The Diamond Jenness Archive

jennessGroup from Wagifa drumming and dancing at Bwaidoga Mission Station feast. Photograph by Diamond Jenness, 1911–12 [1998.284.467.1]. © Pitt Rivers MuseumThe Diamond Jenness (1886–1969) collection consists of 94 wax cylinders, recorded in the D'Entrecasteaux Islands, situated off the eastern tip of Papua New Guinea. Jenness (who was born and educated in New Zealand) conducted ethnographic fieldwork there in 1911–12, on a University of Oxford–sponsored expedition, shortly after taking the Diploma in Anthropology. His collection of field photographs from this expedition are also held by the Pitt Rivers Museum, as well as a small number of objects.

Jenness subsequently served as an ethnologist with the Canadian Artic Expedition between 1913 and 1916, becoming well-known for his ethnographic studies of the Inuit. In 1926 he was appointed Chief of Anthropology at the National Museum of Canada, a position he held until his retirement in 1948.

The Recordings

Diamond Jenness’ wax cylinders, which have been remarkably well recorded and preserved, document a wide variety of different song types from the D’Entrecasteaux Islands in 1912. Digitised in late 2012 by engineers at the British Library, this was almost certainly the first time the cylinders had been played in one hundred years.

Of the many song types recorded, Jenness included examples of dance songs, magic songs to cure sickness, and male courting songs which women and girls were forbidden to hear. Particularly well represented are the songs used at different stages of battle, for example: songs before going to fight, songs to check retreat in battle, songs for when an enemy is wounded by a spear, and victory songs sung on the way home from battle. The collection also includes yam songs, canoe songs, feasting sings, songs from Samoa, and even a song to make the wind abate.

His collection also includes spoken word recordings, for example, the recounting of a kangaroo legend and also a man called Ludeba from Mud Bay telling the legend of the origin of the sun and the moon.

The Playlist

The recordings in the playlist below have been selected as an introduction to his collection, and include several dance songs sung by named individuals, as well as an example of several men singing together, a song from Samoa, and ‘seseko’ songs sung by men sitting in a circle.

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