Montreux Jazz Festival Archives’ recognition by UNESCO

By MyWatch

In 2010, Audemars Piguet, Montreux Sounds and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) united their efforts with the aim of digitising, restoring and preserving the precious archives of the Montreux Jazz Festival founded by the late Claude Nobs. A collection that amounts in several thousands of recordings hours of the best musicians in the world has now become the first audiovisual library to be acknowledged by UNESCO as part of its “Memory of the World”, in an effort to protect the world’s intangible heritage.

Ensuring that Claude Nobs’ heritage continues to live for years to come, Thierry Amsallem, his partner, announced the creation of the Claude Nobs Foundation, with a goal of preserving and making widely accessible this invaluable collection of 5000 hours of live recordings covering almost half-century of musical history.

For Audemars Piguet, the Montreux Sounds Digital Project is perfectly aligned with the brand’s values of preserving its long heritage and tradition in fine watchmaking for the future generations in its birthplace La Vallée de Joux. Commenting on the recent announcement, Audemars Piguet CEO François-Henry Bennahmias, said: “Claude Nobs’ lifework was the inspiration for this project. He was a loyal friend of Audemars Piguet and we are delighted on this personal level to be part of this project. More importantly, we are proud to support a colossal effort that transforms this unique heritage into a top-class digital resource for the generations to come”.

Claude Nobs, a visionary man, valued immensely the world of music which is why he created Montreux Jazz Festival, something that has come to be an institution not only in Switzerland but around the world. Like all great ideas however it took a lot of convincing and insisting before Claude Nobs could persuade the TV stations to come and record the concerts. His vision was to build a music legacy for the next generations. Claude bought back the early archives from Swiss Television when he heard they were overwriting them and from then onwards he personally ensured that all concerts were systematically recorded and filmed. This legacy constitutes almost 5,000 hours of live audiovisual recordings encompassing almost half a century of the festival history, stretching from 1967 to 2012 and forms a unique collection that Quincy Jones has described as “the most important testimonial to the history of music, covering jazz, blues and rock”.

Audemars Piguet is the oldest fine watchmaking manufacturers still in the hands of its founding families (Audemars and Piguet). Since 1875, the company has written some of the finest chapters in the history of Haute Horlogerie, including a number of world firsts. In the Vallée de Joux, at the heart of the Swiss Jura, numerous masterpieces are created in limited series embodying a remarkable degree of horological perfection, including daring sporty models, classic and traditional timepieces, splendid ladies’ jewellery-watches, as well as one-of-a-kind creations.

– 46 festivals from 1967 to 2012
– over 5 million spectators since 1967
– 20,000 musicians have played and been filmed at Montreux
– 5,000 hours of video, of which 1,500 in High Definition
– 5,000 hours of multi-track audio

– 10,000 magnetic tapes, weighing 60 tons
– 600 meters of shelves
– HDTV (high definition) capture since 1991, some concerts in 3D in 2010, and in 4K 3D from 2012.

The following have played and been filmed at Montreux (among others):
Count Basie, George Benson, Chuck Berry, Black Eyed Peas, Art Blakey, James Blunt, David Bowie, James Brown, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Chemical Brothers, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Cliff, George Clinton, Joe Cocker, Leonard Cohen, Phil Collins, Chick Corea, Miles Davis, Deep Purple, Fats Domino, Faithless, Ella Fitzgerald, Roberta Flack, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Gilberto Gil, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Eddie Harris, Jamiroquai, Norah Jones, Quincy Jones, Alicia Keys, B.B. King, Korn, Diana Krall, Lenny Kravitz, Miriam Makeba, Wynton Marsalis, Massive Attack, Les McCann, The Modern Jazz Quartet, Gary Moore, Van Morrison, Muse, Youssou N’Dour, Oscar Peterson, Astor Piazzolla, The Pretenders, Prince, Radiohead, Lou Reed, Elis Regina, R.E.M., Lionel Richie, Carlos Santana, Seal, Paul Simon, Nina Simone, Ringo Starr, Sting, James Taylor, Sarah Vaughan, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Caetano Veloso, Muddy Waters, Yes, Neil Young, ZZ Top…

Aims at:
Conserving the original tapes in the best conditions possible.
Backing up and protect the documentary collection over the long term through digitalization
Updating the digitalized documents using the latest technology developed by the EPFL, allowing restoration, and even amelioration of the original resolution
Making these documents accessible for research and education
Constructing a setting for this heritage in a dedicated physical space on the EPFL campus, a laboratory within a Montreux Jazz Café
Distributing the collection to a larger public, in particular by publishing concerts from the collection, but also through the Montreux Jazz Cafés around the world.
Presenting, exhibit and study the evolution of a style or an artist through the creation of documentaries based on the collection archives and enhanced by current recordings.
Continually updating this heritage with recordings from future Montreux Jazz Festivals.

  • Claude Nobs
  • Press Conference Thierry Amsallem Claude Nobs
  • Tim Sayler Audemars Piguet CMO