- Variations Digital Music Library System and Variations Audio Timeliner
For information regarding the scope of this column, consult the headnote in the September 2011 issue. The dates of access for each review of an online source indicate the dates during which the reviewer was evaluating the resource. All Web sites were last accessed to verify availability on 1 February 2012.
First launched by Indiana University in the mid-1990s, Variations is a digital asset management system uniquely designed to handle music materials. The software became available to other institutions as an open source release in 2009. While there are other systems on the market that institutions have adapted to manage music-related assets (such as DSpace1 and CONTENTdm2), none of these focus specifically on music and none handle music materials as effectively as Variations. In its most current incarnation, Variations offers back-end tools for digitizing audio and print materials as well as front-end interfaces for accessing streamed audio and digital scores. Since Indiana’s open source release, many institutions are using Variations as a reserves system, though it has potential for much broader applications. The system could be used for delivering institutional musical performances, rare/special collection recordings, or non-music recordings such as speeches, readings, and broadcasts. In addition to providing mechanisms for digitizing and delivery, Variations also offers tools specifically designed to enrich the user experience. Such tools include customizable bookmarks, playlists, annotation options, and quizzing functions.
Variations is available both as a browser-based interface and as a standalone Java application (see figures 1 and 2). Presently the Web version works only with audio (not scores).3 The stand-alone version is available for the latest Mac or Windows operating systems (Mac OS X, Windows Vista, and Windows 7) and requires QuickTime software to function.4 Details for downloading Variations will vary by institution, as will the way in which users launch and use the system. Users who wish to explore either the standalone version or browser-based interface with sample tracks may visit the [End Page 851] Variations Web site for more information.5 The particular process used at Baylor University is discussed later in this review.
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In addition to the standard playback/control functions one would expect (volume control, play/pause, and navigation), the audio player allows users to create playlists. These playlists are exportable as either HTML files or native Variations files (V2P). Either format results in a small file (approximately 4KB). Opening a playlist file or HTML document launches Variations and loads the playlist. The audio player also has a bookmarking feature that allows users to mark locations within a recording for later use. While the default name for the bookmark is taken from the track listing, users can rename and rearrange bookmarks and can also add comments to each bookmark. From the edit screen, users can manage bookmarks by organizing them into folders, sending bookmarks to a playlist, or exporting them as HTML or Variations (V2B) files.
The Variations score viewer allows navigation of the entire score through a scrub bar, previous and next buttons, a page number pull-down menu, or by clicking on movements or divisions listed in the side bar. Users can also set the view (one- or two-page views) and sizing (“fit to” height/width/window or zooming from 25% to 200%). The same bookmarking options are available...