Function and Contents

Today the archives have a double function. Firstly they have to supply the daily programme, and secondly to prepare their material so that science, arts and research can all make use of it. The radio archivist has to collect the records and make them fit for use when they are needed of programme making. In addition he needs to determine whether the record is a document in itself and of value in the future because of its contents, which could be characteristic of the feeling and thinking of the time in which it was produced. Examples of the different types of recording which have to be examined and analysed would include: news, news analysis, parliamentary debates, public shows, news reports, interviews, statements, sports news, lectures, readings, poetry readings, radio plays, light entertainment programmes, school radio, programmes for special audience groups, and in the field of music recordings, all types of music including serious music, light music, pop and jazz.

The main problem in carrying out this work of appraisal lies in the great number of recordings, which enter into German radio sound archives every year. The figures for the Süddeutscher Rundfunk archive in 1980 were:

5000 commercial records of light music containing 33,000 individual titles
800 commercial records of serious music
4430 music tapes (commercial and radio recordings)
4200 tapes of spoken word.

How can master or even come to terms with such a flood of material? Shortly after broadcasting every production (commercial and radio production) comes into the sound archives where it is documented and catalogued by specially trained staff. In our case selection does not mean a decision to keep or to erase, for as a rule we keep nearly everything. Selection in relation to our daily work means making decisions as to how intensive the cataloguing must be, because with the intensity of documentation the quality of information and research about a recording increases.

This paper deals with the cataloguing of music recordings. For a description of the documentation of spoken word recordings, the reader is referred to the paper published by Hansjörg Xylander of Radio Munich, “Documentation of spoken word soundtracks in broadcasting”, Phonographic Bulletin no. 30 July 1981.