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Last modified: Tuesday, September 20, 2005

IU receives national grant to extend its digital music library

Sept. 20, 2005

BLOOMINGTON, Ind -- The Indiana University Digital Library Program today (Sept. 20) received a $768,747 National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to extend its groundbreaking digital music library to college teachers and students across the country. The project will create an online learning and research tool, like the highly successful version already in place at IU, that can be easily deployed at a wide range of college and university libraries.

An Indiana University music student uses Variations2, an online music tool that will be expanded to colleges and music conservatories nationwide.

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"We've demonstrated the value of a digital music library at Indiana University," said Jon Dunn, executive investigator for Variations2, the online music tool created at IU. "This grant catapults this project to the next level and truly recognizes IU's national leadership in digital library development."

By offering this "digital music library in a box," IU will respond to the teaching and learning needs of large academic libraries, small colleges and music conservatories, many of which have expressed enthusiastic support for the digital music library that has transformed music instruction at IU's renowned School of Music. At the completion of this three-year project known as Variations3, institutions nationwide will be able to introduce, expand or upgrade their current online music offerings in ways that provide new benefits for their students.

Students now able to merely listen to digitized audio in their library will be able to see the score of that music on their own computers, annotate it and use an online visualization tool to compare one performance to another. An "audio timeliner" will allow students to create visual interactive timelines of audio segments -- the opening phrases of a Debussy prelude, for example -- and to jump to a section of music and listen to it while reading their own associated annotations. Students will also be able to create listening drills to test themselves on their ability to recognize audio selections.

An "audio timeliner" will allow students to create visual interactive timelines of audio segments and to jump to a section of music and listen to it while reading their own associated annotations.

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These features are already available to IU students and faculty as part of the innovative Variations2 digital music library, a research and development project funded in part by the National Science Foundation.

David Cartledge, an assistant professor of music at the IU School of Music, uses Variations2 in his master's-level piano literature courses. He developed an interest about two years ago when the project was in its developmental stages, and he finds the timeliner particularly useful to communicate analyses of sometimes complex musical structure.

The visual cues that correspond to musical segments allow students to see the elements that recur or relate in the large-scale formal structure of a musical piece. "I provide analyses to students to prepare them for class, and we don't have to spend class time going over the nitty-gritty," Cartledge said. Variations2 helps to develop critical listening skills and engages students as they follow the timeliner rather than "jumping in" on a single disc track. Cartledge said he finds that those students who use the system are more familiar with the music than they ever were previously. "It's an amazing tool," he said.

More than 10,000 online recordings and hundreds of scores recommended by IU faculty for use in instruction are accessible in Variations2 at IU. Students can retrieve recordings from their dorm rooms and off campus as well as from selected locations on the IU Bloomington campus.

Central to the widespread adoption of this system is the need to streamline the process for creating "metadata," which includes the information that identifies a particular piece of music or the detailed contents of a particular score or recording, and allows users to easily find and use scores and recordings in the system: the title, for example, or the composer, performer, language, publication date or a wide range of other descriptive information.

IUB Libraries staff involved in extending the groundbreaking digital music library project include (from L-R) Kristine Brancolini, Jon Dunn, Jennifer Riley, Mark Notess and Philip Ponella.

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The project builds on IU's successful history in digital music library development. The groundbreaking Variations project, established in the mid-1990s, marked the national introduction of digitized music distributed over a computer network for educational use. The experimental Variations2 system, which will now go nationwide, was developed at IU as part of a $3 million research grant awarded in 2000 from the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Variations2 was made available to IU Bloomington music students and faculty in May.

The IU Digital Library Program is a collaborative effort of the IU Libraries and the Office of the Vice President for Information Technology, with faculty leadership from the School of Library and Information Science and the School of Informatics. Jon Dunn will serve as project director for Variations3.

IU is home to one of the nation's leading music schools. As one of the most comprehensive and acclaimed institutions for the study of music, the IU School of Music plays a key role in educating performers, scholars and music educators who influence music performance and education around the globe. More than 1,600 School of Music students benefit from the intensity and focus of a conservatory combined with the broad academic offerings of a major university.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is an independent federal grant-making agency dedicated to creating and sustaining a nation of learners by helping libraries and museums serve their communities. The institute fosters leadership, innovation and a lifetime of learning by supporting the 15,000 museums and 122,000 libraries in America. It also encourages partnerships to expand the educational benefit of libraries and museums.

For more information on the Variations2 project, go to

To speak to any of the project directors, contact Ryan Piurek, IU Media Relations, at 812-855-5393 or