Oral history, folk music and more: British Library puts vast sound archive online

Wow! Overwhelming! The British Library has made more than 23 000 sound recordings from all over the world freely available to everyone at http://sounds.bl.uk

“World and traditional music", “oral history", “accents and dialects", “environment and nature” are some of the categories on the websites. Right now I’m listening to Sunna Saora in India with his two-stringed Sora fiddle. Sunna went from house to house, asking for some rice grains and playing his songs.

“One of the difficulties, working as an archivist, is people’s perception that things are given to libraries and then are never seen again – we want these recordings to be accessible", Janet Topp Fargion, the library’s curator of world and traditional music, says in the Guardian.

To say the sounds are diverse may be understatement, according to the presentation in the Guardian:

There are Geordies banging spoons, Tawang lamas blowing conch shell trumpets and Tongan tribesman playing nose flutes. And then there is the Assamese woodworm feasting on a window frame in the dead of night. (…) The recordings go back more than 100 years, with the earliest recordings being the wax cylinders on which British anthropologist Alfred Cort Haddon recorded Aboriginal singing on his trip to the Torres Strait islands off Australia in 1898

>> more in the Guardian (incl selected sound files)

The sound archive website has even a project blog where selected recordings are presented.

Unfortunately, the website is optimised for Windows users and the people behind the website don’t seem to have much knowledge about other operating systems. For example, they advise Mac users to download “software such as Winamp or Windows Media Player” - which are Windows applications (VLC works fine). Their statement “Some features are unavailable in some web browser/operating system configurations” is not very helpful either.


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