Alexander Street curates rare sound recordings

Field recordings supported with film footage, photographs and notes offer new insights for ethnomusicologists and music majors

(26 June 2017, Alexandria, VA) Alexander Street is connecting researchers with previously unpublished historic field recordings and supporting materials in its new collection, Ethnographic Sound Archives Online. This resource enables new insights for the study of music in its cultural and social contexts with 2,000 hours of curated audio captured from field expeditions around the world, along with more than 10,000 pages of field notes, 150 hours of film footage, and thousands of photographs, all in one cross-searchable place for the first time.

The practice of going into the field to “collect” music dates to the early 20th century. Early field workers such as Frances Densmore and Alan Lomax traveled to remote locations to document little-known musical traditions and folkways. By the 1960s, sound collectors began incorporating theories and methods from cultural anthropology—and ethnomusicology as an academic field of study was born.

Ethnographic Sound Archives Online is published in partnership with archives such as the World Music Archives at Wesleyan University, the Center for Ethnomusicology at Columbia University, the International Library of African Music, the Pitt Rivers Museum of Oxford, and the Archives and Research Centre for Ethnomusicology, and more. It encompasses comprehensive surveys of regional music such as Mark Slobin’s survey of Afghan music, Nazir Jairazbhoy’s survey of classical Indian music, and Hugh Tracey’s survey of southern and central African music.

Further, the Alexander Street™ platform enables users to mimic a live archive research experience in a digital space. Content and metadata are presented in original finding aid order, with box, folder and document organization maintained in digital form.

“By publishing these historically significant recordings along with the related field notes, photographs and film that open windows into their larger social and cultural contexts, we are providing researchers with the tools they need to better understand and analyze musical theory and practice around the world,” said Jenna Makowski, Senior Editor for Anthropology at Alexander Street “Many of these recordings are historically priceless, captured at certain times and in certain places that no longer exist as they once did, due to war, conflict and other external forces of change. Their time-capsule nature is worthy of long-term preservation and broader access.”

The announcement is here.