With the global sounds of WOMADelaide still vibrating in the air, it seems like a good time to draw your attention to one of our most fascinating eresources, the Smithsonian Global Sound for Libraries database from Alexander Street Press; full of beautiful and unexpected pleasures and treasures from around the world.

Music for the Gods: The Fahnestock South Sea Expedition: Indonesia

Music for the Gods, 1994

Music for the Gods, 1994

I just happened to choose this disc as it was highlighted on the homepage, and was instantly transported by the uniquely evocative sounds of a gamelan orchestra. The brothers Bruce and Sheridan Fahnestock recorded these extraordinary performances in 1941 as they travelled around the Indonesian archipelago, and what they have captured here (and throughout the Pacific) are performing traditions free of the influences of the West, which would all change in the years following World War II.

Australian Folksongs and Ballads: sung by John Greenway

Folkways, 1959

Folkways, 1959

American folklorist John Greenway collected hundreds of Australian folksongs in the 1950s, and here presents just a small selection of them in his own rather charming and straightforward performances. The liner notes to this album are fascinating, and he outlines how he collected many of the songs from people with direct links to them; I learned “Peter Clarke” from the grand-niece of the victim of that most unusual bushranger killing, and “Ben Hall” from a woman who was delivered in childbirth by Ben Hall’s sister.

Derry Down Derry: A Narrative Reading by Lesley Frost of Poems by Robert Frost

You can also find some really lovely poetry readings in this collection, such as Robert Frost’s daughter Lesley reading a selection of her father’s poems.  This is a particularly delightful recording as Lesley prefaces each poem with a recollection of her childhood and the relevance of the poem to the life of her family, as well as her own reminiscences of an idyllic rural life.

Folkways, 1961

Folkways, 1961

Sounds of London

The variety of recordings on offer is truly remarkable, and this aural portait of the heart of London in 1961 is just one of the unexpected wonders to be found. Reading the liner notes by Samuel B. Charters you get the feeling that he wasn’t particularly enamoured of Old London Town back then, “a sprawling, dirty city….its buildings are low and grimed with soot,” etc., etc.  But as he goes on to explain, it is also “more than a city of shabby buildings and narrow streets. It is a city of people, whose lives reflect the variety and color of every part of Great Britain.” And that’s just what he has captured here in these evocative soundscapes.

Folkways, 1961

Folkways, 1961

Australia: Aboriginal Music

Smithsonian Folkways, 1977

Smithsonian Folkways, 1977

Original recordings made during tribal ceremonies right across the continent, from Western Australia, through the Northern Territory and up to the Gulf of Carpentaria. The distinctive sounds of Australia’s indigenous music, utterly unqiue and instantly recognisable.

So much more to explore here, and if you’re one of our registered members you can log on from home as well; just remember to give the tracks time to load, it’s worth the wait.

And don’t forget Contemporary World Music, also from Alexander Street Press, full of the most remarkable music from around the world.

I couldn’t resist this film of Robert Frost reading one of his most famous poems, lovely!

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