The CNRS – Musée de l’Homme Sound Archives gathers both published and unpublished recordings of music and oral traditions from around the world, from 1900 to today. Incorporating various mediums (cylinders, 78 rpm discs, vinyl discs, magnetic bands, cassette tapes, digital mediums), this collection is one of the most significant in Europe in terms of quality, quantity, and diversity.

CRISTAL collective : Team dedicated to the l'équipe CNRS — Musée de l'Homme (MNHN) Sound Archives won, in 2018, the award given annually by the CNRS to a team of engineers and technicians for their innovative collective project.

Access the catalogue

This database lists :

- More than 49,000 unpublished documents, of which 41,000 are sound-recorded, representing nearly 4,000 hours of unpublished field recordings.
- More than 18,000 published recordings, of which 7,400 are sound-recorded, for around 3,700 hours (including more than 5,000 discs, many of which are extremely rare).
- 199 countries are represented across more than 1,200 ethnic or social groups, creating a large variety of musical and sung expressions of different languages and dialects.

Catalogue Organization

enregistreur bandeThe catalogue is structured around 4 descriptive levels: Fonds, Corpus, Collection, and Items. The main descriptive level is that of the Collection. Each collection gathers a coherent group of audio files (Items) corresponding most often to recordings collected during the same research mission, or to a published disc. Certain collections are themselves grouped into a Corpus and into Fonds associated with particular collectors. 

The number of recordings uploaded onto the platform is constantly increasing. Descriptions are entered in a collaborative effort between the platform's users: researchers, students, and archivists. The CREM welcomes all collaborations that aim to enrich and enhance this valuable heritage. Write us if you wish to contribute. 

CREM uses the collaborative platform Telemeta in order to make the archives accessible to the scientific community, and, when possible, to the public, while still respecting interpreters' and collectors' legal and ethical rights. Developed with the support of the CNRS and the Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, this tool allows researchers to enrich and exchange data online with the music-producing communities in their countries of origin, particularly by means of tools such as time markers, comment sections, etc. Navigation is faciliated by various options for the graphical display of sound. 


A Century of History 

The establishment of CNRS - Musée de l'Homme's sound archives is the outcome of a long history of scientifc research on music. The birth of ethnomusicology, then called "comparative musicology" coincided with the invention of the first recording devices at the end of the 19th century. Since then, the recording of musical documents, as well as their classification and their analysis, have occupied a central position in our knowledge of the Musical Person. 

The preservation of sound archives began in 1932 with André Schaeffner's opening of the Phonothèque at the Trocadero Museum of Ethnography (which would become the Phonothèque of the Musée de l’Homme in 1937). On the initiative of Gilbert Rouget, a "Laboratory of Sound Analysis" was created in 1967, as well as a CNRS research team the next year. In 1985, CNRS and the Musée National d'Histoire Naturelle decided to combine their efforts to preserve these vast collections, christened since then the "CNRS - Musée de l'Homme Sound Archives". Tightly linked to research, the archives are bolstered and fueled by researchers' field missions on all the continents. These data collections enable laboratory research projects, diachronic and synchronic comparisons, the preparation of new fields, and teaching to university students. A small part of these archives has been published, in 78 rpm-discs (notably by Africa Vox), 33 rpm discs, and CDs (Chant du Monde, Harmonia Mundi). Currently, the digitization of analogue mediums continues thanks to the support of the Ministry of Culture and Communication and the National Library of France. The Center for Research in Ethnomusicology, located at the University of Paris Nanterre since 2009 as part of the Laboratory of Ethnology and Comparative Sociology, brings this unique heritage into the digital age, thanks to its innovative web platform, as well as into a long-term preservation (TGIR Huma-Num).


Practical Information 

CREM manages the platform, and a third of the digital recordings are freely accessible online. The site welcomes all collaborations aiming to enrich and enhance this valuable musical heritage common to all of humanity. Presently, more than 2,000 hours of recordings are consultable with an access code, and on site at the CREM (University of Paris Nanterre, building Max Weber (W), room 112), as well as at the Eric-de-Dampierre Library, the Quai Branly Museum's mediatech, and the library at the Musée National d’Histoire Naturelle.

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