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Archival Audio and Video Recordings
This page provides detailed data and references for all known recordings featuring Sorabji’s voice or playing as well as other archival items of exceptional value, in some cases by people close to him. It does not list the recordings of his music posted on video-hosting websites such as YouTube.
The first section offers a synthesis of the data found in the main catalogue of the British Library and its Sound & Moving Image Catalogue. A bullet (•) indicates that fuller details will be found in the thematic sections on this page, also identified by a bullet.
This table synthesizes the results for archival recordings of Sorabji’s music and other related items found in the online catalogues of the British Library (BL) and the Sound & Moving Image Catalogue (SMIC) formerly in the collection of the British Broadcasting Corporation. It also includes references to copies of some of the recordings made of his playing by his friend Frank Holliday in the 1960s.
The entries in the latter catalogue appear somewhat problematic, with the links offered in the citations sometimes leading to entries that are not relevant to the topic. Furthermore, this catalogue does not offer permalinks, which means that the URLs returned in the address bar are session-specific and cannot be given as references. Finally, searches often return odd, if not unreliable, results.
The British Library’s citations, when appropriate, indicate that data comes from the BBC’s Genome database, which is based on scans of listings published in the Radio Times between 1923 and 2009. Only selected entries in the list below will be found there.
Entries for commercial recordings in the collection are not included here.
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|1CD0047915•||Explore||“Talking About Music 417: Sorabji”||Broadcast on 3 August 1992 of an interview recorded in December 1989 between host John Amis, Yonty Solomon, and Alistair Hinton.
A note reads “Issued 1992, week 32”.
for Piano (1940; 28 pp.)
Concerto da suonare da me solo e senza orchestra, per divertirmi (1946; 70 pp.), third movement.
|Performed by Sorabji. Not identified as a copy of a recording on cellulose nitrate on aluminium made by Frank Holliday on a disc pressed by Sound News. Dubbed on 16 July 2014.
Other copy as 30B/1258.
|1LS0001370•||Explore||Concerto da suonare da me solo e senza orchestra, per divertirmi (1946; 70 pp.), first and second movements [30:57]||Performed by Sorabji. Not identified as a copy of a recording on cellulose nitrate on aluminium made by Frank Holliday on a disc pressed by Sound News.
Other copies as 25A/538 and M7341.
|1LS0001371•||Explore, Explore||“Quaere reliqua hujus materiei inter
secretiora” (1940; 16 pp.) [13:13]
St. Bertrand de Comminges: “He was laughing in the tower” (1941; 16 pp.) [13:07]
|Performed by Sorabji. Not identified as a copy of a recording made by Frank Holliday on a disc pressed by Sound News.
Also referred to as M7341 (first work, second work).
|1LS0001372•||Explore||Excerpt from Francis M. Guercio’s Sicily, the Garden of the Mediterranean: The Country and Its People [2:04]
Sorabji’s “Some Sacro-Sanct Modern Superstitions” [6:19]
| Readings by Sorabji. Not identified as a copy of a recording on cellulose nitrate on aluminium made by Frank Holliday on a disc produced by Sound News. Described as “four acetate discs including the three discs in this sequence and confirmation of being dubbed on M-size tape”. Dubbed on 17 December 2017.
Also referred to as 17A/541 and M7341.
|B1895/2||Explore||St. Bertrand de Comminges: “He was laughing in the tower” (1941; 16 pp.)||The citation indicates only the contents of the entire programme: “Yonty Solomon performs: Liszt [Two Legends].- Sorabji.- Scriabin [Sonatas nos. 7 and 9]”. The date of 10 June 1987 makes it possible to conclude that it was the work given here. Total duration: 1:08:31.
A note reads “Abrupt end”.
See entry H774/3 and Genome.
|C1398/1708•||Explore||“Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji interview” [19:50]||Broadcast on 30 December 1979 of an interview about Nicolas Medtner between host Michael Oliver between Sorabji, Ronald Stevenson, and Alistair Hinton.|
|C1482/175||Explore||Trois fêtes galantes de Verlaine (ca.
1919; 11 pp.) [8:15]
Trois poèmes pour chant et piano (1918, 1919; 9 pp.) [not given]
“Gulistān”—Nocturne for Piano (1940; 28 pp.) [19:18]
|Broadcast on 3 June 1979 of a performance by Yonty Solomon (copy from the Robin Craig collection). See also T2270.
|C1482/176||Explore||Sonata no. 1 for Piano (1919; 42 pp.) [27:01]||Broadcast on 14 August 1984 of a performance by Yonty Solomon (copy from the Robin Craig collection).
Also referred to as NP8358.
|C1482/198||Explore||Sonata III for Piano (1922; 75 pp.) [01:37:15]||Broadcast on 14 August 1987 of a performance by Yonty Solomon.
Also referred to as B2364/1 (duration given as 01:41:12). A note reads “Missing end of broadcast”.
|C1690/51•||Explore||“Aquarius. The Sorabji legend; excerpt” [28:55]||London Weekend Television’s programme shown on 11 June 1977, with host Russell Harty interviewing Sorabji, Felix Aprahamian, Alistair Hinton (not mentioned in the citation), Sir Sacheverell Sitwell, and Yonty Solomon.
The citation reports that the tape, of variable quality, begins and ends abruptly, with some 15 minutes missing and several abrupt breaks, including one for advertisements.
Marked as coming from the “Mrs. Janet Wilkinson tapes”. Mrs. Wilkinson may be the person described as a singer and the Secretary of the Rochester and North Kent Music and Drama Festival in Clare Freeman, “The Rochester and North Kent Music and Drama Festival looking for musicians, singers and actors for festival”, KentOnline, 26 January 2015.
|H774/3||Explore||St. Bertrand de Comminges: “He was laughing in the tower” (1941; 16 pp.)||Repeat broadcast on 15 October 1992 of a recital of 10 June 1987 by Yonty Solomon as “Sacred and Profane”.
The citation says that the total duration is 42:14 and that the second extract begins at 21:36.
See Genome and entry B1895/2.
|M8266BW•||Explore||“Music Weekly: K.S. Sorabji talks to Ronald Stevenson, Michael Oliver and Alistair Hinton about his memories of Nicholas Medtner” [22:57, not mentioned in the catalogue]||Broadcast on 2 January 1980 of a programme with host Michael Oliver interviewing Sorabji, Alistair Hinton, and Ronald Stevenson.
|T1734||Explore||Le jardin parfumé—Poem for Piano
Solo (1923; 16 pp.)
Two Piano Pieces (1918, 1920; 20 pp.)
Fantaisie espagnole (1919; 23 pp.)
|Broadcast on 7 November 1977 of a performance by Yonty Solomon (with introduction by Solomon).
On 22 February 1962 Erik Chisholm recorded Sorabji reading his so-called artistic creed (most probably the text beginning with “I am not a ‘modern’ composer”) and the chapter ‘Yoga and the Composer’ from Mi contra fa. The monophonic tape was made on a Grundig tape recorder at the home of Neil Solomon in London. Its whereabouts are unknown, and the tape is probably no longer extant.
On 6 May 1962 Frank Holliday, using a monophonic Ferrograph tape recorder, recorded Sorabji, in his Corfe Castle home, giving a six-minute reading of “Some Sacro-Sanct Modern Superstitions (with Comments)”, a series of ten brief paragraphs on various non-musical topics.
The recording can be found at the Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji Collection in box 10, audio reel #7, forward track (also found on reel #7, return track, and reel #47). The text is published in Paul Rapoport, “Sorabji’s Other Writings”, in SCC, 327-30.
On 6 May 1962 Frank Holliday, using a monophonic Ferrograph tape recorder, recorded Sorabji, in his Corfe Castle home, giving a two-minute reading from Francis M. Guercio, Sicily, the Garden of the Mediterranean: The Country and Its People (London: Faber and Faber, 1938; 2nd ed., 1954; new and revised ed., 1968). Sorabji chose two excerpts from the book’s “Conclusion” (pagination from the 1968 ed.):
The recording can be found at the Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji Collection in box 10, audio reels #7 (return track) and #11 (forward track). The reading is also part of Donald Garvelmann’s WNCN radio programme broadcast in 1970.
On 3 December 1976 the BBC’s Radio 3 broadcast as part of its “Music Now” programme a conversation on Sorabji’s music between the music critic John Amis (1922-2013) and Sorabji’s friend and dedicatee Harold Rutland. See Genome and the listing in Radio Times, no. 2768 (25 November 1976): 65.
A recording is available at the Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji Collection, box 10, audio reel #11 (return track).
Sorabji participated on 1 March 1977 in the “Aquarius” programme of London Weekend Television programme that was broadcast on 11 June 1977. The 40-minute show produced by Derek Bailey (1934-2019) and hosted by Russell Harty (1934-88) featured the recollections of four persons who had known Sorabji or were familiar with his music (in order of appearance):
The programme featured Solomon playing the following excerpts:
Sorabji insisted that the interview be done against stills taken during the taping. At the end he allowed the crew to film while the host was bidding him farewell. This is the only known bit of film on which he can be seen, the filmed interview on Francis George Scot having probably been discardedt (see the relevant section).
Jim Penn (who worked for a time at Granada Media, the owners of London Weekend Television) and Alistair Hinton contributed reminiscences of the programme on Sorabji discussion group on the Yahoo! (topics 752 and 761; no longer available since these groups were shut down in December 2020 and the postings removed from the servers). Penn believes that the material still exists.
A camera script bearing no. P/N: 11024 (25 pp., plus [at least] 8 unnumbered pages exists. It is entitled “Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji (Born 1892). Script from London Weekend Television programme ‘Aquarius’.” A recording (audio only) is in the Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji Collection at McMaster University (box 13, audio reel #52; cassette copy of previous item in box 14).
Sorabji participated on 27 June 1979, with Ronald Stevenson and Alistair Hinton, in a filmed interview for BBC Scotland made at his Corfe Castle home to commemorate the centenary of the birth of his friend Francis George Scott (1880-1958). It appears that the footage was discarded and there is a possibility that the programme was never shown.
A transcript identified as “Francis George Scott, 14767/2995. Location: Corfe Castle Dorset. Date: 27.6.79”, tapes 6 (pp. 1-11), 7 (pp. 1-5), exists. Sorabji wrote for this programme an unused (and unpublished) one-page text entitled “Francis George Scott”; a carbon copy of this text is in the Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji Collection in box 8, folder 4.
Sorabji participated with Ronald Stevenson and Alistair Hinton in a Radio 3 centenary interview on Nicolas Medtner, recorded on 30 December 1979, for the programme “Music Weekly”, hosted by Michael Oliver (1937-2002) from 1975 to 1990. See the Genome entry and the listing in Radio Times, no. 2928 (20 December 1979): 72.
John Amis (1922-2013) interviewed Yonty Solomon and Alistair Hinton in a Radio 3 programme recorded in December 1989. Amis conducted more than 500 interviews for his programme “Talking About Music”. No entry on Genome.
On 6 May 2017 the writer, critic, and broadcaster Tom Service interviewed Jonathan Powell about Sorabji, Opus clavicembalisticum (1929-30; 253 pp.), and Sequentia cyclica super “Dies irae” ex Missa pro defunctis (1948-49; 335 pp.) on the 45-minute Radio 3 “Music Matters” programme. See Music Matters: Ravi Shankar's Sukanya, Jan Vogler, (duration: 8:18; from 35:28 to the end). Available without geographical restrictions.
Sorabji made two sets of private recordings of some of his musical works. The first one was made by Erik Chisholm at the London home of Neil Solomon on 22 and 27 February 1962, whereas the second one, a much more ambitious project, was recorded at the composer’s Corfe Castle home by his friend Frank Holliday in six sessions held between 1962 and 1968. A list of the contents of these recordings can be found in SCC, 480-81 (Appendix 2: The Recordings of Sorabji’s Music).
While the Chisholm recordings do not appear to have survived, the Holliday ones can be found in the Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji Collection:
Copies of a few of these recordings are now in the British Library’s collection.
On 8 December 1969 the New York radio station WBAI broadcast a Sorabji programme of which the text has been privately printed as The Composer Sorabji: A Talk by Dr. Erik Chisholm with musical excerpts, Introduced by Frank Holliday (8 pp., recorded on a tape playing at 7 1/2″ per second). The programme was broadcast again on 13 December 1969, and later expanded into a much substantial programme detailed below.
The musical excerpts from Sorabji’s own performances recorded by Frank Holliday, as indicated in the transcript, are:
Original broadcast: On 13 December 1970 the New York radio station WNCN (A Division of the National Science Network, Inc.) broadcast from 12:05 to 3:00 p.m. a programme coordinated by David Dubal, produced by Peter Lieberson, and hosted by Donald M. Garvelmann, and comprising the talk “The Composer Sorabji” and additional material. It was rebroadcast several times, as shown below.
Duration: Despite the three-hour duration advertised, the programme (or at least the Sorabji-related content, minus the announcer’s words) lasted 2:26:41 (2:20:40 in the version archived on the Internet; see the section “Recording” below).
Rebroadcasts (from SCC, 435-37)
Promotional material: Various documents were prepared and/or published to advertise the broadcast and highlight the response it had generated.
Items added to the 1969 programme: The 1970 programme adds the following recordings to those found in the 1969 programme.
Recording: A recording of the entire programme (approximately 140 minutes), as broadcast by KPFA-FM (94.1, Berkeley, California), can be listened to in streaming format on the Internet Archive as “The Piano Music of Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji (November 8, 1973)”. At the time of the broadcast, the music director of the KPFA station was the composer Charles Amirkhanian. It is also available on radiOM, which is a part of Other Minds, a not-for-profit organization (founded by Amirkhanian for the encouragement and propagation of contemporary music) to which KPFA’s extensive collection of tapes was tranferred (this part of the website is currently not available for a year or so as of January 2021).
Contents: The following table provides, segment by segment, the contents of the programme, which consists of two files (56:25, 1:23:59): one for the part read by Frank Holliday (identified by 01-xx), the other for the one read by Donald Garvelmann (02-xx). These numbers are editorial.
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|01-01||00:00:00||Introduction to the programme by Donald Garvelmann: “It occurs to me that, im most instances, history has dealt switfly with the mediocre, casting its unwanted, blemished stepchildren into oblivion.” The original WNCN programme begins with an excerpt from Mendelssohn’s “Italian” Symphony as musical theme, followed by a presentation by announcer Joe Marzano.|
|01-02||00:03:22||Beginning of Nocturne, “Jāmī” (1928; 28 pp.). Rec. 26 March 1965.|
|01-03||00:03:59||Introduction to Erik Chisholm’s talk, by Frank Holliday begins: “Many eminent musicians feel that the composer Sorabji, who is still—very much—alive should, by rights, be well-known in musical circles today and to the musical public.”|
|01-04||00:06:11||Talk by Erik Chisholm, read by Frank Holiday, begins: “Surely there never was a time in the world’s history when more music was heard than today!”|
|01-05||00:19:36||Le jardin parfumé: Poem for Piano Solo (1923; 16 pp.). Rec. 26 March 1965; up to the double bar-line on p. 5/2 of Jonathan Powell’s edition.|
|01-06||00:23:13||Talk resumes: “I will remember Sir Donald Tovey in the music classroom at Edinburgh University showing the full score of Sorabji’s second piano concerto (dedicated to Cortot) to the German composer Paul Hindemith who was guest violinist with the Edinburgh Reid Orchestra.”|
|01-07||00:29:58||End of the “Chorale Prelude” from Fourth Symphony for Piano Alone (1962-64;
240 pp.). Rec. 25 September 1964; from p. 91/4 (at “Tranquillo sempre”) to p. 96/3 in Alexander Abercrombie’s edition.
Holliday inserts the following: “(I must break in here on Dr. Chisholm’s talk to say that the composer did not record any of Opus Clavicembalisticum, so I play here instead the end part of the chorale prelude from the Fourth Piano Symphony, a much later work completed in early 1964.)”
|01-08||00:35:15||Talk resumes: “Here is what Sorabji has to say about his own music: ‘I am not a “modern composer” in the inverted commas sense of the word.’”|
|01-10||00:42:51||Second Symphony for Piano (1954; 248 pp.), opening of first movement. Rec. 5 October 1962; pp. 1-5/2/1; motive no. 24.|
|01-11||00:47:12||Talk resumes: “Not all Sorabji’s works are long and serious, although the majority are.”|
|01-12||00:48:43||Passeggiata veneziana sopra la Barcarola di Offenbach (1955-56; 24 pp.): “Barcarola”. Rec. 10 September 1963; up to the end of the first system in Jonathan Powell’s edition.|
|01-13||00:49:36||Brief transition: “And this is the nocturne.”|
|01-14||00:49:39||Passeggiata veneziana sopra la Barcarola di Offenbach (1955-56; 24 pp.): “Notturnino”. Rec. 10 September 1963.|
|01-15||00:53:30||Talk concludes: “This programme has, I trust, introduced to listeners a new and exciting musical personality.” The first file ends at 56:25 with “We’ll continue after a station break.”|
|01-16||End of Nocturne, “Jāmī” (1928; 28 pp.), from the “Lasciar vibrare” on p. 26/1 of Jonathan Powell’s edition. Rec. 26 March 1965. This does not appear in the recording outlined here).|
|02-01||00:00:00||Continuation of the programme by Donald Garvelmann: “Perhaps you’ve been wondering what my particular connection with Sorabji might be.”|
|01-16||00:05:32||“Gulistān”—Nocturne for Piano (1940; 28 pp.). Rec. 5 May 1962; skips p. 23/2/nonuplet to the end of p. 23/3/1 of Jonathan Powell’s edition.|
|01-17||00:27:27||Talk resumes: “You have just heard a work for piano solo, GULISTAN—THE ROSE GARDEN, performed by the composer, Kaikhosru Sorabji. I should mention a bit more about Sorabji as writer.”|
|02-01||00:31:29||Sorabji reads “An Assessment of the Sicilian Temperament” from Francis M. Guercio Sicily, the Garden of the Mediterranean: The Country and Its People. Rec. 6 May 1962.|
|02-02||00:33:08||Talk resumes: “That was Kaikhosru Sorabji reading ‘An Assessment of the Sicilian Temperament’, an extract from Guercio’s book, SICILY, GARDEN OF THE MEDITERRANEAN.”|
|02-03||00:37:32||Concerto da suonare da me solo e senza orchestra, per divertirmi (1946; 70 pp.). Rec. 5 May 1962; durations of the three movements: 15:07, 14:27, 16:38 = 46:12.|
|02-04||01:23:32||Talk concludes: “We have just heard one of Sorabji’s major piano works, the CONCERTO PER SUONARE DA ME SOLO, performed by the composer himself.” Ends with “Thank you for listening.”
The WNCN version of the programme continues with two paragraphs reproduced in the transcript prepared in 1970. Garvelmann says that he is interested in comments and reactions, and asks that people let him know if they would like to hear more of the private recordings. He then thanks Frank Holliday, Norman Peterkin, Gregor Benko (of the International Piano Library), Norman Gentieu, David Dubal (programme coordinator for WNCN), and Joyce Feigenbaum (staff member at WNCN), as well as Sorabji himself “for allowing us this rare privilege of hearing his beautiful music”.
The original WNCN programme concludes with a sign-off by announcer Joe Marzano.
John Ogdon can be seen playing excerpts from Opus clavicembalisticum (1929-30; 253 pp.) on London Weekend Television’s South Bank Show broadcast on 19 March 1989. A partial list of credits and people interviewed used to be found on the British Film Institute’s website. The two-part programme (52:06; part 2 beginning at 28:40) was published by Brenda Ogdon on YouTube (9 July 2015). We hear John Ogdon discussing the composer and his work and play vars. 31 and 34 (33:20-33:59), then from p. 249/2 to the end of the score (36:13-38:04). A DVD is also available from the John Ogdon Foundation for GBP 12.
On 24 September 1989 the BBC’s Radio 3 presented a two-hour celebration of the pianist who had died on 1 August. It featured an interview with Ronald Stevenson and Ogdon playing of “Cadenza I” from his Altarus recording.
On 14 August 1992 Alistair Hinton presented on the BBC’s Radio 3 a programme featuring Marc-André Hamelin’s Altarus recording of Sonata no. 1 for Piano (1919; 42 pp.). See Genome.
Between September 1974 and April 1975, Paul Rapoport worked at the University of Illinois on a computer realization of excerpts from Opus clavicembalisticum (1929-30; 253 pp.) using an IBM 360/75 computer with the “Music 360” music composition software by Barrie Vercoe of the Massachussets Institute of Technology. The recording lasts close to 41 minutes and includes the following pages from the published score:
A recording can be found in the Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji Collection, box 13, audio reel #51. The history of this realization is documented in Paul Rapoport, “Sorabji and the Computer”, Tempo, no. 117 (June 1976): 23-26.
Sound files for works by Sorabji (or of sections thereof) have been prepared by Alberto Vignani (currently not available on the Internet) and David Carter. The works set by Carter (not necessarily of the entire scores) can be found on his YouTube channel.
The many editors (like myself) who prepare their editions with notation software obviously have such sound files in their private archives. They may or may not have been tweaked to produce acceptable performances since they were used primarily as a means towards an end.
Kevin Bowyer’s performance of Symphony [no. 1] for Organ (1924; 81 pp.), given on 24 April 1988 at the Aarhus Cathedral, became available on 25 January 2012 as part of The International Historical Organ Recording Collection (IHORC-29). It is no longer online, and all that remains is a text by Lars Rosenlund, “Kevin Bowyer playing K. S. Sorabji - Organ Symphony No. 1”.
YouTube videos relating to Kevin Bowyer’s performance of Second Symphony for Organ (1929-32; 350 pp.) on the occasion of the inauguration of the Klais organ at the University of Iowa, Clapp Voxman School of Music, on 10 February 2017.
An interview with Soheil Nasseri, dating from 17 March 2008, discusses Sorabji in connection with his forthcoming recital of 20 March at the Royal Festival Hall (London), which featured a performance of Sonata no. 0 for Piano (1917; 30 pp.). The interview is available on Archive.org as BIBA and Soheil Naseri on Six Pillars to Persia, Resonance 104.4.fm. The segment on Sorabji is found 08:37 and 10:18, and Nasseri’s playing of the beginning of the work (up to bar 40) is heard between 25:43 and 30:32 (end of the programme).
Jonathan Powell’s performance of Opus clavicembalisticum (1929-30; 253 pp.) of 13 May 2017 at the Jacqueline du Pré Music Building, St Hilda’s College, Oxford, is available as a video recording. A modest fee is required to view; see a post on the Sorabji Forum for more details. The recording consists of two parts followed by a third one, which is available as “Alistair Hinton Introduces Sorabji’s Opus Clavicembalisticum” (28:34; publ. 30 May 2017).
Two short piano pieces by Christopher à Becket Willams, performed by Phillip Sear, are available on YouTube:
The website of the Erik Chisholm Trust has a 17-minute talk for the BBC, broadcast on 20 May 1949, with Chisholm’s voice.
The Scottish filmmaker and poet Margaret Caroline Tait (1918-99), founder of Ancona Films (Edinburgh), produced in 1964 a black-and-white 16-mm film (duration: 8.27 minutes) entitled Hugh MacDiarmid: A Portrait. It features this friend and dedicatee of Sorabji (then 71 years old) in and outside his home, speaking some of his own poems. There is music in the form of a setting of his poem The Eemis Stane by Francis George Scott, also a friend and dedicatee of Sorabji. (See also Michael Spencer’s Eemis Stane: Hommage [sic] to Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji for Solo Piano, written in homage to Sorabji.) The film is available at the Scottish Screen Archive under reference number 6220, in which record full details will be found. The entire film can be seen on YouTube.
The website of the Scottish Screen Archive also lists, under reference number 0537, a black-and-white mute film (duration: 1 minute) entitled Shostakovich and Hugh MacDiarmid. It shows them with Ronald Stevenson (friend and dedicatee of Sorabji) and the score of his Passacaglia on DSCH being presented to the Russian composer at the Edinburgh Festival in 1962.
The private recordings from the archives of the late Robert William Procter of four Sorabji-related texts by his friend, the poet Harold Morland, the dedicatee of four of his works, are documented elsewhere.
The contents of this website devoted to the English composer Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji may be freely used for documentary purposes in a research context provided that due credit is given but may not be mirrored on any other server. Links to external or third-party websites cannot be guaranteed to be, or remain, valid or persistent, and their contents cannot be guaranteed to be, or remain, accurate or appropriate.