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Locate primary sources, including images, objects, media, and texts. Annotations by scholars contextualize sources.
Close-up image of an early modern Islami Carpet

Islamic Carpets

These three carpets made in the period between the 16th and 18th centuries show two distinct types of carpets produced in the Islamic World for particular culture-specific uses.

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Brooklyn's Panorama Competition

The Panorama is one of the biggest events for steel bands in Brooklyn. Originating in Trinidad, it is tied to the Carnival season and is best understood as a music competition embedded in a series of festive activities and performances.

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Neolithic Bone Flutes

The use of musical instruments, such as clay flutes and bone whistles, has been traced back to the earliest documented historical period in China (Shang dynasty, 1765-1121 BCE).

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Javanese Gamelan

Here, a Javanese gamelan (court orchestra) performs at a traditional wedding ceremony in Indonesia. A gamelan relies on intricate music played on expensive, exquisite bronze instruments to convey their community's values, ideals, and self-image. What the gamelan performs depends on context. In a private, intimate court setting, the gamelan displays the elegance and largesse of its patrons.

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Shiva as the Lord of Dance

This manifestation of the Hindu god Shiva depicts the deity holding a small drum, which symbolizes the audible space that fills the universe, the sound of creative energy. Here, rhythm, drum, and music are manifestations of fundamental Hindu beliefs. At concerts of Indian music, audiences listen to drummers raptly and follow their complex rhythms in cycles.

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Huun-Huur-Tu Throat Singers

Huun-Huur-Tu is a musical group from Tuva, which is situated along the Mongolia-Russia border, that is known for their traditional throat singing. Throat singing is when performers sing both a note and its overtones simultaneously, resulting in a rich and complex timbre, or the sound quality and texture of instruments and voices performing the music.

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Javanese Shadow Puppets

Music and dramatized storytelling are the tools of memory in places like the Indonesian island of Java. Here, a traditional Wayang, or Javanese, performance depicts Hindu epics or popular cultural legends through the use of leather puppets whose shadow is cast upon a thin fabric. Traditionally, the performance is backed by a Gamelan orchestra and usually lasts all night.

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The Griots of West Africa

Music has served as a language of memory in many cultures around the world. In West Africa, a Griot, or Jali, is part of a special, hereditary caste of individuals charged with knowing and retelling the stories and histories of the local people.

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Wagner's Ride of the Valkyrie

Although it is important to take into account an artist's intentions and hopes for new music, it is equally important to realize that music is often appropriated - meaning that it is used by others in ways that the artist did not intend. Take for example Richard Wagner's famous musical drama The Valkyrie.

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Silent Film Sheet Music

Music permeates cultures around the world. From movies, sporting events, funerals, weddings, and religious services, it is hard to imagine life without music in the background. Take, for example, this sheet music from the early twentieth century.

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