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Shuffle 200,000 Tracks from European Sound Archives

Europeana Radio is a new platform to access thousands of historic tracks from audio collections in European libraries, universities, and other institutions.

Musicians playing bells and a horn from the Worms Bible (Germany, 12th century) (via British Library Harley Collection on Europeana)

An hour of listening to Europeana Radio is like putting our sonic heritage on shuffle. Jaunty early 1900s Latvian marches from the  National Library of Latvia may flow into a staticky German opera gramophone record from Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek; a twangy Irish folk song from the Comhaltas Traditional Music Archive might follow an 1894 audio cylinder of Danish folk songs from the Statsbiblioteket, and can suddenly be succeeded by a raucous live 1990 performance by the Grateful Dead from the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision.

Interacting with Europeana Radio (GIF courtesy Europeana.eu)

The online platform was launched on January 12 by Europeana Sounds and Europeana Foundation to ameliorate access to audio from 24 European institutions, including libraries, universities, and sound-focused institutions. Nearly 200,000 tracks from three years of aggregation can be discovered through Europeana Radio, with navigable categories like classical, folk, and popular music. The interface is fairly minimal, and it might be more engaging to have some sort of map or timeline visualization to emphasize where the tracks originate, such as as that employed by the Radio Garden that connects listeners to local radio stations around the world.

Yet users can improve Europeana Radio as they listen by tagging musical genres, so each track you hear will be easier to discover by future aficionados of, say, 19th-century wax cylinder Nordic folk tunes. As Jill Cousins, Europeana Foundation executive director, stated in a release, Europeana Radio “creates a new level of accessibility to Europe’s sound collections and its interactive approach means that it is much more than a radio as users can both enjoy the recordings and enrich the experience for others.” And as funding for sound archive digitization is often limited, and these audio resources can be inaccessible to everyday listeners in their record or cylinder form, it’s a reminder of the cacophonous history protected by these institutions.

Europeana Radio is accessible at Europeana.eu.

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