Our myMETRO Member Spotlight series continues with Marcos Sueiro Bal, Senior Archivist at New York Public Radio, which includes WNYC, New York’s premiere public radio station, and WQXR, New York sole all-classical music station. We enjoyed learning about the career path Marcos took prior to moving to New York City and working as an archivist for NYPR, and we hope you do too!
Marcos Sueiro Bal is the Senior Archivist at New York Public Radio. He is Co-Chair of the Technical Committee at the Association of Recorded Sound Collections, and was part of the Collection Management Task Force that drafted the Library of Congress National Recording Preservation Plan in 2012. In 2011 he co-translated the definitive text on audio preservation, Guidelines for the Production and Preservation of Digital Audio Objects. He is a member of the Standards Committee of the Audio Engineering Society and of the Independent Media Arts Preservation board. He has mastered and restored 2011’s Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy, and he was nominated for a Grammy for his work on 2008’s Polk Miller and His Old South Quartette. He has worked at the Alan Lomax Archives, Columbia University Libraries (where he developed AVDb, a preservation prioritization tool), Masterdisk mastering studios, and Emory University. He teaches Audio Preservation at Long Island University's Palmer School of Library Science.
1. When did you first join myMETRO?
November 2011, shortly after the organization started.
2. Describe your work experience prior to joining the profession. What has been your most rewarding experience as a professional so far?
I started as an amateur musician near Barcelona, Spain, and later studied music in college in Michigan. The technical aspect of sound always interested me (my older brother used to build me audio equipment) and so eventually I graduated from college with a BA in Sound Engineering. During and after college I worked in sound archives, but always peppered it with related activities: live sound, mixing, mastering, production.
Sound is incredibly complex and slippery. I still periodically listen to unamplified concerts in real halls, which to me remains the ultimate listening experience and the bar against which I measure all recordings. I remind my students that a sound recording is a facsimile of just one particular performance. Since I used to do a lot of live sound I have witnessed many performances where the band sounded much better than their CD.
As far as rewarding experiences, listening to almost all the recordings folklorist Alan Lomax ever did was a pretty sweet gig, and it changed my view of music and the arts forever. Recent discoveries of Leadbelly and Eisenhower recordings in the WNYC Collection at the Municipal Archives have also been very rewarding. As in most archive jobs, there often pop up unexpected gems. I have recently become fascinated with a recording by Susan Reed, a 1950s folklore singer with a meteoric rise and sudden stop.
3. What drew you to your particular line of work?
It was virtually by chance. While in college I answered a bulletin board ad for an archives assistant at the Center for Black Music Research in Chicago (mind you , this was back when bulletin boards were “cork” boards with pieces of “paper” “pinned” on them). Also, I think my late father’s love and appreciation of antiques and timeless designs prepared me for the profession from an aesthetic viewpoint.
4. Tell us a little about the projects that capture your interests these days (either for yourself or an organization).
I generally love the current emphasis on online access for archival content (even if online access is a far cry from experiencing the original item). It is a lot of what we are doing at the New York Public Radio Archives these days and we find it very rewarding: it is great to be able to share your treasures with the world. And the creative ways in which archivists are displaying, playing, and riffing on archival content are very inspiring. I always tell my students: “Make something beautiful --it is the best chance you have for long term preservation of your materials.”
Being in a broadcast archive has been an interesting experience. As a news organization, preservation is not always at the forefront of the organizational goals, but as an archive we are lucky to have access to an amazing platform from which to share our discoveries: that of the largest and oldest public broadcaster in New York City. We also feel that the Archives’ profile within the organization is steadily rising, and that has been very rewarding as well.
5. What are your favorite ways to stay on top of industry trends?
I subscribe to the usual lists (ARSC, AMIA, IASA, etc.) and blogs and selectively choose which articles to read. I do not go crazy trying to keep up to the minute, though; if something is game-changing, I will eventually hear about it. Indeed, sometimes it is wise to let others test the latest tools or gizmos first.
6. What do you find most valuable about your myMETRO membership?
I have added valuable tools to my skill set through the workshops offered at METRO, which I find an incredible value. I continue to be amazed at the depth and breadth of the offerings.
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