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Jazz legacy

Montreux Jazz archives gain UNESCO status

Ray Charles performs at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1997 (Keystone)

Ray Charles performs at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1997


A vast collection of live concert footage and audio spanning the entire 46-year history of the Montreux Jazz Festival - featuring the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin and Prince - has been given UNESCO heritage status.

The “Claude Nobs Legacy”, named after the former founder and director of the festival who passed away in January, comprises 5,000 hours of  TV and audio recordings from 4,000 concerts collected on 10,000 original tapes in a dozen different formats. It is said to be the world's biggest collection of taped live concerts.

This is the only the second Swiss proposal to be granted world cultural heritage status after the writer and philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s manuscripts were inscribed in 2011.

“I am very happy for Claude and for the musicians,” declared Thierry Amsallaem, Nobs’s partner, who oversaw the archives project. “It’s a great success.”

Music legend Quincy Jones wrote on his facebook page: "I simply cannot believe that the Montreux Jazz Archive today received UNESCO status. My late brother Claude Nobs would have been dancing in the streets if he had seen this. I'm so proud to have been a part of this archive and this effort."

Preserve and research

Since the first edition of the festival in 1967, Nobs kept a record of the music played there and built up the unique archive.

The original tapes are currently being preserved for the next generation of music fans and researchers as part of the Montreux Jazz Digital Project. Under the collaboration, researchers from  the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) have been overseeing the real-time digitalisation of the archives since 2011 and storing it on the Linera Tape-Open (LTO) format.
The entire process should be completed by the end of 2013. It will then have to be re-transferred every seven to ten years onto a “next-generation” format to keep pace with technology.

Ten EPFL research groups are also enhancing and putting the vast audio-visual archive to use for several university projects. Those range from audio production and post-production techniques to data stocking and novel user experiences.

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