American Music Resource

History of the collection

   This project began with my own interests in American music and grew through the work of the graduate students in my seminar on American composers, first offered in the fall of 1988, and four times since. From its appearance on the Internet in late 1993, many additions and corrections have also been made by surfers. Since 1/96, the SunSite URL (calypso-2) has not functioned.
   The principles of the seminar involve each student in the development of detailed knowledge about a given subject important to the history of American music. A large set of relevant bibliographies is compiled through exhaustive research, from which an aural presentation and research paper are drawn. (This was the first seminar in my school to require computer use, both to search on-line library catalogs and to prepare the bibliographies.) In addition, the seminar approaches other separate issues of historical or social concern. The growing results of this bibliographic research are contained here together with a few other materials.
   I announced to the first group of students that the conventional "jump through the hoop and then forget about it" style of graduate music seminars would not be followed in this one. Each individual would be allowed to select its own research area with my guidance. Subjects would not be limited to the standard "classical" fare associated with "American" music studies. Furthermore, their research would not end here but would be made available to all subsequent seminars and to a wider public as well.
   In the spring of 1989, I installed all research bibliographies so far generated into a simple information-base which became available to all music students and faculty at my institution. In its first form, AMR was nothing more than a set of 100 or so DOS text-files, accompanied by simple piece of file-reading software, indexed and navigated with DOS batch-files, and running on a monochrome 286. It quickly grew to strain the abilities of that format.
   The next incarnation of AMR was unsuccessful. I wrote a set of programs to access and consolidate the files within dBase(tm). Development of this proto-hypertext system took many hours of programming time and required the seminar students to use a specially-designed set of templates and techniques for inputting bibliographical information. While the system showed promise, neither the students nor the software operated smoothly. Given the choice of another year or more of software refinement, I chose to return to the original format. The collection remained in that state from 1991 until 1993, even though access was limited since it was running on a single machine. It was during this time, of course, that Internet facilities were greatly under development.
   In 1993, I was made aware of the SunSite node in Chapel Hill and asked them if they would be interesting in the collection. They agreed, and provided the GOPHER programming to put it on-line. The American Music Resource textbase was housed in that form by the SunSite division of the O.I.T. at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill since late1993. As of 5/94, the collection was updated to contain 64 subjects, 22 topics, and several research-notes, for a grand total of around 500 files - 1.5 megabytes of information. Internet links were established to AMR from many of the major music sites and lists across the country and its usership continued to grow.
   The most rewarding aspect has been the large number of e-mail communications. These have included both compliments and queries, but most significantly, many important bibliographical additions and corrections have been submitted by interested individuals and scholars. AMR and I have also provided information and suggestions for several doctoral research projects.
   Several factors have prompted the current and ongoing update of AMR. First and foremost is the development and spread of the World Wide Web and its HTML markup language and indexing, easily adaptable to the original filename design and file-formats of the collection. The transparency of this protocol, along with its "programming" ease, make it uniquely attractive. Also, my university finally got around to establishing a WWW connection to the Net. This made it possible for me to personally develop the collection on an experimental basis within my own Unix account (quite a hobby, huh?). The popularity of SunSite and its lack of sufficient bandwidth led to over a 75% refusal rate for connections. Since they moved the collection to a new "server" (sometime after January, 1996) access has been impossible. This will no longer be a continuing negative factor in AMR use. By Fall, 1996, it is my hope that the American Music Resource will be fully realized, functional, and further developing within the Web.

5/96 Frank McCarty, editor