By YVONNE FRENCH
Jazz fans will be glad to hear that the Library is preserving the private audiotape collection of bassist Milt Hinton, who played and recorded with everyone from Cab Calloway and Billie Holiday to John Coltrane.
Hinton's 167 reel-to-reel tapes contain rare, unpublished live recordings and oral histories with many important musicians.
The tapes, once preserved, will be available for research, and full catalog records of the tapes will be available online worldwide through the Library's new Integrated Library Service catalog.
"It was very fluid who was playing with whom, and when, in these jazz ensembles. Getting the sidemen into the record is very important to jazz scholars who want to study performance issues and trace influences," said Eugene DeAnna, head of the Recorded Sound Processing Unit.
Said Senior Supervisory Studio Engineer Larry Appelbaum of the Library's Recording Laboratory: "We are preserving these deteriorating tapes by reformatting the content onto more stable analog and digital magnetic tape."
Appelbaum is recording three simultaneous copies of each tape: a 10-inch analog preservation master, a digital audiotape (DAT) reference copy, and a 10-inch reel for Mr. Hinton.
"The most difficult and potentially damaging problem with the tapes is their tendency to become sticky. The binder in certain tape stocks breaks down over time and absorbs moisture from the air. The current treatment for these tapes is to bake them in a convection oven at 130 degrees F for six to eight hours. This gives us about a month to reformat the tapes before the binder starts to break down again," said Mr. Appelbaum.
Another environmental problem was powdery mold on a few of the plastic reels and in the cardboard boxes that held the tapes. This was either vacuumed off or carefully wiped off with cheesecloth.
Additionally, "Some of the tapes had not been stored with an 'even wind.' They were 'scatter wound,'" said Mr. Appelbaum. This can cause deformation, which can cause the tape to move crookedly across the heads during playback, which in turn can cause loss of certain frequencies. Mr. Appelbaum replaced the warped reels and wound the tapes with proper tension to produce an "even tape pack."
Finally, tape splices were replaced wherever the adhesive tape had dried out.
Before recording, Mr. Appelbaum must determine the proper track configuration and playback speed. "The speed control on Hinton's recorder was unstable and this requires constant monitoring during copying," said Mr. Appelbaum, who has gotten to know Hinton's speaking voice.
The original tapes are rewound on larger circumference reels to reduce stress on the tape. All the tapes are being placed in polyethylene preservation containers designed by the Library.
Ms. French is a fellow in the Library's 1999-2000 Leadership Development Program.