You are here

Hungarian National Sound Archives. Past, Present and Future – Efforts, Problems and Plans

Title (author1): 
First names (author1): 
Ferenc Janos
Surname (author 1): 
Institute of Musicology (Research Centre for the Humanities, Hungarian Academy of Sciences)
Presentation type: 
spoken paper
27 Sept Sunday
Start time: 
Belvedere 2

Despite the fact that commercial and private recordings were already made in Hungary in the last decade of the 19th century and there existed several independent Hungarian recording firms in the first half of the 20th century, the idea to establish a Hungarian National Sound Archive was first raised only in the mid-1940s by László Lajtha, with a reference to examples from Paris. Since then, many different efforts concerning the same topic fell through. During the century, these plans changed a lot; variant things were taken into considerations: different points of view (ethnographical, musicological, discographical etc.), different measurements, different technical backgrounds from the possibilities of the 1940s to an online database – but the result is the same: the Hungarian National Sound Archives does not exist even today.
The consequences of that are obvious: discography could not grow into a real science in Hungary; it was not considered a part of any ‘science’ – neither of musicology, nor of media studies or history of technology. Performance practice is hardly studied because musicologists, except ethnomusicologists, rarely use sound recordings as sources. Researchers of other disciplines – linguists or historians, etc. – do not deal with early sound recordings at all because the recordings are not generally known and available. And this could be the main reason why, at least in Hungary, the meaning of the word ‘media’ does not contain sound recordings today. There are departments for media studies at several Hungarian universities, but they deal with media archaeology only sporadically; they focus mainly on current topics.
In 2012, discography became a part of the research activities of the “Lendület” Archives and Research Group for 20th and 21st Century Hungarian Music at the Institute of Musicology (RCH HAS). As a member of this research group my aim is not only to get the Hungarian institutional discographical research afloat, but also to bring about the rethinking of discography and of the role of the early sound recordings in media studies, media archaeology and scientific research in Hungary. In my presentation I will give a short overview from the first efforts to the most current experiments to establish a Hungarian National Sound Archives, and I will outline the plans of the new research group. Knowledge of new media and new (digital and online) methods can facilitate the establishment of an – at least virtual – National Sound Archives.