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World and traditional music: Europe

The Sound Archive's world and traditional music collections include music from Europe.

Collection overview

There are fifty-two separate ethnographic collections of unpublished European recordings, including wax cylinder recordings made in Bosnia and Albania. Published holdings include early recordings on 78rpm discs by the large international companies (Gramophone, Odeon and Parlophone in particular), in addition to releases by regional companies such as the Bulgarian Radioprom and the Czech Esta labels. Holdings on CD (described below under published holdings) are primarily on western labels such as England's Topic Records or the French labels Ocora and Buda Musique, and the German-based Network Medien.

Published recordings

The collection of published recordings of European music are broad and varied. Following two bequests of mainly Eastern European 78rpm discs - from Albert Lloyd (English folklorist, musicologist and folksinger) and Philip Thornton (founder of International Folk Dance Society) - the Sound Archive has a significant collection of early recordings of Romanian music and Albanian, Bulgarian and other Balkan music. There are many releases on the label Radioprom (Bulgaria), Esta (Czech Republic), Jugoton and local labels such as Slavjanska Besseda (former Yugoslavia), in addition to western labels such as Columbia, Gramophone and Victor.

The Sound Archive's collection of early recordings of British music are extensive, with very nearly complete runs of the English Topic Records label and BBC Sound Archive recordings, plus large samples of output on the Gramophone, Decca, Parlophone, Columbia, Edison Bell, Regal and Odeon labels.

New publications continue to be received from relevant countries on western labels, such as Folkways, Ocora, Chant du Monde, and a good range of others more recently involved in 'world music' publishing (Pan Records, Buda Musique, Ethnic/Audivis, World Network, etc) which publish individual items and/or series from relevant regions and countries, we also hold items produced in those countries for 'home' consumption. For example, we should mention our holdings of Bulgarian music on the Balkaton label, of Czech music on Supraphon, and Hungarian music on Qualiton.

The collections of published English, Scottish and Irish music is growing continually as the companies themselves donate copies of new releases. Thus Scottish music is well represented on the Greentrax label and Lismor; Irish on a range of labels including Gael-linn and Chyme, Welsh on Sain and Fflach Tradd, and English on Veteran and Musical Traditions.. Topic Records and Fellside Recordings, publishing a broad range of British folk music, also donate.

Unpublished recordings

In June 2003 the Sound Archive completed a two year project to preserve and make accessible recordings of traditional English music. More on the project and the collections preserved can be seen on the Traditional Music in England project page. Prior to the start of this, however, we already housed a number of significant English music collections, namely the Albert Lloyd (C200 also featuring recordings from eastern Europe), Mike Yates (C796), Jim Carroll/Pat Mackenzie (C13, also featuring recordings from Ireland) and the Ewan MacColl/Peggy Seeger (C102) collections.

In addition, the Sound Archive's collaboration with the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at the English Folk Dance and Song Society has resulted in a number of deposits on long-term loan. These include the collection of wax cylinder recordings (C37) and the Fred Hamer (C433) and Pat Shuldham-Shaw (C256) collections.

For Irish music recordings, users are referred to the Irish Traditional Music Archive in Dublin for Irish music recordings. Nevertheless, a number of significant collections are held by the British Library, including the Jim Carroll/Pat Mackenzie (C13) collection mentioned above, with recordings made primarily in County Clare, and Alan Ward (C25) and John Coakley's (C42) collections made in the 1970s in Sliabh Luachra. Similarly, the School of Scottish Studies in Edinburgh should be consulted for ethnographic materials recorded in Scotland. However, it is worth noting our holdings of recordings made by John Lorne Cambell (C801) in the late 1930s on the Isle of Barra in the Outer Hebrides.

A range of eastern (particularly Albania and Romania), western (Greece, Italy, and Spain) and northern (Norway) European countries are represented in the remaining ethnographic collections. See the 'Guide to European ethnographic sound recordings' (PDF format).

Further information

Janet Topp Fargion
Curator, World and Traditional Music
The British Library
96 Euston Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7427
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7441


PDF files

The links below are to Adobe PDF files. Accessibility solutions and free Reader software are available from Adobe.