UB Music Library digitizing rare recordings of legendary composers

Dec 21, 2017

More than 600 musical works performed at the University at Buffalo as far back as 1964 will soon be preserved on digital format. They include works by some of America's most prominent composers of the 20th century.

 They are compositions and performances by greats including Aaron Copland, Charles Wuorinen, Julius Eastman, Elliott Carter and more than 100 other prominent musicians over a 16-year period.

 "It was an international roster of people that were invited here," explained John Bewley, associate music librarian and archivist at the UB Music Library. "Some of them already had careers established when they came here and some went on tojust stellar careers." 

Bewley said the recordings are the only known surviving copies. 

"These recitals represent the recitals presented by a group of musicians called the Creative Associates," Bewley explained. "They were here at the university in a program at the Center for Creative and Performing Arts from 1964-1980. 

He said the recordings exist on reel tapes and cassettes. 

"Several collections of reel-to-reel tapes and cassettes," Bewley said, "but the reel-to-reel tapes are the really at the end of their expected lifespan and they suffer different conditions of deterioration." 

So it is time to transfer them to digital. The project is being handled by another party and is being supported by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. 

"Equipment is more and more difficult to acquire and maintain and just all the standards associated with getting the audio transferred, what we call authentically or faithfully, those are concerns," Bewley said. "It's very difficult to maintain a studio in-house to do it." 

The recitals include 19 world premiers, experimental pieces and, in some cases, works-in-progress. When the project is completed, the digitally reformatted audio will be available in the UB Music Library.