Sunday, September 21, 2008


The last couple of weeks, I've started using a program called Audacity to convert analog recordings (like phonograph records) to digital.

I'm working with LPs made by School of Music students and faculty. I start out at the Information Arcade, where there is a computer with a turntable attached. I use Audacity on that workstation to record each side of the record as one large .WAV file. I also copy information from the record jacket about the tracks on each side.

Once I have several sides recorded, I move to a standard workstation that also has Audacity installed. There, I listen carefully to the recording and determine the exact points where each track begins and ends. This can be difficult -- some LPs include times on the record jackets but those aren't alway accurate. Some LPs include applause at the end of each selection, and that makes it easy. But others don't have applause, and it can be difficult to tell the difference between pauses between movements (which are generally within the same track) and silence between tracks. And a few recordings have had so much static that there is no identifiable silence between tracks. So I use the record jacket information in combination with what I hear to identify the tracks as best I can. When that's done, I copy each track to a new file, also in the .WAV format.

The purpose of this is preservation. .WAV is an audio file storage format that produces very high quality sound. It also takes up a lot of space -- too much space to be practical for use on the web. So the .WAV files will be like the "master copies" kept on file. We're saving them as both sides and tracks to make them as useable as possible for future researchers.

Later, I will convert the files to another format that is good for posting on the web and will meet the needs of general listeners.

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