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American Vernacular Music Collections Online

The UCI Libraries continue to pursue digital content across diverse disciplines. We’ve recently acquired two significant online streaming audio databases from Alexander Street Press: African American Song and American Song.

African American Song documents the history of African American musical traditions through a rich collection of streaming audio, covering genres such as jazz, blues, gospel and folk songs. The database currently features over 16,000 tracks from important recording label Document Records, including performances by iconic African American artists such as the Fisk Jubilee Singers, Memphis Minnie, and Lead Belly.

Alexander Street Press continues to add content to African American Song. When complete, this resource will contain over 50,000 individual tracks, included recordings from independent record label Rounder Records, the works of pioneering African American composers such as William Grant Still and Harry T. Burleigh, and previously unpublished recordings from the Archive of Folk Culture at the Library of Congress.

American Song nicely complements African American Song, documenting the important history of American roots music and pre-1960 popular music. This collection of streaming audio currently contains over 17,000 tracks, including significant genres such as country, folk, bluegrass, and shape-note. Performers featured on American Song include Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Nanci Griffith, and Merle Travis.

In addition to standard browse and search features, American Song also allows browsing by historical event, highlighting the integral role that vernacular music often plays in American life. Students can browse and explore songs written in response to historical events such as the Vietnam War, slavery and abolition, the Salem witch trials, or the sinking of the Titanic.

Both African American Song and American Song allow users to create playlists for personal or classroom use. These playlists have static urls and can be easily linked to in emails, syllabi, through an online course environment, etc. Multi-track works as well as individual tracks in African American Song and American Song also have static URLs, enabling saving or sharing of favorite songs.

For more information, contact Erin Conor, Research Librarian for the Performing Arts (econor@uci.edu or x46548).


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