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World Music Archives

World Music Archives


The World Music Archives began as Prof. Emeritus David McAllester's personal collection of Comanche and Navajo music, recorded in 1940 and 1950, respectively. It was first used in teaching at Wesleyan in 1953. As the World Music Program developed, the collection grew rapidly in both size and scope. Scholars and graduate students, here and elsewhere, contributed materials used in their research, expanding the collection into new areas. Added to these were many recordings of local performances, lectures, etc., by visiting artists. Today the Archives contains well over 3000 original audio tapes (reel-to-reel tapes, cassettes, digital audio tapes, and digitally-recorded betamax), approximately 700 discs (primarily 78 rpm commercial discs, but also a number of instantaneous disc records), and 100 videotapes in numerous formats, plus three four-drawer filing cabinets of accompanying notes, texts, and indexes.

Wesleyan is extremely fortunate to have Dr. McAllester's Navajo collection, the largest in the world, which includes eight different versions of Blessingway, two of Shootingway (among other ceremonies), each with hundreds of songs. Other important collections in the Archives include the only recordings in the United States of the Ulahingan, an epic of the Bagobo people in the Philippines; important collections of Iranian, Japanese, Spanish, Shetland Islands, Greek, Rhodesian (now Zimbabwe) mbira music, and North Indian (Hindustani); and exceptional collections of Indonesian and South Indian (Karnatak) music, two specialties of the world music program at Wesleyan.

The Archives is the recipient of three grants, one from the Hartford Courant Foundation and two from the National Endowment for the Humanities, totalling over a half-million dollars. These grants have allowed us to catalog and preserve the field recordings part of our holdings. All of these tapes can now be searched on the public catalog; most also have listening cassettes available. However, information about the commercial 78s and video material is unavailable electronically. Please ask the Music Librarian for further assistance with this material.

Staffing for the World Music Archives comprises the Director, Alec McLane (who is also the Music Librarian), Jody Cormack Viswanathan and Jennifer Thom Hadley, Archives Assistants, and an ever-changing cast of graduate students.