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A Trip Around the World with the NLS Music Section

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Do you want to learn how to play piano? We have a book for you!

Do you want the libretto for your favorite opera? We have that as well!

Do you want to learn about folk music from around the world? Well, we also have books about that.

Many patrons get to know us through our instructional materials, and we are glad of that. However, we have a sizeable collection of materials that we call “appreciation material”; that is, books to listen and learn about all kinds of music. Soon, we will have a new catalog in audio and large print that draws together all of these audio appreciation titles for our patrons’ reference.

To give you an idea of the types of books that are included in this collection, I thought that I would highlight an older series that I had just come across the other day. This series, entitled “Introduction to Primitive Music” is an audio course originally created by the University of Colorado outreach center and taught by anthropologist and folklorist John Greenway.

These books provide a tour through the world of ethnomusicology—the study of music through sociological and cultural theory, usually in cultures outside of the standard Western art music canon (although this is debatable).

Here are some selections from that series:

Music of the Polar World (DBM00391)
Covers music from very Northern cultures, such as the Inuit and Yupik.

Music of Oceania (DBM00392)
Discusses music from Polynesia, Australia, and other cultures of the Oceania and Pacific region.

Music of the Dry World (DBM00393)
Covers music from the Middle East, or as Dr. Greenway says “from Northwest Africa to West China”

Although Dr. Greenway’s didactic style, vocabulary, and opinions–on both the cultures and the music they’ve produced–are outdated to our modern ears (this is from the 1960s, remember), the real treasures here are the field recordings presented.

A photograph from 1923 showing two young shepherd boys in Albania playing the nose flute.
[Two shepherd boys playing nose flutes, Albania]. Photograph published 1923.
Here are some other titles in our collection focused on music from around the world:

Music of West Africa (DBM00325)
This book discusses West African music, the musical heritages, and modern music that is found in the region

Instruments around the World (DBM01467, only available on cartridge)
Composer Andy Jackson discusses musical instruments from every continent

From the Smithsonian Folkways Collection:

Alexander Zelkin Sings Meadowland and Other Russian Songs (DBM03648)
Frenchman and polylinguist Alexander Zelkin sings Russian folksongs

Danzas Venezuelas (DBM03652)
Presents different aspects of the Danzas Venezuelas (Ballet Folklórico of Venezuela: A folk-dance ensemble) and contextualizes it within Venezuela’s folklore heritage

Calypso Jamaica (DBM03684)
Contains recordings of Calypso music with some commentary

A photograph taken between 1890 and 1923 of musicians playing flutes and drums from the Sahara Desert region of Africa
Africa – Musicians of the Sahara Desert. Photograph published between 1890 and 1923.

And lastly, here are some braille books that discuss world music:

Music Throughout the World (BRM24237)
Presents a general overview and reference to world music

The National Song Book (BRM03015)
A collection of folk songs from England

Interested? Check out this international slice of the music section! These books are available on BARD and by cartridge. Contact us for more information!

Any type of world music you’d like to see more of in the collection? Let us know in the comments!


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