Melodies floating on the wind: musical recordings from across the globe

10 September 2019

Area Studies | Cultural Studies

This blog contains an open access link to an audio recording. Click on the image below to listen to this recording.

Ethnomusicology: Global Field Recordings which published last month is Adam Matthew’s first predominantly audio collection; produced in collaboration with the UCLA Ethnomusicology Archive and featuring materials from University of Washington’s Ethnomusicology Archive.

The resource includes hundreds of field recordings from all over the world; from Brooklyn hip hop, to European religious music, to Javanese gamelan. It’s been an exciting 18 months working on this project and getting to listen to music from around the globe.

Ethnomusicology is still quite a new discipline and really emerged out of UCLA in the 1950s and 1960s. Mantle Hood, generally considered one of the founding fathers of the discipline, founded the UCLA Institute of Ethnomusicology in the 1950s (this then became the UCLA Ethnomusicology Archive some years later) and fostered the study of ethnomusicology at UCLA and beyond.

A notable figure within the field of ethnomusicology was David Morton. Morton was a protégé of Mantle Hood and throughout the late-1950s and into the 1960s, Morton dedicated his career to the study of Thai music. Indeed, he is the first Western scholar to carry out a dedicated study of Thai music.

Morton worked with leading Thai composers and teachers to study Thai music; specifically, instrumental music. His research contributed to his dissertation, and later publication, The Traditional Instrumental Music of Thailand (UCLA, Institute of Ethnomusicology, 1968).

Here’s one of Morton’s hundreds of recordings featured in Ethnomusicology: Global Field Recordings. This is a medley of compositions – typically played as background music for weddings:

Content © David Morton and UCLA Ethnomusicology Archive. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
Content © David Morton and UCLA Ethnomusicology Archive. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

A quote from Morton’s The Traditional Instrumental Music of Thailand also paints a picture of the beauty of Thai music:

My first exposure to the traditional music in Thailand itself happened on the day after I arrived, in a rural locale near the old summer palace at Bang Pa-in, some miles north of Bangkok, at the time of a special Buddhist ceremony. After the ceremony, as we stood around the car eating our lunch. I became aware of a blend of many melodies floating from beyond a clump of banana trees. I could distinguish the bell-like tones of gong-kettles, xylophones, drums, chiming cymbals, and a penetrating oboelike sound. I pushed through the trees and found, spread out on the broken flagstones of the side courtyard of the temple, an ensemble of traditional Thai instruments being played by a group of men of various ages.

David Morton went on to return to Thailand to continue his research; his work is considered the foundation of Thai music studies.

Ethnomusicology: Global Field Recordings is available now. For more information or to request free trial access, please e-mail us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Full access is restricted to authenticated academic institutions which have purchased a licence.

About the Author

Erin Pearson

Erin Pearson

Since joining Adam Matthew in 2014 I've had the opportunity to work on some fantastic resources including, Eighteenth Century DramaAge of Exploration and Ethnomusicology: Global Field Recordings to name a few!