Renowned ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax spent a lifetime archiving the sounds of the world’s rich folk traditions and today, vast amounts of his archival work are finally available everywhere. According to reports from the New York Times, more than 6,000 songs from over 1,000 cultures are now available digitally and for free thanks to Lomax’s Association for Culture Equity and their Global Jukebox project. (The project had been in beta since 2012.)
An archival effort Lomax envisioned as far back as the 1980s, the Global Jukebox sorts the thousands of songs by geography and culture. Based on the cantrometrics system Lomax worked on throughout his life, the program breaks musics down into a spectrum of similar features like tonal blend, melodic range, and social organization of vocal lines.
“The project was very ambitious for the point in time that Alan was working in,” one archivist shared with the Times. “He was poring over these punch cards and computing systems for entire days. 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 project is now available at theGlobalJukebox.org and will be continually updated as more archival material becomes available.