Skip to content
Skip to navigation menu

'Making Musical Records for the Rainforests of Central Africa'

John Bird Lecture - 16 April 2013
4.30pm, Boyd Lecture Theatre, School of Music

Noel Lobley (Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford)

Digital curation of ethnographic sound recordings is a vital step in musical preservation, circulation and use. However, in an age where many people still remain without digital technologies, creative new ways to circulate preserved recordings are increasingly required to create meaningful access for offline source communities.

Today, the world’s largest archive of Bayaka field recordings is circulating online, in museum gallery spaces and beyond in order to develop interdisciplinary projects linking ethnomusicologists, eResearch centres, conservationists, and Bayaka source communities. Digital circulation of recordings is promoting new listening engagements among expanding international audiences, and raising awareness of major social problems facing an increasingly marginalized community. How can ethnomusicologists understand - and use - such digital resources and the knowledge they contain to benefit a source community with virtually no access to digital technology? What might Bayaka communities want or expect from them?

In this talk I will discuss some of the ways in which the knowledge in field recordings can be ethically and equitably shared between institutions and indigenous communities. Building on my method of ‘sound elicitation’ developed with Xhosa communities in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, I will introduce my current research exploring ways in which field recordings can be reconnected with Bayaka people for their benefit. I will consider ways of creating responsible and reciprocal communicative networks between academic institutions, eResearchers and the Bayaka communities requesting access to their archived recordings.

Noel is an ethnomusicologist, sound curator and DJ who has worked extensively on African music and archives, especially Xhosa communities in Grahamstown, South Africa, and the Bayaka of Central African Republic. He currently works at the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, where he is developing the music and sound collections.