- Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings
The Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings would, at first glance, appear to be in direct competition with the ongoing series of printed Victor discographies by John R. Bolig, published by Mainspring Press, which I previously reviewed in these pages (Notes 62, no. 2 [December 2005]: 407–10; Notes 66, no. 3 [March 2010]: 575–9). This online Victor discography, henceforth referred to as EDVR, is sponsored by the Donald C. Davidson Library's Department of Special Collections at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), and is intended to carry forward the work of Ted Fagan and William R. Moran (The Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings: Pre-Matrix Series–12 January 1900 to 23 April 1903 [Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1983], and The Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings: Matrix Series–1 Through 4999, 23 April 1903 to 7 January 1908 [Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1986]). Fagan and Moran set out to document all recordings made by Victor in all genres, including the ubiquitous Black Label popular recordings and Red Seal classical discs, along with the Purple and Blue Label records that straddled the fence between the classical and popular fields. Fagan died in 1987, and though Moran continued gathering and editing data, no volumes beyond the initial two were published. In 2003, faced with declining health, Moran turned the project over to the UCSB Libraries, setting up an endowment to ensure continued funding. Moran died the following year, and additional funding was awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2007 to support completion of the editing and the creation of the online database.
The goal of the EDVR project is to eventually list all recordings—published and unpublished—made by The Victor Talking Machine Company and its successor RCA Victor through the end of the 78-rpm era in the 1950s. As of June 2010, the site has cataloged all Victor recordings through 30 September 1924 and offers searching, browsing, and commenting for over 46,000 matrix records, 17,500 names, and over 35,000 discs. The current status of the Web site, which sometimes changes on a weekly basis, can be found at the bottom of the home page.
The EDVR home page interface is intuitive, and contains two primary menu tabs: Browse and Search. The Browse tab has four choices: Matrixes, Discs, Names, and Dates, which allow browsing by matrix [End Page 374] number, catalog number, proper name (performers and composers are included here), and recording date, respectively. Since the number of entries is extraordinarily large, browsing can be a very time-consuming process. However, all the browse options have a convenient sliding button that the user may click and drag to move to any page in the listings for Matrixes, Discs and Names (there are fifty hits on each page and several hundred pages for each option); this functionality makes it easier to move to a specific part of the list. The Date listing allows entry of a specific date, where one can view a list of all recordings made on that day. Each of the three Browse categories has a list of narrowing options in the form of drop down menus. Matrixes allow narrowing by Composer, Performer, First Take Date, Category, Marketing Target, and Language. Browsing by Discs can be narrowed to Label Name or Issue Series, and Names can be narrowed by Type and Sub-Type. An example of a Type would be Vocalist, and a Sub-Type within that Type would include various voice categories—soprano vocal, tenor vocal, baritone vocal, etc.
The search engine works extremely well and is very fast. The Search tab has four choices: Basic, Titles, Discs, and Names. A Basic search allows the user to enter one parameter; the database will then search names, titles, places, catalog numbers, and matrix numbers against the entry. Titles and Discs are both multi-field searches, but one may fill in as many or as few fields as one...