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Using Alexander Street Press Music Audio Resources

How to search and browse in ASP's audio resources. Including: Music Online, American Song, Classical Music Library, Contemporary World Music, Jazz Music Library, and Smithsonian Global Sound.

Browsing in Music Online

Browsing in Music Online

Contents: Categories, Albums, All People, Composers, Cultural Groups, Ensembles, Genres, Historical Events, Instruments, Labels, Languages, Places, Recording Date Song Titles, Subjects, Time Periods.

One of the ways that you can look in Music Online is to use the Browse function!

The Categories

This has many different categories that you can use to locate items and they include:

Albums, All People, Clips, Composers, Cultural Groups, Ensembles, Genres, Historical Events, Instruments, Labels, Languages, Places, Recording Date, Reference Works, Roles, Scores, Song Titles, Subjects, Time Periods, Venues, and Video.

Which of the categories that are most useful will depend on what you are looking for!

If you are looking for a specific person "All People" or "Composers" will probably be the most useful two.

If you are looking into the music of a certain area "Places" "Cultural Groups" will probably be the most useful two, as well as potentially "Languages" and "Instruments" categories (depending on your background knowledge).

If you are looking for music of a certain time period or recorded at a particular point in time "Recording Date" or "Time Periods" could help.

If you already know the album or the song that you are looking for "Albums" or "Song Titles" might be helpful (although the song title option is really only useful outside of the classical genre).

If you are looking for a particular instrument type or groupings of instruments, "Instruments" or "Ensembles" could help.

"Subjects" is one of the less useful categories, but it can be interesting just to see what the most popular terms are in this group of databases...

Finally, after you have decided what category to browse in, you can use Filters to help narrow it down!


The Browse by Album can be useful if you already have a good idea of what the album you want is titled (but sometimes the title might not be what you expect).

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All People

Browsing by All People is a nice feature to use when you know the name of a composer or person who you are interested in.

This feature is nice in this database because it allows you to choose between audio, reference information, and scores all from the same place.

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Browsing by Composers is the same concept as browsing by people.

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Cultural Groups

Browsing by Cultural Groups can be useful if you need to listen to the music of an ethnic group.

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The Ensembles Browsing feature is good if you know the name of the group that you are interested in. The only negative about using this feature is that this index does not allow you to spell out the group's name for quicker access, you pretty much have to browse through the list (although it does let you jump to an area in the alphabet).

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Genre Browsing is straight forward.

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Historical Events

Historical Events is a good area to browse if you are interested in music that covers aspects of history. This is limited to mostly songs, but it can be quite educational.

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Instruments is a fun area to browse, the only tricky thing about navigating this area is figuring out the terminology that is used in identifying which instrument family that the instrument of choice is in (although the labels have a visual example which is helpful).

When you want to browse inside a category you need to click on the word to get the subcategories.

The last thing to keep in mind is to make sure to check the subcategories under the instruments, even if it seems like the instrument of interest is available directly from the top categories.

There are seven categories Aerophones, Chordophones, Electric, Ensemble, Idiophones, Membranophones, Vocalizations.

Aerophones are basically wind instruments like: Flute, Oboe, and even going to more unusual instruments such as the Didjeridu.

One odd thing that you need to remember when browsing is that some of these categories have sub-categories, so for instance if you are curious about the Didjeridu, then you need to browse under the "Pipe, drone" category.

Another important thing to remember is that this type of browse will probably not get you all the results that are available. For example, is you just click on the "Oboe" category you might only get 11 results, but if you look under the "Double reed" category you might notice even if you just do the "Oboe" subcategory you have already increased your results to over 2000.

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Chordophones are pretty straightforward after you know that all it means is string instruments like violins, violas, banjos, zithers, etc. This another category where it is important to look at the subcategories under the instrument names. Like with the oboe example, looking at viola in the high category only gets 7 hits, where if you look at viola under the "violin" category (which seems slightly odd) the number of results is closer to 4540.

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The Electric category includes instruments like the theremin, electric piano, tape, etc.

Remember to browse under the big categories!

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The Ensemble category is for instrumental groups like string quartets, wind quintets, orchestras, gamelan, viol consort, etc. The "Ensemble" subcategory has the best selection of individual types.

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There are two categories that relate to percussion instruments: Idiophones and Membranophones.

Idiophones are basically all the percussion instruments that can be melodic like bells, marimbas, although it does also include a couple of things like steel drums and foot stomping as well.

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Membranophones are basically limited to the drum category of instruments.

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The last category is Vocalizations and this includes any vocal types of singing including voice types like bass, soprano, spoken language, yodeling, etc.

"Vocal, Part" is where the voice types are located, "Vocables" include some other types of singing like yodeling, etc. One thing to remember is that not all types of singing are included here. For example, if you were interested in "Tuvan Throat Singing," this does not seem to be included in this category, however if you do a basic search for those keywords, then the database does contain quite a few tracks with this type of singing.

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Labels could be useful to browse if you know a particular label that only does one type of music (and it is one of the ones included in this database). This is not the most convenient way of browsing labels as the database does not allow you to search for the label name.

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Browsing by Languages is another feature that is fun if you are interested in content of a particular language.

This sometimes can be more useful for finding music of a certain type because these tend to be better labeled. For example, if you still were looking for "Tuvan Throat Singing" then by browsing by the Tuvan language you would actually get a few results for it.

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Browsing by Places is also useful if you need music of a certain location.

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Recording Dates

Browse by Recording Dates is a nice feature when you want musical recordings from a particular time period. It is divided into decades of recordings.

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Roles is less useful when you are searching for recordings because the results of this browsing feature are limited to opera videos.

Song Titles

Song Titles is useful if you know the title of the song. With classical music, this is not as helpful a feature.

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Browse Subjects is a very limited list of the 50 subjects that appear most often.

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Time Periods

Time Periods is a useful category for browsing the general time periods, however not all pieces have the date of the composition listed so this will not be a complete list of the works from a given time period.

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Venue is limited to videos, so if you are looking for only music audio it is not helpful.


After you have done your basic starting search, using the "Filters" at the right hand side of the results screen can be really helpful in narrowing your results to a more manageable size.

One thing to be aware of is that the filter options are sorted by number of results in the database, so if you know that you want a particular person (like Daniel Barenboim) then you should use a "find" search on the page to locate his name after clicking on the "Conductors" filter and "More..."

So Barenboim was about half-way down the page.

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Content compiled/Written by G. D.