Floppy disks and FireWire drives: towards an understanding of the shifting nature of musical sketch material


The physical reality of composers’ sketch materials has changed in the last thirty years, but how scholars are to understand and work with these new materials has only begun to be theorised. This article seeks to offer some perspectives on the questions: How are e-sketches and digital drafts of musical compositions treated within sketch study? What are the implications of changing the approach of sketch study? How can scholars and archivists approach the shifting nature of musical sketch material in order to come to a more complete understanding of how e-sketches can be utilised in musicological research? The issue of e-sketches is multifaceted and requires a variety of perspectives – from archivist, to technological philosopher, to software engineer, to musicologist – in order to be more fully understood. Beginning with a brief discussion of archives and born-digital documents, the author argues that musicologists employing e-sketches need to be better versed in the archival concerns surrounding born-digital records in order to work effectively within the technological quicksand of digital preservation. Following that, the author examines how sketch study is beginning to adapt and incorporate e-sketches. Finally, the author draws on the philosophical considerations of the technology of writing to theorise on the shifting nature of musical sketch material in order to suggest some answers to the above questions.



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