The Johns Hopkins University libraries have received a grant to digitize nearly a half-century of recorded Peabody Conservatory classical music performances and make them available on the World Wide Web. Among the works to be included are first concerts conducted by James Levine and productions directed by Gian Carlo Menotti and Joseph Papp.
The Peabody Digital Audio Archives Project, a $230,000 undertaking funded by the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services, will enable the conversion to digital format of an estimated 10,000 audio tapes owned by the Peabody's archives. Technology specialists at the university's Milton S. Eisenhower Library will design a workflow management system prototype, and a Web-based digital audio library will be created.
"This groundbreaking project will not only make it possible for us to preserve a treasure trove of recorded performances by some of the greatest artists of our time, many of whom have served as members of Peabody's artist faculty, but it will also make it possible for us to provide access to a digital audio collection of classical music that spans nearly half a century," said Robert Sirota, director of the Peabody Institute.
The Peabody archives' audio collection is rich with rarely recorded solo and ensemble repertoire ranging from the Renaissance to the avant garde. Peabody began making audio tapes of its performances in 1958, when it recorded Ralph Vaughn Williams' opera Sir John in Love.
Early tapes in the collection include performances by the Peabody Art Theatre, an innovative program introduced in 1960 to provide young opera singers with a formal course of study that included performance opportunities as well as experience in management and union relations.
Other recordings include Gian Carlo Menotti-directed 1960 productions of Amahl and the Night Visitors and The Old Maid and the Thief, with Herbert Grossman conducting; the world premieres of The Fall of the City by James Cohn, based on the radio drama created by Archibald MacLeish; and Sergius Kagen's Hamlet in 1962 under the direction of noted Shakespearean Joseph Papp.
The collection also contains what are believed to be the first recorded concerts conducted by James Levine, who at 20 was the youngest of four young conductors chosen to participate in a pioneering project designed to prepare gifted American conductors for future appointments to major symphony orchestras. Levine, artistic director of the Metropolitan Opera since 1986, began his long association with George Szell at Peabody in 1964.
Winston Tabb, dean of the Johns Hopkins University libraries, said, "This project presents an exceptional opportunity to blend the expertise of librarians, Peabody faculty and technology specialists at Johns Hopkins. The creation of a Web-based archive will extend access to the riches of this collection to an international community."
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is a federal agency that fosters leadership, innovation and lifetime learning by supporting museums and libraries. Robert S. Martin, its director, said, "The technology revolution continually presents new challenges. Beyond mere connectivity, one must constantly address the quality, organization and preservation of the vast stores of information on the World Wide Web," he said. "The grants we make today to university libraries and research institutions across the nation evince the commitment of IMLS to ensure that digital information translates into knowledge, relevant and useful for people of all ages and backgrounds."