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The Belfer Audio Archive at Syracuse University is celebrating its 50th anniversary. From October 31 to November 2, 2013, a series of interlinked concerts, film screenings, lectures and seminars will celebrate the Belfer’s 50th anniversary. Devised and organized by a committed team of faculty, librarians and members of the University community, the events aim to promote the Belfer’s rich heritage and to illuminate the importance of recorded sound to music-making in the twentieth century, and the legacy of those practices on music today.

When it was founded in 1963, the Belfer Audio Archive rapidly became a leader in sound re-recording and preservation technologies. Since then, the Archive has grown and developed until it now houses one of the largest collections of sound recordings in North America, with particular strengths in cylinders and discs up to around 1970. With new leadership (initially funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation) and with an administrative home within the Special Collections Research Center of Syracuse University Libraries, the Belfer Audio Archive is becoming more fully integrated into the cultural life of the University and the broader communities that it serves.

The Belfer at 50 celebratory events will explore a number of common themes. The opening lecture, “Sound, Memory, and the Psychoanalytic Century” presented by Paul Théberge, sets out primary focal points: how sound recording became the vehicle for a diverse range of public, cultural and individual memories, and, at the same time, how sound technologies in cinema have played a vital role in representing the experience of aberrant psychological states of mind. The lecture will be followed by a double-feature screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound and Rebecca.

A seminar on Friday will explore the history of the Belfer Audio Archive itself, from its founding by Prof. Walter Welch to current research and scholarship that is being conducted in the Archive’s collections. Other events on day two include a Syracuse Symposium 2013 panel discussion with distinguished film music scholars who will explore how composers and producers have used sound technologies to create new ways of expressing psychological states, particularly in film scores by composers Miklos Rósza and Franz Waxman, and an SU Symphony Orchestra concert featuring Rósza’s Spellbound Concerto and Waxman’s Rebecca Suite, as well as a new work, Goodnight Moon, by SU composer Andrew Waggoner.

The final day features the renowned Kronos Quartet. First violinist David Harrington will converse with Alex Ross, music critic of The New Yorker, taking as a starting point how archival sounds documented in audio recordings intersect with the ensemble’s cutting-edge music-making. The series will conclude with a concert by this uniquely creative string quartet.

Planning Committee

  • Carole Brzozowski, University Presenter
  • Jenny Doctor, Director, Belfer Audio Archive, and Associate Professor, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications
  • Patrick Jones, Director, Setnor School of Music
  • Johanna Keller, Director, Goldring Arts Journalism Program, and Associate Professor, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications
  • Stephen Meyer, Associate Professor, Department of Art and Music Histories
  • Pamela Whiteley McLaughlin, Director of Communications and External Relations, Syracuse University Libraries