Reel to Real: Sound at the Pitt Rivers Museum

Visualiser Screen Shot  2Visualiser combining a photograph of a Bayaka woman with a soundwave graphic. Photograph by Louis Sarno [1997.21.3.137]. Visualiser by Nathaniel Mann.Reel to Real is the archival sound project at the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation Collections Fund.

From the songs of children's games in playgrounds across Europe to Bayaka women's songs that enter people's dreams in the rainforests of the Central African Republic, this website offers an introduction to the several thousand hours of archival sounds held by the Museum. It also includes information about the field recordists, their related collections, and a host of other resources such as films and the work of contemporary sound artists associated with the project.

You can read about the methods used to digitize hundreds of wax cylinders, reel to reel tapes, audio cassettes and other formats that form the Museum's ethnographic sound archive. Also included are examples of the practical outputs we have begun to develop in order to connect archival sounds with wider collections and to engage diverse audiences.

The museum is enormously grateful to our project partners for their help in making this unique resource available to the general public, scholars and other audiences.



A Taste of the Archives

Sound Galleries

Musical torchlit trails at the Pitt Rivers Museum

On Friday November 23rd 2012, the galleries of the Pitt Rivers Museum were plunged into evening darkness and bathed in Bayaka music and sound from the Central African Republic. Visitors were given torches to explore the galleries that were transformed into a rich forest soundscape with sung fables, snatches of laughter, beautiful variations on harps and flutes, and the stunning polyphonic singing of Bayaka women. Hidden surprises included mini projections from the rainforests and a visualiser designed by Nathaniel Mann, the PRM's Embedded Composer in Residence. The evening was filmed By Mike Day of Intrepid Cinema as part of the Reel to Real project, and complemented the Oxford City-wide Christmas Light Night organised by Oxford Inspires. A four hour playlist of Bayaka music from the PRM's sound collections, originally recorded by Louis Sarno, was curated on the evening by Nathaniel Mann and Dr Noel Lobley. The event was streamed online, and was watched live in the Central African Republic by Louis Sarno and some of the Bayaka community.





Copyright 2012 The Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford