Online searchable and cross-referenced database of world music instruments with historical, organological, ethnographic, and some musicological information, organized by instrument type (Sachs/Hornbostel model) geographical region, and instrument materials. The academic rigor of the site is reflective of the creators (faculty and students at Wesleyan Universitys School of Music, Ethnomusicology Program) and is one of the main features that separate it from other similar but less rigorous sites. The other main distinguishing features are searchability, cross-reference, and multimedia content.
This is a wonderful resource, overall, and provides a wealth of well-organized reference materials for organology and general world music classes.
Drawbacks, discussed in detail under the Quality of content and Ease of use review sections include: a) reliance on the Sachs/Hornbostel model for instrument type classification, b) lopsided focus on limited geographical regions, c) inconsistent quality of the video demonstrations, and d) color scheme.
Type of Material:
Reference material, clearly organized, cross-referenced, and searchable. This site is a virtual collection of musical instruments from around the world. There are pictures, audio and video files. There are also a few QTVR files which allow full surround views of the instruments.
Can be used as a reference resource for introductory organology, world music, and general music appreciation courses. Fit for use during lectures/demonstration or as a resource for the completion of comparative organology student assignments.
An up to date multi-media browser with QuickTime.
Identify Major Learning Goals:
Exposes music students and scholars to a well organized, cross-referenced, authoritative and (potentially) comprehensive collection of non-western musical instruments. The occasional multimedia content (images, and audio/video clips), the interactive map of instrument distribution throughout the world, and the suggestions for further reading greatly enhance the usefulness of the site as a learning resource.
Target Student Population:
Anyone interested in world music instruments would find this site valuable. Students studying world music at any level would be a target population.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
The site is very well and efficiently designed, requiring minimal previous knowledge on the topic, and no special computer and web-browsing skills.
Well researched and organized content that is current and relevant. Unique site in terms of collection, organization and presentation of the materials. Useful multimedia content (images, audio/video clips) and interactive map of geographical distribution of instruments. Useful, well compiled selection of further reading.
Effective database format, allowing multiple access paths to the material and fostering understanding of similarities/contrasts among entries.
1) Instrument classification.
The instrument type classification relies exclusively on the admittedly problematic (even within ethnomusicology) classification system by Sachs & Hornbostel, while the instrument material classification does not distinguish among different parts of instruments (e.g. driver vs. resonator etc.). The main problems of both classifications are that they a) do not use consistent classification principles and b) largely fail to group together instruments that sound similar.
It can be argued that musical instruments can be classified more systematically (i.e. using consistent, interrelated, and non contradictory demarcation principles) and effectively (i.e. grouping together instruments that sound similar) if they are understood as driving force driver coupler resonator - atmosphere coupling systems.
More details at the Wesleyan SEM conference in October and in an upcoming article at the Ethnomusicology journal.
2) Lack of content
This site is currently more a well conceived and organized place-holder for future content and less a true database of world music instruments. As is the case with many similar projects (e.g. see http://www.acousticslab.org/world/index.html ), things start off with a graduate student creating the initial content and organization and remain stale after the original creator graduates, leaving a site that only covers the areas of expertise of the original creators (e.g. in the Wesleyan sites case, these appear to be music of Indonesia and Ghana).
Lack of funding, staff, and expertise for project completion, which seems to hold back most such projects, could be compensated through designing such sites in the form of a (possibly centrally controlled) wiki, allowing scholars/students from around the world (rather than from just the originating institution) to make contributions and enrich the resource.
3) Minimal reference to other similar online resources
The suggestions for further reading, offered under each item that has content are useful but limited to standard print resources. There is a wealth of similar sited put up by other academic institutions, which are not properly taken advantage of. Although most other similar sites are not as well organized, they provide authoritative and multimedia-rich content that could fill a lot of the gaps present in Wesleyans collection (dynamic, centralized consolidation of all such resources would be the ideal solution).
4) Inconsistent quality of performance in the video demonstrations.
While some demonstrations use expert performers, other use beginners, reducing the effectiveness of the resource.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
This site brings these instruments to life through sound and video clips. Many of these instruments are not available in most schools or libraries. The analyses of world music selections is much more valuable when instruments can be identified and isolated outside of an ensemble. The background on each instrument adds great depth to this experience.
(See strengths under Content Quality, above)
The instrument you might be looking for may not be in the collection yet. There are however, examples in most of the categories if instruments.
(See the concerns under Content Quality, above)
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
This is an easy to use, visually appealing, and interactive high-quality site.
The sites color scheme, although aesthetically appealing, presents serious problems to users with any vision impediments. If users are accessing the site from a monitor with less-than-extreme contrast setting, the redish background and orange text merge together and, for color blind users, become practically indistinguishable.
Other Issues and Comments:
The site is a wonderful endeavor. It brings the instruments to the observer in a real life manner. In a brick and mortar museum does not usually offer the sound in recordings and videos as this site does. There is a section on ensembles that shows great promise. This could become a very important reference tool.
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