Preserving Scott Gatty’s Masterpieces

We are now approaching the end of the Centenary year of the Zono Minstrels recordings, so now is a good time to reflect upon the past year, what has been achieved, and what we may be able to achieve in the future. There is no doubt that the world is a better place now than it was a few short months ago, as the Zono Minstrels were virtually unrepresented across the entire World Wide Web up until July. Now, we have this website providing five of the ten recordings, as well as eighteen of the twenty-four sheet music scores of the entire Plantation Songs.

It is obviously frustrating that the entire world is so poorly organised that sound recordings and musical scores are not routinely archived and made available, especially when they are out of copyright and in danger of becoming lost. The situation with the gramophone records is impossible to assess, as there is no central organisation which can provide information on the likely availability of rare recordings. All I know is that the three records which need to be obtained are rare, and not readily available.

The sheet music situation is even more ridiculous, as the copying of paper has been far easier for far longer than the effective transfer of sound recordings. Volumes 1 and 3 of the Plantation Songs appear to be so common that you can virtually find them whenever you need them, and Volume 2 seems relatively easy to find. Volume 4, however, appears to be extremely rare. I have been unable to find a copy for sale anywhere in the world, and I have had some incredibly frustrating experiences trying to locate copies in libraries. The State Library of Victoria, in Australia, has the work listed in their catalogue, but in reality they only have the common volumes 1 and 3. The British Library does hold the extremely rare document, but they refuse to release it or even allow it to be copied.

So far, I have not been able to locate any copy of this set of musical scores. Only one copy needs to exist in the entire world for the music to be saved, because it could be transferred to digital format and then copied an infinite number of times from then on. I will make another plea here for someone, anyone, who owns Scott-Gatty’s Plantation songs Vol 4 to please get in touch with me. [EDIT 17th MAY 2014 – I NOW HAVE A COPY OF SCANS OF THE 4th VOLUME! THEY ARE NOW IN THE PROCESS OF BEING MADE INTO PDF FILES TO BE UPLOADED TO THIS SITE] I don’t need to own it, only to be able to scan it to create digital copies. If this could happen, it would complete the set and give the site’s readers the chance to play all of the twenty-four songs.

The scans which do exist on this site are in various states of disrepair. The scans which were uploaded to be ready for the Centenary are basic in the extreme, and not even optimised for the page size. I am currently in the process of recreating the scans of the first three volumes, and hope to have them uploaded by the end of the year. There should be full colour and greyscale scans, in addition to the standard monochrome version. The scores of “But It Is So” and “Far Away Ober Dare” are unusable in their present form, and extensive reconstruction work will be needed to create something usable from extremely poor quality originals.

I will update the site with another post on the last day of the year, as we say farewell to something which can never be repeated – the Centenary year of the peerless recordings made by the Zono Minstrels.