Archiving Sound

Archaic Sounds Caress Modern Ears

Curators at the University of California at Santa Barbara’s Donald C. Davidson Library have digitized 6,000 late 19th-century and early 20th-century wax and plastic cylinder recordings — precursors to the flat record. The audio, which includes ragtime hits, vaudeville routines and presidential speeches, encapsulates history with crackles and hisses, but archivists say preserving the sounds now is vital because the cylinders are deteriorating.

“The major record companies have been neglecting this aspect of music for the better part of 90 years,” said David Seubert, director of the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project.

Since the site went up in November, audiophiles have downloaded 700,000 recordings, much to Seubert’s surprise. The collection excites audio experts and cylinder fans, who now have free access to the works anytime, anywhere. People are burning them onto CDs, using them on internet radio stations and possibly remixing them, he said.

All recordings on the site are in the public domain, Seubert said, and cleaned-up MP3 versions hold a Creative Commons license.

The Perils of Search

Two stories in the news:

  • Amazon Says Technology, Not Ideology, Skewed Results

    Until a few days ago, a search of Amazon’s catalog of books using the word “abortion” turned up pages with the question, “Did you mean adoption?” at the top, followed by a list of books related to abortion.

    Amazon removed that question from the search results page after it received a complaint from a member of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, a national organization based in Washington.

    “I thought it was offensive,” said the Rev. James Lewis, a retired Episcopalian minister in Charleston, W.Va. “It represented an editorial position on their part.”

  • Kinderstart sues Google over lower page ranking [pdf]

    A parental advice Internet site has sued Google Inc. (GOOG.O: Quote, Profile, Research), charging it unfairly deprived the company of customers by downgrading its search-result ranking without reason or warning.

    The civil lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, California, on Friday by seeks financial damages along with information on how Google ranks Internet sites when users conduct a Web-based search.

The French Keep Pushing

France pushes for free choice on song downloads [pdf]

French nationalists and free market advocates, whose sniping over cross-border takeovers has grabbed headlines, may now have something they can agree on: protecting freedom of choice on song and video downloads from the Internet.

This could be bad news for Apple Computer Inc. and Microsoft Corp., which have for the most part locked consumers into their own downloading systems with proprietary anti-piracy software.

The French parliament is set to vote early this week on a new law that would allow consumers to legally circumvent existing software that protects copyrighted material.

Analysts say that the French are on to something that the rest of the world has yet to figure out: It needs to set rules for this new market now or risk one or two U.S. companies taking control of online access to music, video and TV.