings in its archives. The mass digitization of these aging
>discs and cylinders will both preserve the nation's musical history
>and make it accessible to a wide audience.
>The collaboration, which is rooted in a February 23rd agreement
>between the Library of Congress and Berkeley Lab to conduct media
>preservation research, takes advantage of Berkeley Lab's decades of
>experience developing ways to analyze the flood of data generated by
>high energy physics experiments. This work, conducted at accelerators
>located at Fermilab and the European Center for Particle Physics in
>Geneva, requires the ability to image the tracks made by elementary
>particles as they hit detectors and find these tracks amid a jumble
>of meaningless noise.
>"We thought these methods, which demand pattern recognition and noise
>suppression, could also analyze the grooved shapes in mechanical
>recordings," says Haber.
>To test their hunch, Fadeyev and Haber turned to a precision optical
>metrology system used by Berkeley Lab physicists to inspect silicon
>detectors destined for the upcoming ATLAS experiment, which will
>search for a theorized but never observed particle called the Higgs
>Boson. Instead of measuring silicon detectors, however, they
>programmed the system to map the undulating grooves etched in shellac
>phonograph discs. The images were then processed to remove scratches
>and blemishes, and modeled to determine how a stylus courses through
>the undulations. Lastly, the stylus motion was converted to a digital
>sound format.
>The result is a digital reproduction of a mechanical recording, with
>each wiggle, bump and ridge in the recording's grooves faithfully
>captured and each scratch ironed out. In this way, The Weavers' 1950
>rendition of the classic Huddie Ledbetter (a.k.a. Leadbelly)
>song "Goodnight Irene" is closely mirrored -- minus the hisses, pops,
>and scratches. The same goes for "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've
>Seen": the nearly 60-year-old mechanical recording sounds worn and
>scratchy, but the digital rendition rings clear, just as Anderson
>sang it in 1947.
>"We had to use the metrology system in a new way, and measure a
>groove before we even knew its shape," says Fadeyev. "This enabled us
>to develop a noncontact way to measure delicate samples without the
>need for much operator intervention. It also has the potential to
>digitally reassemble broken discs."
>Next, Fadeyev and Haber will advance the study of ways to recover
>damaged and worn cylinders, as well as study the entire three-
>dimensional profile of a disc's grooves. Although still under
>development, the technology could eventually give the Library's staff
>a better method to restore some of the 500,000 items it provides
>preservation treatments to each year, from a collection of nearly 128
>million items in all formats.
>"The groundbreaking research that our colleagues at Berkeley Lab are
>undertaking signals an important new direction for preservation of
>collections of this type, which we hope will be of benefit to
>libraries and archives everywhere," says Mark Roosa, the Library's
>Director for Preservation.
>In addition to preserving the past, mass digitization gives the
>public greater access to thousands of old recordings, some so fragile
>that even the touch of a stylus could damage them. Of course, mass
>digitization hinges on shepherding the technology far beyond its
>current research-and-development stage, which is familiar work to
>Berkeley Lab physicists who have designed and built detectors that
>have gone on to observe elementary particles like the top quark.
>"In the same way, we want to take what we know about audio
>preservation and help the Library of Congress preserve their
>collection and make it accessible to the public," says Haber. "It's
>also a good example of how basic research in the physical sciences
>can benefit other fields of science and culture."
>More information and examples can be found at:

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