People and music are everywhere. Written music is an international language, including braille music notation. And there are individuals, groups and organizations around the world working to create and/or disseminate braille music. The NLS Music Section is one of those players.
We are not alone. Last week I received a written inquiry from the Siloam Music Rehabilitation Center for the Blind, based in Seoul, Korea. Perhaps you are familiar with them. I knew very little.
The Siloam Music Rehabilitation Center for the Blind was founded in 2012, with help from the Korean government’s Ministry of Health and Welfare. Their purpose is to provide broad support for blind musicians, but also to work to provide braille music, for which there is always a great need and never enough. They have about 20 certified braille music transcribers at the center working on manually transcribing sheet music for accuracy and quality. Their current catalog contains around 1,700 braille music titles in a variety of genres for their South Korean clients.
But they also want to provide accurately transcribed braille music that any blind musician in the world can download for free through an online database (www.musicbraille.org). We hope they are wildly successful in this goal.
Let me emphasize the key elements here: Free — Braille music — Any blind musician anywhere — Online.
Important in their work is the support of the South Korean government. NLS certainly understands the importance of government support.
In a recent online article, published by the Perkins School for the Blind in Massachusetts, Bill Winter highlighted the fact that in June Canada became the 20th nation to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty, thereby making it binding on the 20 countries that ratified the treaty to date. Among those countries is South Korea!
The treaty will significantly increase the number of braille and audio books available to the blind and visually impaired. And this includes music, as I noted in a blog earlier this year.
The United States has not yet ratified the treaty, although the Obama administration sent the treaty to the Senate in February 2016, urging its ratification.
While we wait in the US for ratification, individual transcribers and blind musicians labor around the world to achieve the availability and accessibility of braille music. As we have written here many times, more than 50 individual certified transcribers are working in the U.S. Anyone may contact them for transcriptions. The list may be found here.
A few years ago, the brilliant saxophonist Yongsit Yongkamol, from Thailand, was endeavoring to create an online database of braille music scores. I don’t know the current status of his project, but his goal was the goal of all of us working with braille music: available and accessible scores.
Britain’s Roger Firman, offers a good range of affordable scores for diverse instruments through his website, Golden-Chord. And there are no doubt others of which I am unaware.
Around the world institutionally there is a long list of countries where, to one degree or another, braille music is available. The list is too long for this blog, but here are just a few with which the NLS Music Section has had significant successful exchanges, purchases, and/or loans in the last few years.
Canada: Braille Jymico Inc. (www.braille jymico.com)
Denmark: Nota – Danish National Library for Persons with Print Disabilities (www.nota.nu/braille music). Their titles are offered free of charge to braille music users worldwide on CD-ROM.
Germany: Deutsche Zentralbücherei für Blinde (DZB) (http://www.dzb.de/en/dacapo/converting-notes.html)
Italy: Biblioteca Italiana per I Ciechi (http://www.bibliotecaciechi.it)
Switzerland: Schweizerische Bibliothek für Blinde, Seh- und Lesebehinderte (www.sbs-online.ch). Braille scores for loan or purchase internationally
United Kingdom: RNIB National Library Service (http://librarycatalogue.rnib.org.uk) A large collection and a great new website.
It is my hope and swan song that the existence and growth of the worldwide web, pertinent blogs, the continued digitization of braille music projects such as ours, international treaties, and the love of music will work together to increase and spread the availability of braille music to all who want and need it.