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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 Smithsonian Global Sound

Browsing in Smithsonian Global Sound

Contents: Categories, Albums, All People, Cultural Groups, Ensembles, Genres, Instruments, Labels, Languages, Places.

One of the ways that you can look for music audio in Smithsonian Global Sound 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, Cultural Groups, Ensembles, Genres, Instruments, Labels, Languages, and Places.

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

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

If you are looking into the music of a certain area "Cultural Groups," "Languages," "Instruments," "Genres," or "Places" categories could all be helpful.

If you already know the album or the song that you are looking for "Albums" might be helpful (although the choices for titles are sometimes odd with this particular database).

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

"Labels" sometimes can be useful if you know that a particular label only puts out a particular category or genre of music.

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


The Browse by Albums can be useful if you already know the name of the album that you are interested in (although be a little cautious because sometimes the title is not what you would 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.

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Cultural Groups

This category is really useful to browse when you are interested in the music of a specific culture or 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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Genres Browsing is straight forward.

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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, and 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 might not get you all the results that are available... If you look at the number of results for the "Flute, bamboo" vs the bamboo flute category under "Flute"

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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 flute example, there are multiple categories where a single instrument could go...

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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 is somewhat less useful in this database because of the limitation of available labels to browse, however if you knew that a particular label focused on a specific type of music that you need, you could browse this way.

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Languages are nice to search for when browsing for a particular culture's music as well.

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Places are another way of getting the music of a particular ethnic group.

By cursoring over a part of the map or the name of the area, it opens up a narrower group of terms to choose from...

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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 not alphabetically, so if you know that you want a particular selection then you might want to use a "find" search on the page to locate the name after clicking on the filter (in this case "Cultural Group") and "More..."

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Content compiled/Written by G. D.