Flutopedia - an Encyclopedia for the Native American Flute

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Ethnographic and Reference Flute Recordings

This section of Flutopedia provides a listing of recordings relating to world flutes, in general, and the Native American flute, in particular. There are two types of recordings. The text of these definitions is borrowed, in part, from What is an Ethnographic Field Collection? by the American Folklife Center, as well as Frank Lundsford and Barry Higgins (personal communication, June 17, 2013):

Ethnographic recordings. A sound recording typically made by an anthropologist, folklorist, ethnomusicologist, or other cultural researcher to document human life and traditions. They are typically made in the field and are often part of a larger ethnographic field collection may bring together materials from a wide range of formats, including drawings, photographs, fieldnotes, and correspondence. These goal of these recordings is to capture the music of a specific culture, played on an authentic instrument of the culture, by an authentic member of the culture.

Reference recordings. A sound recording of value for study or research, but where one of the elements of an ethnographic recording is absent. These may be recordings made on an authentic instrument of the culture to document the sound and study the tonaity. They may be a songs of a specific culture by a performer who is not a member of the culture.

Many of the ethnographic recordings are of flute playing made before 1950. However, I have included recordings of other instruments (in particular, vocal recordings of flute melodies) and also specific recordings made after 1950 that I believe are of interest.

The reference recordings span a wide range of purposes, including recordings made on authentic instruments to document the sound and recently recorded renditions of historic songs. All reference recordings are marked with the tag «REF».

The pages in this section list individual recordings, tracks, and songs. For a listing of albums, see the Audio Recordings references page. In some cases, individual songs from albums on the the Audio Recordings references page are listed here.

For information on the format and other details of these citations, see the main references page.


This list is primarily provided for people as a research tool. It provides pointer to published sources of early recordings and to institutions that archive the recordings, and provides liner notes associated with the recording. Please realize that I cannot provide copies of any audio material. In many cases I do not have the recording, and in no case am I the controlling agent for the rights to copy the recording.

In some cases, I have received explicit permission to publish the recording, in its entirety, from the rights-holder. In other cases, I have been able to provide excerpts of the recordings, subject to these condition:

  • The excerpt is a low-quality recording of no more than 30 seconds in length.
  • I could find no indication in the written records associated with the original recording that indicated that the song was a personal, spiritual, or ceremonial song, or that its dissemination might cause any adverse cultural impacts.
  • The song was not from an Aboriginal culture of Oceana (see Ethnographic Flute Recordings of Oceana for special considerations concerning these recordings).

In no case does publication of any audio content on this web site imply that you may copy or use the audio content in any way, other than for your own personal listening and study. A full discussion of these issues is provided on the Flutopedia Legal Issues page.

Wax Phonograph Cylinder Recordings

Ethnographic Wax Cylinders from 1890

Ethnographic Wax Cylinders
from 1890 Larger image

After the invention of the phonograph by Thomas Edison on July 18, 1877, the development of commercially viable wax phonograph cylinder recording and playback devices opened the possibility for making ethnographic recordings. The earliest known field recordings are Passamaquoddy songs and narratives by Noel Josephs and Peter Selmore, recorded by Jesse Walter Fewkes in Calais, Maine, on March 15, 1890 ([Fewkes 1890c]). They had been archived at the Peabody Museum of Harvard University, and were transferred in 1970 to the United States Library of Congress ([Gray 1996] Returning Music to the Makers: The Library of Congress, American Indians, and the Federal Cylinder Project). The two cylinders in the photograph on the right are among those recorded in Maine between March 15 and 17, 1890. The cylinder machine in the photo, while not the same model as Fewkes used, is a Columbia Graphophone, Model N, marketed in 1895 and manufactured in Washington, D.C.

A vast body of recordings was created by anthropologists, folklorists, ethnomusicologists, and other cultural researchers. The history and provenance of those recordings is complex, but many have been collected and are now curated at many large archives:

  • Cylinder recordings archived at the Archive of Folk Culture of the United States Library of Congress, collected from private individuals, the Smithsonian Institution's Bureau of American Ethnology, and from other agencies of the U. S. government ([Gray 1996] Returning Music to the Makers: The Library of Congress, American Indians, and the Federal Cylinder Project). The number of cylinders at the Library of Congress cylinders were estimated at “approximately seven thousand” in an inventory published in 1984 ([Brady 1984]). A more specific figure of 6,623 and a useful analysis of federal holdings by culture area are given in an earlier, unpublished document ([FCPS 1981]). More recent document and web pages list the count at about 10,000 cylinders, with nearly 8,000 documenting the sung and spoken traditions of American Indian communities ([Hardin 2003]).
  • Over 100,000 recordings that include more than 2,700 field collections housed at the Archives of Traditional Music of Indiana University. The collection was founded at Columbia University in 1936 and moved to Indiana University in 1948 ([Dutton 1999], page 213). The total number of cylinder originals is listed as 6,985 ([Seeger 1987a]).
  • Sound recordings at the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology (formerly the Lowie Museum of Anthropology) at the University of California, Berkeley, that include songs and spoken texts collected among Indian tribal groups all over California. The core of the collection consists of 2,510 items that were originally recorded on 2,713 wax cylinders between 1900 and 1938 as part of a systematic program to document aboriginal cultures of the region ([Keeling 1991]).
  • Smithsonian / Folkways, the non-profit record label of the Smithsonian Institution. Smithsonian / Folkways is the current incarnation of Folkways Records, which was founded in 1948 in New York City by Moses Asch and Marian Distler. Folkways records released 2, 168 albums between 1948 and 1986, including traditional, ethnic, and contemporary music from around the world. In addition to making virtually all the recordings of Folkways Records available as albums and digital downloads, Smithsonian / Folkways has released over 300 additional new recordings since 1987.
  • The American Philosophical Society Library maintains a digital library of sound recordings documenting American Indian languages and music.
  • The Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico maintains a digital library of early ethnographic sound recordings.
  • The Mills Music Library of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Wisconsin Music Archives maintains a collection of ethnographic recording collected by John Donald Robb in the 1950s.
  • The Oral History Center, University of South Dakota, College of Arts & Sciences maintains a collection of Richard Fool Bull recordings collected by James Jurrens in 1963.
  • The American Museum of Natural History in New York previously maintained recordings that were transferred to the Archive of Folk Culture of the United States Library of Congress. However, they still maintain provenance information on those recordings that can be informative.
  • The California Language Archive indexes recordings from other institutions, providing a useful search engine.
  • The Berlin Phonogramm-Archiv houses more than 16,000 wax cylinders collected worldwide between 1893 and 1954, including 3,260 cylinders from the Americas ([Koch 2004]). See also [Reinhard 1962], [Simon 2000a], [LOC 2002] Emile Berliner and the Birth of the Recording Industry, and [Ziegler 2006].
  • The Vienna Phonogrammarchiv Wien houses about 71,000 ethnographic recordings, including over 25,000 recording of African traditional music by Gerhard Kubik ([Kubik 2010a] and [Kubik 2010b]).
  • The Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, England curates many recordings of recent ethnomusicologists.
  • Over 3,000 items at the British Library National Sound Archive ([Clayton-M 1996]).
  • The Centre de Recherche en Ethnomusicologie (CREM) archives nearly 3,500 hours of unpublished field recordings and 3,700 hours of published materials, including more than 5,000 discs.
  • The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia — the national audiovisual collection holding more than 2.16 million works. See also the Sounds of Australia (formerly known as the National Registry of Recorded Sound), which focuses on a selection of Australian sound recordings with cultural, historical and aesthetic significance and relevance.
  • The Ennejma Ezzahra Centre of Arab and Mediterranean Music maintains a collection of early ethnographic recordings of music in Tunisia.
  • The Canadian Museum of History «Musée Canadien de l'Historie» curates the archives of Canadian Arctic ethnographic expeditions, including the recordings of the Inuit songs recorded Diamond Jenness during a 1913–1916 expedition ([Roberts-HH 1918]).

For additional background on various collections see [Dutton 1999].

Lists of Recordings

The recordings are organized by general region and are povided in various sort orders. For reference recordings to document the sound of an instrument, the location of the creation of the instrument is used.

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