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Spotlight on Smithsonian Global Sound

Arpa players

Have you ever wanted to explore new music but perhaps needed some inspiration? Some site that wasn’t Top 40 radio?  Let me recommend Smithsonian Global Sound (access for Stanford students, faculty and staff). I recently looked for some traditional mariachi music--perfect for those warm summer days. A search for “mariachi” led me to over 20 albums of mariachi music and related genres.  I chose to play music of the conjunto de arpa grande (big harp ensemble), a “country cousin” of the mariachi ensemble.  These big harp ensembles consist of violins, guitars, and harp, without the trumpets so common to mariachi groups. The sones (sentimental songs) and valonas (poetic narratives) were sung with a wonderful directness and vocal flair.  The playing was rhythmic, tuneful, and celebratory.  Perfect!

From the website:

“Smithsonian Global Sound for Libraries, produced in partnership with Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, is a virtual encyclopedia of the world's musical and aural traditions. The collection provides educators, students, and interested listeners with an unprecedented variety of online resources that support the creation, continuity, and preservation of diverse musical forms.

“It includes the published recordings owned by the non-profit Smithsonian Folkways Recordings label and the archival audio collections of the legendary Folkways Records, Cook, Dyer-Bennet, Fast Folk, Monitor, Paredon and other labels. It also includes music recorded around the African continent by Dr. Hugh Tracey for the International Library of African Music (ILAM) at Rhodes University as well as material collected by recordists on the South Asian subcontinent from the Archive Research Centre for Ethnomusicology (ARCE), sponsored by the American Institute for Indian Studies.

“Smithsonian Folkways Recordings is dedicated to strengthening people's engagement with their own cultural heritage and enhancing awareness and appreciation of the cultural heritage of others through the dissemination of audio recordings and educational materials. The Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage’s mission is to promote the understanding and continuity of diverse, contemporary grassroots cultures.”

SGS allows browsing by album, people, cultural group, performing ensemble, instrument, language, label, and place. Playlists, many created by the staff at Alexander Street Press, provide themed collections of music. Playlists can be created by any user, for personal enjoyment, research support, or in conjunction with a class. Links to playlists, albums, and even individual tracks, can be captured for use in CourseWork.

A mobile phone icon next to the album or track name will allow you to send the album or track to your mobile device, via email or SMS, by using the short url, or by QR code. Links to tracks remain active for 48 hours.  Alexander Street Press is building a mobile app and expect to release it in the next few months, along with a new interface that will allow searching across all of its music databases.

Additional resources include Smithsonian Folkways Magazine, a great place to read more about music around the globe, and to follow new releases lists, best sellers, staff favorites, podcasts, and SGS radio.

Stanford  students, faculty and staff have access to the Smithsonian Global Sound database; however, SGS posts frequent free downloads of selected songs, available to all.

See all streaming audio and video databases available to the Stanford community.

Happy listening!

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