Contemporary Music Centre and Digital Preservation

As this is our first post on this blog, we should take this opportunity to briefly introduce ourselves.

The Contemporary Music Centre is Ireland’s national archive and resource centre for new Irish music. We’re based in Dublin and we document and promote the work of living Irish composers. We have a library and archive of works dating from the early part of the last century to the present day and run a number of events and projects aimed at promoting the work of Irish composers and raising their profile nationally and internationally.

We have always relied heavily on digital tools to help us carry out our mission and much of our work now centres around the digital. Last year, we launched the first iteration of a digital archive featuring samples of composers’ music scores and audio recordings. We are continuously thinking of innovative ways in which we can use our resources to connect with vocational education and our participation in this project is a valuable way of discovering new ideas and models of best practice in the field of music heritage.

One of our recent projects looked at the area of digital preservation and how both CMC as a memory organisation for music and individual artists might approach the task of digitally preserving their music. Given that much of the materials which we now archive are “born digital”, it is important that we look at ways in which we can properly archive these materials for future access.

Digital preservation of music is a complex issue. Many composers are now working exclusively using digital formats, and the tools they use extend way beyond the standard music score and electronic tape part for playback. Composers are using programming languages to compose real-time, interactive works; designing their own custom software instruments and pieces; and working in mixed media contexts. How these works can be digitally preserved so that they can be accessed and performed in the future is one of the big questions facing music documentation centres such as CMC. There are also a number of practical considerations which need to be addressed, such as how these digital materials should be stored and managed, and how we can make these available to our users for research and performance purposes.

You can find out more about the project here and take a look at the final set of guidelines for composers here.

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