By Pol Allingham via SWNS
An online collection of music and performing arts from more than 1,000 societies around the world has been made freely available to the public.
Users of the Global Jukebox can tour the world on an interactive map and play recordings from endless areas.
You can listen and learn about a Pashtun Caravan Song from Pakistan alongside a Mebêngôkre dance track from Brazil.
And then compare both to a Dayak headhunting song called Monghosan from Borneo played using bamboo trumpets when people return to the village carrying a human head.
Each recording is categorized by different musical features such as the number of singers, vocal embellishments, breath management, instruments, and different rhythmic and melodic qualities.
Non-musical data on the different societies, such as conversational style, have also been used as categorizing features.
Each of the 5,776 songs in the Global Jukebox is listed using all 37 features.
The majority were collected and categorized by ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax who was known for his field recordings of 20th-century folk music between the 1930s and 1990s.
The team hope the database will inspire and allow researchers to begin conducting diverse cross-cultural studies of musical traditions and cultural evolutions.
For example, they used the content to examine the dynamic between a society’s sociopolitical complexity and the key features of its songs.
Statistical correlations were discovered between the two but more research must be done to identify the underlying mechanisms.
Dr. Anna Wood said: “Access is so important.
“More than anything else, my father wanted people who are being cut off from their ancestral cultures - drowned, as under the waters of a new dam. He wanted them to hear their songs and to find their aesthetic footprint in their own ‘big traditions’. So while the Global Jukebox is highly technical, it is also a place everyone can explore.
“Our job at the Association for Cultural Equity is to find more ways of inviting people in.”
The researchers have ensured the Global Jukebox will support cultural equality in research projects that rely on its service.
Recordings are also only available in accordance with the copyright and cultural preferences of whoever owns the material.
For example, the Tunumiit Shaman Ritual and Lullaby from Greenland is currently unavailable subject to tribal permission.
A preliminary version of the Global Jukebox tool was released in 2017 but it is now available for everyone to download, following an article detailing the process published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.
The team is aiming to continually improve the database.
This includes expanding their song selections for other societies and cultures such as Polynesia, which is underrepresented in the data at present.
Associate Professor Patrick Savage said: “I’m honored to be part of making these priceless recordings and accompanying scientific data finally available for the whole world to freely use, including scientists interested in understanding cultural diversity, members of the original communities wanting to strengthen their traditions, and members of the general public wanting to learn more about the beauty and diversity of all the world’s music.”
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