Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Voices from the Past: Beyond iTunes

If you chanced to walk by the archives room today, you may have heard some good music. Well, maybe not when I was singing along with it.

I was browsing some of the library's music databases. You all probably know our databases are good resources for written articles when you're researching something for class (and if you don't know that yet, please come by and let us help you find what you're looking for). Did you know that we subscribe to several music databases that let you listen to a variety of music from all over the globe?

Today, in honor of Black History Month, I was exploring the African American Music database. There is a link to it on the right-hand side of the library's home page. Covering jazz, blues, gospel and other forms of African American music, this database provides 50,000 tracks for your listening pleasure. More than just entertainment, these recordings provide another way to connect with a people's history. You can listen to songs from the post-Reconstruction era to the Civil Rights movement, as the musicians express their life experiences through their art. There are big names like Ma Rainey, Mahalia Jackson, Lead Belly and Duke Ellington, and in most cases their entire catalogs are available. There are some early recordings dating back to the late 19th century. Many of the songs have never been published before. There are field recordings of spirituals, farming and labor songs, war songs, drinking songs, children's songs and more.

Our library subscribes to other music databases as well. The Classical Music Library, naturally, is a great resource both for devotees of classical music and for those who would like to learn more about it. The American Song database contains country, folk, bluegrass, Western, old-time, Native American, blues, gospel and shape note singing. Want to hear songs from the Revolutionary War? You can find them here. Then there's the Smithsonian Global Sound database, which bills itself as "a virtual encyclopedia of the world's musical and aural traditions." I've enjoyed listening to all of these databases while working in the library.

I think you might enjoy them too! Next time you're taking a study break in the library, check out a pair of headphones from the front desk and expand your musical horizons beyond iTunes. I think you may be surprised by what you hear.

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