Expansive project allows users to explore more than 6,000 songs from famed ethnomusicologist’s collection
Before his 2002 death, ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax spent decades recording and archiving the world’s traditional music. Now the organization he founded, the Association for Cultural Equity, is aiming to continue his research with a newly established online database, The Global Jukebox, The New York Times reports.
The free site features 6,000 digitized songs from over 1,000 cultures, including recordings from Lomax’s own collection. Upon visiting The Global Jukebox, users can navigate a massive world map categorized by region, culture and function. For example, clicking on “Tunisia” brings up a list for “Western Asia/Mediterranean Basin/N. African Arabs,” which is then broken down into Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt; “Songs in Tunisia” arranges music into headings like “Wedding Songs” and “Love Song.”
Lomax first conceptualized the project in the 1980s, aiming to categorize songs and dances with corresponding anthropological data. The archive utilizes the researcher’s innovative cantometrics system, which breaks down music by analyzing qualities like tonal blend, melodic range and social organization of vocal parts.
In an interview with The New York Times, ACE research associate Kathleen Rivera called The Global Jukebox “very ambitious” for its time. “[Lomax] was poring over these punch cards and computing systems for entire days,” she said. “His vision couldn’t match the technology that he had at the time. Today, we have the system that can make it all very clear for people.”
The website will be continually updated with additional music in the future.