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  • What is the Variations System?
  • Where did Variations come from?
  • What technologies is Variations based on?
  • How can other institutions implement Variations?

What is the Variations System?

The Variations Digital Music Library System enables institutions such as college and university libraries and music schools to digitize audio and score materials from their own collections, provide those materials to their students and faculty for teaching, learning, and research use in an interactive online environment, and respect intellectual property rights. The Variations system offers users the ability to play sound recordings, view musical scores, create bookmarks and playlists, and create and save visual annotations for both audio and scores.

Variations is not a digital music collection. Instead, it is a system for institutions to provide their constituencies with access to institutionally owned or licensed content.

Variations is a digital library system. As such,

  • It is album-based, not track based: users see tracks in their album context.
  • Score volumes are presented in their entirely.
  • Access can be set up to Variations items from institutional OPACs, and links to individual OPAC records can be put in the audio player or score viewer.

The flexible access control system in Variations helps institutions limit access in accordance with local needs and legal interpretations.

  • Variations does not use Digital Rights Management (DRM).
  • Audio is streamed.
  • Access can be limited to authenticated logins based on IP address and/or authorized group membership, such as a class roster.

Where did Variations come from?

The Variations system has been created as a result of a series of grant-funded projects at Indiana University. Funding agencies have include the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS). As part of the IMLS grant for the Variations3 project, Indiana University has released the Variations system as open-source and helped other institutions implement the system.

The current Variations system has been in use at Indiana University since 2005. The IU implementation contains approximately 17,000 recordings and several hundred scores. It serves as the primary music reserves system for the Cook Music Library and the Jacobs School of Music. Every semester, students and faculty rely on Variations for thousands of reserve recordings and scores.

As a result of the Variations3 project, Variations is now in use at the the New England Conservatory, Ohio State University, the Philadelphia area Tri-College Consortium (Haverford, Swarthmore, and Bryn Mawr Colleges), and the University of Maryland. At least a dozen additional institutions are currently implementing or evaluating the Variations system.

What technologies is Variations based on?

Variations is an open-source system that relies on other open-source or freely available technologies, including the following.

  • Linux. The server runs on the Linux operating system (or other Unix), typically RHEL 4 or 5.
  • MySql 4 database.
  • Java. Most of Variations is written in the Java programming language. The client application can run on Windows PCs or Mac OS X.
  • Darwin streaming server. This is the free version of Apple's Quicktime streaming server, which can also be used.
  • Djvulibre. The free version of Djvu for score image compression and viewing.
  • Flash Player. The new browser-based audio player uses Flash for the user interface.
  • Apache web server.
  • Tomcat web application server.
  • XML. Variations makes heavy internal use of XML and uses XML for users' data files.

How can other institutions implement Variations?

Variations is available as open source and is therefore freely available. Indiana University continues develop and maintain the Variations system and is investigating alternative mechanisms to provide support. Meanwhile, see the SourceForge site for information on signing up for the support discussion list.

More information will appear here shortly, describing the kind of planning and staffing necessary for a successful implementation.

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