Musical Acoustics Research Library collection digitized

June 24, 2013
Michael G Olson

Stanford University Libraries has provided digital access to large portions of the Musical Acoustics Research Library (MARL) making available important research papers from some of the most eminent acousticians of the 20th century. The MARL collection consisting of nearly 60 linear feet of materials is dedicated to the study of all aspects of musical acoustics.

The collection, established in 1996, came about through a joint effort of Carleen Hutchins and other representatives of the Catgut Acoustical Society (CAS), Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA), and Virginia Benade. MARL consists of the research materials from acousticians around the world who were dedicated to studying different aspects of violin making, which make up the Catgut Acoustical Society papers, and the archives of three prominent wind instrument acousticians, John Backus, John W. Coltman, and especially Arthur H. Benade. Benade’s work extends far beyond the study of wind instruments and includes the acoustic properties of a performer’s mouth cavity, throat, and lungs; the sound patterns that emerge from the open holes and bells of instruments and the sound a space returns to an instrument; the perception of hearing; and room acoustics and the successful design of concert halls. The collection consists of correspondence, research papers, photographs, media, digital materials, wood samples, clarinet mouth pieces, and lab equipment.

In addition to the MARL, the entire forty-one years of the Newsletter and Journal of the Catgut Acoustical Society are completely available online. The Catgut Acoustical Society was formed by acousticians interested in the acoustics of the violin and other string instruments. In May 1964, the Society published its first Newsletter, an informal, typewritten periodical printed by a stencil duplicator that soon matured into a scholarly research publication. The title changed to the Journal of the Catgut Acoustical Society in 1984 and again in 1990 to CAS Journal, ending in 2004 when the Society merged with the Violin Society of America as the CAS Forum.

The digital projects were funded by the Violin Society of America, CCRMA, the Stanford University Arts Institute, and the Stanford University Libraries.

The project began in 2006 and involved many individuals in several departments. Michael Olson coordinated a large team as the digital project director, with assistance from Stu Snydman. Mimi Tashiro and Jerry McBride were the curators who worked with CCRMA to transfer the collection to Special Collections and drafted the parameters for the materials to be digitized. Andrea Castillo created the finding aid for the collection and selected the materials for digitization with the assistance and direction of Bill O’Hanlon and Glynn Edwards. Nadège Mazel cleared copyright permissions for hundreds of authors. Doris Cheung, Astrid Smith, Lisa Yimm, and Wayne Vanderkuil digitized the materials in the collection. Tony Calavano monitored and resolved problems in the digital workflow for the project. All deserve many thanks for making this complex project a success.