Listen to Formosa-Shellac Sounds from TaiwanReturn
TELDAP e-Newsletter (August, 2012)
Listen to Formosa-Shellac Sounds from Taiwan
In Taiwan’s Japanese Colonial Period, flourishing art and cultural activities accelerated the growth of the record industry, with opera and pop music becoming the market mainstream, together creating Taiwan’s golden age of music. Black vinyl records, with sound-grooves of different depths, that have been passed down are part of Taiwan’s musical heritage and were also part of people’s lives in the times they were made.
In 1989 Li Kun-cheng’s first job was writing Taiwanese songs for singer Liu Da-you, requiring him to travel around the island. At the time new Taiwanese culture enjoyed a surge in popularity, a number of private radio stations opened and Li began his indissoluble connection to music.
Sorting through works relating to the history of Taiwanese music, Li found that it was the mainstream history that had been written about while another aspect of history had been deliberately suppressed and forgotten. These stories could not be told publicly but were still remembered by people.
In the hope of reproducing history he went to government departments looking for materials and found that that neither the national library nor local radio stations had music archives, only then understanding that the environment in which records were made, standards, and copyright and remuneration for lyricist, composer and singer also different in each period, a situation that caused research difficulties such as field research interviewees having faulty memories. The problems faced only steeled his determination more, however.“Taking “Moonlit worry” as an example Lin Shi-hao claimed to have sung the song but Ai-ai said differently; solving the mystery requires finding the original record” said Li.
From 1997, he spent four years travelling around Taiwan collecting old records, travelling over 1000 kilometers. The items he has provided to National Taiwan Normal University are almost all the product of these efforts.
He didn’t just return from his collecting trips with records, he also came back with copious notes taken as he listened to people’s oral accounts of the past and laden with newspaper cuttings. He undertook “Song.Century. Taiwan” for the 2000 3rd Taipei Art Festival, after which, once again, Taiwanese songs received attention and were cared about and after the event his research reached its zenith.”
The memories of various people and records and historical materials unearthed testify to the sprouting, maturity and withering stages the Taiwan’s record industry went through in the Japanese Colonial Period. Luckily the records can’t just be looked at, they can also be listened to.
Digital archives and high standard
Li didn’t just return from his collecting trips with records, he also came back with copious notes taken as he listened to people’s oral accounts of the past and laden with newspapers cuttings.
Li is also a music producer and has actually carried out his own private digitization previously, using broadcasting equipment to transfer records to DAT, having the simple intent of preserving sounds from the past. Only when he met professor Huang Jun-ren of NTNU did the next stage of the journey start. “At the time one of Prof. Huang’s students was writing their thesis about the creative work of Lin Fu-yu, he got in touch with me I was introduced to Prof. Huang. This was the roundabout way I got know the professor and about his work and how we had the chance to cooperate The NTNU Music Digital Archives Center that Prof. Huang was instrumental in establishing was born in 2004 and since has carried out the Digital Music Museum—60 Years of NTNU Music Digitization Project, Violin Utopia—Chimei Museum Violin Digital Archives Project, the Hsu Chang-teh Digital Archives Project, the Austronesian Music Museum—Palau Music Digital Archives Project and other projects, making a substantial contribution to the preservation of sound assets. “Teacher Li’s records were well preserved, NTNU had the technology and had also written a digitization work manual for the National Science Council” said Huang confidently. This time we followed the standard and carried out digitization overseas to ensure the required standard was met.”
To reduce the risk faced by records during transportation, the project team moved digitization equipment to Li’s Taichung studio; every time a stage mission was completed for a sound it had to be tested by their professional ears. Prof. Huang said, satisfied, “I remember one interesting time when we were recording a 78 rpm record. After playing it, Teacher Li habitually reached for the record but couldn’t find it because the sound he played was a recording that was very realistic.”
In the past Li would listen to the records he collected on a common gramophone. After re-recording and digitization the enhanced quality of the sound allows the listener to get into the plot and feel the atmosphere and Li often has been reduced to tears while listening to these sounds from the past. In particular, “Butterfly Lovers,”one of the big Gezai operas of the Japanese Colonial Period, reminds him of the period from 1933 to 1940, the time when heyday of gezai opera and an era in which the record industry flourished. As the record turns, images of traditional culture from a bygone era seem to appear.
Website only useful it can play good songs
To reduce the risk faced by records during transportation, the project team moved digitization equipment to Li’s Taichung studio
Gezai Opera was usually performed on a noisy outdoor stagebut Chun-chun and Ai-ai, despite having recorded over 100 records, never actually wore gezai operas costumes and were stars of what was called “studio gezai opera” at the time. The performers didn’t have actually to appear on stage but importance was attached to the quality of recording, singing and song composition. Improvement in the economy and technology led to changes in the way music and opera were broadcast and let to a gradual move of gezai towards musical refinement in the Japanese Colonial Period.
Maybe we are too far away from the Japanese colonial era. In those days people who liked to listen to gramophones were like the people who pursue the latest cell phones and tablet PCs these days, being the most fashionable people. To understand this part of history we have to look at the appearance, mechanical structure and speaker of the gramophones. With no market support, the level of record and gramophone manufacturing level can’t reach the heights of the past, however, the process is worth reviewing, giving us an understanding of how changes in civilization and technology brought about changes in how people lived;only by this process of “digging what is useful and rejecting what is useless,” can we acquire a full understanding of traditional culture.
To spread related knowledge, Li has given lectures at Eslite Bookstore. The digitization project has always been racing against time and so is Li. Prior to 2000 his efforts to promote Taiwanese songs were directed at elderly people, hoping to allow them to remember their youth. Then, he was asked by the Ministry of Education to speak at schools and found that the listeners were very interested but there was no way students could obtain information once he had left the lecture venue. After 10 years of effort he was fully aware how difficult promotional work but salvation appeared in the shape of the borderless Internet, the clouds dispersing and the sun appearing as online promotion proved much more effective .
As well as promoting record content, Prof Huang, on a technical level, also planned a series of courses and display of related exhibits atEslite Bookstore from September 9 to 26, 2011. The courses focusing on the preservation of precious sound assets, and digitization work experiences, teaching the public how to deal with their grandparents’ old records and help preserve Taiwan’s sound cultural assets. In the future, the team plans to call on users to, through this platform, together understand the types of records from the Japanese era that have been digitally archived at present, what is lacking and invite everyone to provide information and suggestions.
In the Japanese Colonial Period people who liked to listen to gramophones were like the people who pursue the latest cell phones and tablet PCs these days, being the most fashionable people of their time.
Publisher：Fan-Sen Wang, Vice President of Academia Sinica Editor-in-Chief：Zong-Kun Li Publishing Department：Taiwan e-Learning and Digital Archives Program, TELDAP Executive Editor：Sub-project: Digital Information - the New and Creative Way of Communicating Mailing Address：The Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica
No.130, Sec. 2, Academia Rd., Nangang District, Taipei City 115, Taiwan TEL： (02) 27829555 ext:310 or 183 FAX： (02) 2786-8834 E-mail：firstname.lastname@example.org
Issue：TELDAP e-Newsletter (August, 2012) Publish Date：08/15 /2012 First Issue：02/15 /2007（Published on 15th every 2 months）
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