A Conversation about Preservation

Click here to view the Spanish version.

I talked to audio engineer and preservation specialist Marcos Sueiro Bal the other day, and he mentioned that he recently completed a translation of the “bible for the preservation of audio.” It’s called TC-04 or the Guidelines on the Production and Preservation of Digital Audio, and is published by IASA (The International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives) and the Technical Committee AEDOM (the Spanish Association of Musical Documentation).

IASA has been in existence since 1969, and the website has a ton of useful information, from lists of conferences and events related to music and preservation, to grants and publications. The conference in October will be held in New Delhi, India.

MW: Was it difficult to translate?

MSB: It took more than a year to complete, technical terms are difficult to translate, especially from English to Spanish, because I learned all my technical language here in the United States, and most people actually also use the terms in English.

MW: Like what?

MSB: The word “rewind” was difficult. I didn’t know whether we should use “rewind” or the right word in Spanish “rebobinar.” Another word that was difficult to translate was the word for “78,” which in English is called “shellac,” but in Spanish they are commonly called “slate discs” or “discos de pizarra.” The problem is that they aren’t made of slate, but the term is widely used. The technical term is “goma laca,” and so finally we had to stick to the correct word in Spanish.

MW: What was the most impressive thing about working on this translation?

MSB: This is actually a well written book, and also well thought out. Its not the kind of casual conversation that one has at the water cooler.

In addition, we are moving from things such as tape or disk that you can leave on a shelf and forget about, into the digital world, where everything changes so fast. I’m seeing massive failures in CDR, for example, an indication that the digital world is more ephemeral. So how do we document things?

With photos, for example, we used to have 24 photos developed on a roll, and then we would put those into an album. But now the photos are in .jpg format with 6 or 7 digit codes attached, and because the CDR may fail to access them or the technology may change, the photos may be lost to the next generation.

MW: What do the authors say about the changes in technology?

MSB: Well, they say that despite the improvement of technological development, digital experts recognize that no carrier is permanent.

MW: Wow! I guess this means that nothing is safe and we must ensure the backups of our backups.

MSB: The book assumes that change will occur. It’s difficult, but we live in a world where the latest and greatest is always praised. The same applies to physical formats.

MW: “Guidelines” is the kind of book that engineers should not live without?

MSB: The book is essential, in my opinion, to any person engaging in reproduction, conservation or management of historical collections of audio formats.

Marcos will present at the Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC)’s 46th annual conference in Rochester, NY, May 16-19 on the topic of “degradation.”

email Molly at molly@masterdisk.com