Applications and implications of digital audio databases for the field of ethnomusicology



Introduction ; I. From wax cylinders to digital audio sounds: The CNRS — Musée de l’Homme audio archives ; II. The Telemeta platform architecture: A collaborative platform for digitized sounds ; III. Online audio database: Ethics and intellectual property rights (IPR) ; IV. Digital audio sounds as vehicles of knowledge ; Conclusion


This paper, whose subtitle is: A discussion of the CNRS — Musée de l’Homme sound archives, describes the digital music audio archives of the CNRS, how these archives have been made available online and what the implications are for collaborative research beyond the scientific community. After describing the archive’s history, it outlines the development of its online platform architecture, “Telemata”, including the metadata model and the online tools made available to allow collaborative documentation and online display of the collection material. Intellectual property rights and ethical issues surrounding the availability of ethnomusicology material on the Web to a broad audience is then addressed as well as the “repatriation” of materials to the communities documented in the collections. The last section describes how this new online accessibility has increased open sharing and study in a non-commercial environment, encouraging scientific archives to adapt their tools to be more inclusive of a broader range of users. The article was published in a special edition of First Monday: Napster, 15 years on: Rethinking digital music distribution.


This offers a good, well written and clearly structured case study demonstrating how significant the digitisation and provision of online access to scientific research material is. The authors describe how it can change the research landscape, broaden and encourage awareness of ethnographic music beyond the scientific community, aid repatriation of cultural heritage and increase the deposit of scientific research material when an archive develops a platform that more easily enables researchers to promote and use their own material in a non-commercial environment. It is recommended reading for administrators and archivists working with scientific collections, looking for background on how such collections are being managed today and why a different approach from the past is essential to keeping their collections relevant. As the authors clearly state, this new approach shows another role for the scientific archive , one that “..reflects a switch from retention to display”.

Beth Delaney