The New York Philharmonic orchestra was founded in 1842, making it one of the oldest musical institutions in the United States. Its music directors have included Gustav Mahler, Arturo Toscanini, Leonard Bernstein, Pierre Boulez and Zubin Mehta.
The orchestra's archive includes fascinating examples of scores and parts marked by famous performers and conductors, printed programs, planning documents, photographs, recordings and other physical artefacts. Since 2011, the New York Philharmonic Leon Levy Digital Archives have been digitising documents charting the history of the orchestra, with the aim of publishing online every document in the archives from the ensemble's foundation up to 1970. This will involve over 3 million pages of material, and over 1.3 million have already been incorporated.
The New York Philharmonic is a long-lived orchestra of the highest reputation, and this has meant that its musicians usually play with the ensemble for a long time, lending character to the performances, and passing their approach and their musicality to the next generation of players. As a singular contribution to the archives and to draw attention to importance of the musicians to the history and personality of the orchestra, Archivist and Historian (now emerita) Barbara Haws interviewed principal players from the orchestra for a podcast entitled Listening Through Time.
Within the Unlocking Musicology project, we looked at ways to help enrich a user's experience of the podcasts, supporting the role of the interviews as a way into an exploration of the history of the orchestra and its players and conductors. Taking the first part of Barbara's interview with Phil Smith, we built a proof-of-concept demonstrator showing the orchestra's performance history of the piece being discussed (the first movement of Mahler's fifth symphony), illustrated with a timeline and sound extracts. The podcast can be explored as audio or as transcript, and a listener can refer to marked up copy of the trumpet part from the archives. Short biographical descriptions are available for people discussed in the podcast.
A video explores the proof-of-concept demonstrator:
The interactive microsite can be explored directly at: https://nyphil.linkedmusic.org/ (tested and recommended for viewing in Firefox 68)
We are grateful for the support, advice and enthusiasm of all the staff at New York Philharmonic Archives, particularly Barbara Haws. We also thank them for permission to use their logo and archive materials. This proof-of-concept was implemented using the MELD framework, a Music Encoding and Linked Data framework conceived and developed within the FAST project by Dr Kevin Page and lead developer Dr David Weigl, at the University of Oxford.