The Restoration Project of Roberto Gerhard's Tape Collection
This presentation will discuss the digitisation project of Roberto Gerhard’s Magnetic Tape Collection at the Cambridge University Library realized with funding of the British Arts and Humanities Research Council under the auspices of the University of Huddersfield. Escaping from the Spanish Civil War, the Catalan composer Roberto Gerhard (1986-1970) established his residency in Cambridge in 1939, becoming a frequent collaborator of the BBC and one of the most noteworthy classical composers of his generation. Gerhard’s sound archive, gathered by the composer mainly during the 1950s and 60s, is the most important repository of his musical output. It comprises more than six hundred ¼ inch magnetic tapes represented by various generations of acetate and plastic based carriers wound on plastic cine type reels of different sizes. Significantly, Gerhard was the first composer in the United Kingdom to employ magnetic tape as a compositional medium. Roughly one half of the tapes correspond to production materials related to an number of pioneering “sound compositions” recorded, assembled and mixed in the composer’s own domestic studio — fitted with EMI TR50, Vortexion and Ferroghraph recorders. In this presentation I will discuss the conceptual and technical strategies adopted for the digital transfer and cataloguing of this corpus. The production process is tailored to address the distinct nature of the collection, with an emphasis in the subsequent investigation of the compositional methods and the restoration and dissemination of Gerhard’s unpublished tape compositions. Along this course, challenges such as the documentation of a rich set of annotations found on containers and reels (recorded in the form of metadata and by means of digital imaging) or the identification of tape speed and track geometries prior to digital transfer (complicated by the systematic use of transposition, assembly and reciclying as compositional devices) have to be confronted. Favoured by a history of poor storage and by a variety of packaging conditions and tape brands a number of interesting deterioration specimens, including ongoing carrier chemical degradation processes and moulds, can be observed.