Taraneh Matloob Haghanikar

Speaking Time and Room No.: 2006-9-23 8:30-10:30 Room III

Speaker: Taraneh Matloob Haghanikar (Iran)


The Use of Multimedia to Present and Preserve Lullabies in Iran

Taraneh Matloob Haghanikar



Oral culture is passed from one generation to the next in a number of ways. Texts, narrations, songs and plays are among the most obvious examples. However, in constantly changing social attitudes, some knowledge tends to be long forgotten or lost.

This paper analyses multimedia features that enable preserving and presenting Iranian lullabies. In doing so, as well as briefly introducing a definition and the history of lullabies in Iran, emphasis is placed on the role of technology and reviewing the research that has been undertaken in this area.

Taking advantage of different forms of media, three Audio, Video and Interactive performances are proposed. In order to examine how multimedia may save fading lullabies from a total loss preservation methods are addressed. The importance of multimedia as a tool to assist in both presenting and preserving digital material is emphasised in all parts of this paper. Furthermore, using a subset of preserving strategies along with prevention, reconstruction, and/or reformatting methods are suggested.


This part reviews the literature regarding the meaning and history of lullabies in Iran. To do this, it explores what is a lullaby and how early history, customs, and beliefs may be associated with its origins.

Apparently, it is impossible to imagine the history of oral tradition without lullabies, “as they have an important place in the index of the Persian oral literature” (Mohammadi and Ghaeni, 2001:28). Lullaby is an art of whisper, using language, music and gesture. It is not a formal performance; it is a lively communication between two individuals: a performer and a child. While singing a soft gentle song, one may hold the child in her or his arms or on lap, whispering, chanting and singing. ”Similar to the way soldiers use songs to keep up morale during war, and the church uses hymns to comfort parishioners in hard times,” (Godek, 2004:75) lullabies, soothe tempers and help children to enter into the world of peace.

Although sometimes fathers or grandfathers sing a lullaby for a child, generally there are “women in and behind the rhymes” (Mo and Shen, 2002:131). The warm breath of mothers, grandmothers, or nurses which may be accompanied by mimetic gestures, facial expressions or physical movements, draws the crying baby into the delightful world of sleeping (Figure 1).






Lullabies are monologues which usually “mirror the life of performers, associated with their wishes, expectations, fears, everyday events, and or anticipations of the future” (Mohammadi and Ghaeni, 2001:28, 31). Consciously or unconsciously, performers share their thoughts as well as feeling with a mute listener: a child. Therefore, it is not an overstatement to say that lullabies could provide a realistic depiction of women's lives in Iran.

Research done in recent years (Mohammadi and Ghaeni, 2001:15) suggests that although “narrations accompanied with music used to be in formal lessons of children in the ancient Iran”, “in pre-Islamic works there are no texts or documents addressed directly or indirectly to lullabies” (Mohammadi and Ghaeni, 2001:26). However, lullabies play an initial role in children's education. The short and rhythmic sentences are among the first word patterns and imagery for children, providing them with the fun of listening to the rhyme.

Lullabies in Iran are wide-ranging, with various themes and generally in different dialects and languages including Farsi, Azari, Kurdish, Armenian, Yazdi, Gilaki, Kermani, and so forth. Reviewing the folk songs and collections of lullabies shows that similar to other cultures “many words in the original have no written characters or hieroglyphics while many others were not found in the dictionary” (Mo and Shen, 2002:134). Over the years, some of scholars are involved in studying the many aspects of the oral heritage in Iran. Meanwhile, as with other types of oral literature, the difficulty is obvious in accessing to resources. It is therefore the importance of collecting, recording, and preserving these traditions can not be ignored. Hence, what this paper concentrates on is the technology may help the preservation and stimulation of lullabies.

Multimedia Technology and Oral Tradition

Tracing back and reviewing the history suggest that the use of multimedia is a very old concept. Traditionally, in ancient times of Iran, “oral traditions were told by people called Gousan. They were narrators with rich memory, knowing many attractive performance skills to deepen relationship with audiences” (Mohammadi and Ghaeni, 2001:14). Leather and fabric's craft, pottery, cloth, paper, and ink were materials used as the first forms of multimedia to keep these narrations alive. Today, however, there are many other ways to express the oral literary. Newspaper, web resources, software applications, CDs, radio, television, video, and the visual arts are the most frequently used technologies and techniques.

With the advent and rapid growth of these technologies, collecting old lullabies has gained more importance. To examine the appropriateness of multimedia tools, two aspects of presentation and preservation must be taken into account.


To make a lullaby more attractive and more accessible to audiences “it is not enough to know how the technology works, rather it is most important to understand its implications and how best to apply it” (Figueiredoa et al, 2004:120). Therefore, for the purposes of this paper digital performance of a lullaby is defined as a combination of traditional chanting or singing techniques, with the use of multimedia to provide sound and/or video to supplement the spoken word.

The literature review indicates that information in multimedia systems covers text and image as static media and also video, sound, and animation as dynamic media (Bailey et al, 1998). Obviously, every type has specific functionalities. According to Lowe and Hall (1999:55) “digital representation, storage requirements, structuring and retrieval methods, compression, creation and editing, display or playback methods, and media synchronisation” are key issues in making use of the functionality of the digital domain.

To discuss these issues in more detail, three Audio, Video and Interactive performances are proposed. Every performance addresses the full potential of new technology in presenting lullabies.

1-Audio Performance

There are many different forms of audio media to present lullabies. Cassette tapes, Compact Discs (CD), Digital Video Discs ( DVD-Audio), Super Audio Compact Discs (SACD) and internet-based audio files are readily available and have a great deal of flexibility. However, the requirement for higher sound quality and also more space to record caused the cassette tape was quickly replaced by CDs. Similarly, the less likely it is that compact discs stay usable for a long time as many other forms of audio media everyday emerge on the market with additional features, more convenience and a lower price.

Many users prefer their music in DVD and or SACD format. DVD “offers at least 74 minutes of very high quality, surround sound, plus additional features (such as video and limited interactivity) that are not available on CDs” (Delux Global Media Services). But what is remarkable is that the public appetite for computer-based audio tracks and clips is also very extensive. The ease of use, sound quality and “download¬-friendly size” (Taylor, 2001) are key features of this audio type. Notably, a computer-based audio file can be easily included as a background sound or just as a simple hyperlink in a web page.

In general, there are several popular formats to save and present computer-based sound files; this means a lullaby as an audio file could be recorded at several different quality levels and formats. However, to get the best sound quality possible, more disk space and a better sound card, speakers as well as sound recording software are required. Import from or export to other formats and devices is possible. Lullabies are recorded alternatively as high-quality format for archive, CD-quality format for on-line storage, and MP3 format for web-delivery.

2-Video Performance

Although sound is dominant in presenting lullabies, video performance with its added qualities may aid to create a good mood for audiences, as “some forms of art are better appreciated when experienced together” (Cotter, 2002).

The most obvious use of video in presenting lullabies is customizing an old lullaby with appropriate scenes, films and shots. One might wish to mingle a clip with music; another may prefer to mix harmonic and melodic intervals; or to take a fresh look at old existing lullabies. Alternatively, video technology may also be used to record and present an interview with elders while chanting old-time lullabies and songs.

Still Digital Videos, Pocket or Professional Digital Camcorders, and also Analogue Camcorders are viable options that implement this functionality. These are effective alternatives for real time recording with a reasonable resolution. Meanwhile, the availability of various commercial products, high capacity hard disks, DVD recorders, and MPEG encoders-decoders on the market offer flexible recording strategies.

It is also worthy to note that some video players support a standard set of features to present subtitle tracks. These features can be extremely useful in presenting a lullaby with its lyrics to represent different dialects.

3-Interactive Performance

Interactive performance has a direct line to the past, using computer, video, graphics, texts, and audio technology. In doing so, as Cotter (2002) argues, emphasis is placed on combining an interest in the traditional resources with an eye to the modern tools.

The suggested interactive environment is an online website or CD-based application containing tools that support multiple types of data, such as image, audio, video, and hypermedia documents. The goal is to establish a good music study environment and practice it through several various approaches including Information, Audio-Video, and Education sections.



3-1-Information section

It is divided in thematic areas visually identifiable, using suitable separation cues. A brief history, images and links related to available audio-video tracks of lullabies are presented. Furthermore, striking imagery including old cradles, traditional musical instruments, extinct formats of large cabinet gramophones and phonographs, is represented (Figure 2). The core of the image gallery comprises a representation of children's toys and clothes belonging to the ancient time of Iran.




3-2-Audio-Video section

It covers both published and unpublished recordings in Persian lullabies with a primary focus on different native languages. Lullabies are searchable by keyword, genre, dialect, and or bandwidth. Moreover, favourite tracks can be bookmarked.

3-3-Education section

It provides sight reading or ear training activities to improve different skills such as interval recognition, chord spelling, and rhythm knowledge. Although it is not school-orientated educational software, it offers the fundamental principles of music theory behind the lullabies. Users work at their pace; as the progress is tracked and interactive feedback is provided by the software. Moreover, pitch and rhythm dictation of lullabies are practiced in different levels (Figure 3).




Multimedia technology can facilitate digital preservation in a number of ways. The most frequently used digitisation approaches are highlighted in this part. Materials for preservation include existing lullabies range from recordings on wire, magnetic disc formats, 8-track cartridges, non-standard extinct tape formats, simple text-based files, cassettes or highly sophisticated resources such as CDs and Audio DVDs. The assistive devices include scanners, Optical Character Recognition (OCR) equipments, digital cameras, camcorders, tape recorders, printers, digital tuners, digital metronomes, hardware equipments, "holographic digital data storage" (Ashly et al, 2000:341), and other kinds of data storage.


Each generation of technology brings changes in potential capabilities for long-term preservation. Newer versions of media, software and hardware for recording and rendering digital information constantly replace the older technology. Consequently, information which relies on supporting media becomes inaccessible. Migration method provides the technological obsolescence with a short to medium term solution. It transfers information to a subsequent or more stable digital or non-digital media. For example, copying files from floppy disks to CDs or transferring from Windows to Macintosh operating system are simple forms of migrating method. On the other hand, more complex migrations are converting scanned texts and electronic files to XML (eX tensible Markup Language) format.



Encapsulation “is a technique of grouping together a digital object and anything else necessary to provide access to that object” (Preserving access to Digital Information - PADI). Encapsulated information includes relevant information of hardware, operating system, rendering software, documentation and any other associated data about a digital object. “Encapsulation can be achieved by using physical or logical structures called containers or wrappers to provide a relationship between all information components” (PADI).


Emulation strategy refers to the recreation of the technical environment of digital information. It could take place at the hardware or software level. An immediate advantage of this approach is “once the data is archived with appropriate metadata and software, no other action is required apart from media refreshing until access is desired” (PADI). Also, in the process of the recreation the original records need not be changed.


XML being used as a preservation tool offers a long-term solution to various domains of the digital environment; it is “platform independent, which allows for easy transfer of information sets from one machine to another” (Digitale Duurzaamheid). With the capability of defining tags, schemas, grammars and semantics, it can create and maintain complex logical frameworks of data and metadata. Storing metadata accompanying the content of databases, it may be used “both during the digital objects creation process and at the migration preservation phases” (Erpanet Workshop).


Refreshing is the process of copying digital information from one storage medium to a new carrier of the same type. An example of refreshing is transferring files from older to newer CD-ROMs as a good backup of digital materials.

6-Technology preservation

Technology preservation suggests keeping and using the technical environment including old computers, operating systems, software systems, and media devices. The requirement to keep all different versions of software and hardware makes the preservation not a feasible strategy. The absence of any easy way to know all relevant skills is also another drawback of this approach.

To sum up, “a subset of these strategies should be encouraged with particular emphasis on transfer, migration and emulation” (British Library). Meanwhile, to extend the longevity and accessibility of digital materials, supporting prevention strategies, considering standards, and creating metadata are other main challenges.


With the rapid advance of multimedia technologies, the demand for digital presentation and preservation is increasing. Taking advantage of different forms of media like sound, animation, and video, users have a more flexible access to materials and the information they need. Nevertheless, this can not be accomplished just by combining various media. Designers of multimedia tools need a framework to use the best media to present content in the most effective manner to users.

The paper aimed to address the importance of multimedia in accessing to digital lullabies, along with discussing presentation requirements and preservation methods. However, it opened up many new opportunities for further work. The future study reviews high-quality curricular resources and multimedia applications in learning music along with examining automatic notification systems when a digital material requires preservation. Also another fruitful area for research is studying technology-neutral tools in digital preservation.


Ashley, J. et al. (2000) Holographic data storage technology. IBM Journal of Research and Development. Volume 44, Number 3, Page 341. [online] Available from: www.research.ibm.com/journal/rd/

Bailey, B. et al (1998) Nsync- A Toolkit for Building Interactive Multimedia Presentations. In: ACM Multimedia '98 Bristol. pp 257-266 England: Addison Wesley Longman.

British Library Board (2004) The British Library Sound Archive Available from: www.bl.uk/collections/sound-archive/nsacharged.html [Last visited: 21/05/04]

Cotter, Z. (2002) Digital Representation of an Original Poem. Interactive Multimedia Electronic Journal (IMEJ). Volume 4, Number 1. [online] Available from: imej.wfu.edu/articles/2002/1/04/demo/fys/cotter/index.asp

Deluxe Global Media Services Ltd. (2004) deluxe Available from: www.disctronics.co.uk/technology/dvdaudio/dvdaud_intro.htm [Last visited: 23/05/04]

Digitale Duurzaamheid-Project team (2003) Digitale Duurzaamheid Available from: www.digitaleduurzaamheid.nl/index.cfm [Last visited: 23/05/04]

Erpanet Workshop (2002) XML as a Digital Preservation Strategy Available from: www.erpanet.org/www/products/urbino/Presentations/URBINO_background_paper.pdf [Last visited: 23/05/04]

Figueiredoa, F. C. et al. (2004) Refereed digital publication of computer graphics educational materials. Computers & Graphics. Volume 28 pp 119–124. [online] Available from: www.sciencedirect.com

Godek, S. (2004) The Great Tunes of the Hough: Music and Song in Alan Garner's The Stone Book Quartet. Children's Literature in Education. Volume 35, Issue 1, Pages: 69-75. [online] Available from: www.kluweronline.com/article.asp

Lowe, D. and Hall, W. (1999) Hypermedia and the Web. Chichester, England: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Mo, W.and Shen, W. (2002) The Women In and Behind the Rhymes. Children's Literature in Education. Volume 33, Issue 2, Pages: 131-148. [online] Available from: www.kluweronline.com/article.asp

Mohammadi, M.H. and Ghaeni, Z. (2001) The History of Children's Literature in Iran . Volume 1. Tehran : Cheesta.

National Library of Australia's Preserving Access to Digital Information (1996) Preserving Access to Digital Information (PADI)Available from: www.nla.gov.au/padi/index.html [Last visited: 24/05/04]

Taylor, J. (2001) Tips and Tricks Available from: www.greece.k12.ny.us/taylor/tips/audio.htm [Last visited: 24/05/04]


British Library Board (2004) British Library Sound Archive Available from: www.bl.uk/collections/sound-archive/artefacts.html [Last visited: 21/05/04]

easypersian.com (2001) easypersian.com. Available from: www.easypersian.com/Persian/W98/useful_drills_98.htm [Last visited: 10/05/04]

Institute for Research on the History of Children’s Literature in Iran (IRHCLI) (2003). The History of Children's Literature in Iran. [online] Tehran. Available from: www.chlhistory.org [Last visited: 30/07/04]

SoundBox (2000) SoundBox. Available from: www.soundbox.co.uk/index.html [Last visited: 8/05/04]