Claude Nobs, who founded the festival in 1967, was equally passionate about music and technology. He always ensured concerts were recorded with the most advanced equipment of the time. His aim was to create a unique collection of Montreux Jazz Festival recordings for future generations to discover.
However, many of the early tapes were kept in different locations and their safety could not be guaranteed. In 1988, a lengthy investigation took place to find and store all audio-visual content relating to the Montreux Jazz Festival in a custom built archive located in the Swiss mountains. Today, the Montreux Jazz Festival archive contains more than 5’000 concerts, 11’000 hours of video, 6’000 hours of audio and more than 80’000 photos.
Unfortunately, despite the use of high quality technology to capture live performances, sound and video was mostly recorded on magnetic tape. Therefore, the major threat to the archive included; lack of adequate backup, deterioration of magnetic material and obsolescence of playback machines.
In 2007, Patrick Aebischer at EPFL and Claude Nobs sealed the fate of the Montreux Jazz Festival archive to save this cultural patrimony by digitizing it fully. The Montreux Jazz Digital Project took off in 2010 with the launch of the Metamedia Center at EPFL.
In 2016, the Montreux Jazz Festival archive will be entirely digitized and will continue to grow as future editions of the festival take place. The archive once fully preserved and accessible will be made available to educational establishments for academic and research purposes.
Since the Montreux Jazz Festival began 50 years ago, the archive now contains more than 14’000 tapes in 18 media formats. The entire original physical collection will be preserved as part of the Claude Nobs Foundation, a unique testimony to his life’s work and contribution to musical history.
In 2013, the Montreux Jazz Festival archive was inscribed to the UNESCO World Music Heritage Memory of the World register as the Claude Nobs Legacy. According to Quincy Jones, the Montreux Jazz Festival archive “is the most important testimonial to the history of music, covering Jazz, Blues and Rock.”
The close relationship between music and technology continues to grow as EPFL’s Metamedia Center acquired the entire 2014 edition of the Montreux Jazz Festival in an HD uncompressed tapeless format.
Montreux Jazz Festival technological landmarks
1967 – Black and white video
1967 – Stereo audio
1970 – Color video
1973 – Multi-track audio
1991 – High-definition (HD) video
2010 – 3D video
2012 – 4k video
2013 – HD uncompressed tapeless acquisition