Digitizing braille music isn’t as easy as just scanning the page. The tactile notations require multiple steps for accurate transcription, and their history of touch means the dots are sometimes smashed or otherwise unreadable. The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) at the Library of Congress (LOC) is in the midst of a huge project to digitize their braille music collection, with 8,000 pages completed as of last month.
“Basically, the braille music collection — the largest in the world —was the only collection not digitized at NLS when the Library initiated its business continuity plan,” John Hanson, head of the Music Section at NLS, told Hyperallergic. The initiative assures that all aspects of LOC could be sustained even if there was a major disaster, whether a building fire or other catastrophe. “With digital files archived safely, services to patrons wanting music scores could be continued by embossing a new copy of whatever was wanted, or sending the digital file itself to a patron with the hardware and software to read it.”
Braille music relies on the same six-position dot system developed by Louis Braille in the 19th century, with symbols corresponding to notes rather than letters.
The NLS braille music is part of a free library program for those who are unable to read regular print scores. Whether Motown, showtunes, Jimi Hendrix, Ravel, or Django Reinhardt, every area of music is covered in the over 30,000 transcriptions and scores at NLS, with new additions regularly arriving, such as a large donation of classical music last December. The Music Section is chronicling their work on the NLS Music Notes blog, with a July update delving into the details of how they digitize braille music.
A DotScan scanner paired with OBR (optical braille recognition) software generates an initial digital copy, yet for each piece they need to determine the measurements between dots in order to precisely translate the physical copy to the digital. Even then, the NLS team reviews the scan manually for errors, comparing it to the original and filling in gaps where needed. And each score has its own challenges, such as graphic scores that don’t follow standard notation, or weathered paper worn down over time as part of the circulating NLS collection.
“All digitization has been in priority order,” Hanson explained, with “patron requests first.” Following are the “master collections,” which they plan to complete in the next few years. Much of the masters have a score on one side, but others use what’s called “interpoint,” with braille on both sides, something that’s harder for scanners to pick up. Complicating the process further is the wear on old paper, which comes from over 20 publishing sources around the world, in varying formats. According to Hanson, NLS has “contracted with a software developer to create a piece of software that will read interpoint and be easily editable,” although its success remains to be seen.
Digitized music is available on the Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) site. The NLS motto proclaims “That All May Read,” and this project secures that access for braille music into the future.
Robert Legorreta, also known as “Cyclona,” discusses the origins of his performance art and ongoing political activism.
A caustic New York Times review from 1975 almost destroyed his career, but he remained one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.
How do we consider land-inspired art in an age when huge swaths of our shared world are being clear cut, mined, drilled, and desertified?
A documentary trilogy follows the life of Thich Nhat Hanh, who expounded the principles of engaged Buddhism.
Ten artists will receive studio space and access to faculty, staff, students, workshops, and programming at an arts institution in the heart of Philadelphia.
Sea View, conceived by Jorge Pardo as both an artwork and a residence, embraced the dissolution of borders between disciplines.
The Legion of Honor in San Francisco says it’s the first exhibition dedicated to the Renaissance artist’s drawings.
“Untitled” (1961) by George Morrison is the first work by a Native American artist to join the museum’s Abstract Expressionist collection.
“You can’t have idols; it’s in the second commandment,” he screamed before being arrested.
Join the New-York Historical Society on February 10 for a virtual conversation about our changing relationship to the natural world with Julie Decker, John Grade, and LaMont Hamilton.
Manhattan now has its own, downscaled version of the artist’s famous Chicago sculpture, oddly squished under a luxury condo tower.
Increased oil tanker truck traffic would “seriously degrade” the experience of viewing the canyon’s Indigenous rock art, said one advocate of the site.