A Recap of the Europeana Sounds Conference: The Future of Historic Sounds

Author: Zea Frana

As project partner of the Europeana Sounds project, the Austrian National Library had the great opportunity to take part at the first international Europeana Sounds Conference. On the 2nd of October, the National Library of France (BnF) opened its doors to introduce a diverse audience to the conference’s theme “The Future of Historic Sounds”.

The goal of the Europeana Sounds project is to make 500 000 audio recordings and 200 000 audio related content available. Starting in 2014, the project has been now going on for one and a half years and will expire in the beginning of 2017.The first audio recordings contributed within the project were up on the Europeana portal at the beginning of June 2015


Two of the four corner towers of the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF). They should resemble four open books.

The conference was opened with a welcome speech by Sylviane Tarsot-Gillery, the General Director of the National Library of France. Richard Ranft, the Project Coordinator of Europeana Sounds and Head of Sound and Vision at the British library took over, giving a recap over the project. He pointed out that there are 1000 years of sounds in European archives and libraries and that currently more sound files are available at a fingertip than anyone could listen to in a lifetime.


The Welcome Screen

Sound heritage: Present and Future

In the first panel discussion, Steen Kaargaard Nielsen of the Aarhus University, Aude Julien-da Cruz Lima of the French National Center for Scientific Research and Pascal Cordereix, of the Audiovisual Department of the BnF and Alexi Rossi of the Internet Archive presented their institutions’ content and collections, elaborating what they are trying to make or already had made accessible. They furthermore discussed the questions of how sound heritage can be made available and if it should be in its “natural state” or edited and what they think the future audience in 2100 will treasure within the collections.


The first Panel Discussion

After a short break, David Hendy of the University of Sussex spoke about “Noise: A Human History” ,a book and radio series on BBC 4 soon to be aired again, He mentioned that “if we uncover historic noises and sounds, it changes the way we perceive history. Sound gives an immersive history, because it is a 356 degree sensual experience.”

The second panel discussion addressed legal aspects: Moderated by Lisette Kalshoven and joined by Isabel Bordes Cabrera of the National Library of Spain, Dr. Simone Schroff of the Institute for Information Law of the University of Amsterdam and Dr. Krisztina Rozgonyi. Problems of creating legal access to sound have been discussed, how crucial it is to overcome the current barriers and that there is still a very long way to go.

In the beginning of the afternoon there was a live performance by Matthew Herbert. He started off with talking about sound in general, the fact that we only had it for about a hundred years and the ethical point of view concerning its context. His performance was built on sounds, which were attributed by institutions within the Europeana Sounds Project.


Matthew Herbert engaging with sounds.

Sounds Innovations

Most of the afternoon was dedicated to the sound innovations that are created within or close to the project. Just to point out a few: Alexander Schindler from the Austrian Institute of Technology talked about possibilities for a more efficient music search: “All the information we need is hidden in the music and with digital signal analyses you can find it and see for example that music with similar features sounds similar. Furthermore this method can be used to enrich Metadata.”

David Haskiya, the Product Development Manager of Europeana introduced the Europeana Sounds Music Channel to the audience, which is running on a test (Alpha) Version at the moment, and is to be released to the general public in the beginning of next year. (But you can already test the Music Channel here.)


Maarten Brinkering making a live demonstration of the Pundit Annotation Tool

Maarten Brinkering of the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision made an interactive quiz as an experiment to enrich metadata and included a live demonstration of the Pundit Annotation Tool. Bryan Duggan presented and explained his Tunepal App and Website, with which musicians of traditional music can find out, what the tune they play is, what the music sheet looks like and what it sounds like played by others.

The conference was closed with concluding words by Bruno Sagne, Deputy Director of International Affairs at the BnF. The final highlight though came afterwards and consisted of a concert of excerpts of the Cairo Congress Arabic Music by Hamam Khairy who was accompanied by three musicians and two backing vocalists.

To sum it all up: It was a conference full of very interesting topics, brilliant speakers, interesting discussions and a great organisation.

Take a look at the tweets about the conference: #EuSounds15


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