The Sound Studies Institute (SSI) provides opportunities to researchers interested in sound studies to engage collaboratively across disciplines and to discover new areas of convergent enquiry. The following project descriptions represent both current and previous research undertaken through SSI and resulting from our former initiatives under folkwaysAlive!, in partnerships with the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings and the Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology.

To learn more about our research spaces and laboratories, see Labs.

Digitizing the Ancestors

The Digitizing the Ancestors Project (DTAP) is a partnership between the Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA) and researchers from the Sound Studies Institute, Linguistics, Native Studies, and the UAlberta Libraries. The primary goal of this project is to preserve and make accessible materials from the AMMSA media archives.

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Resounding Culture

This project is designed to develop a searchable multimedia web portal for histories of music and music-making in Canada to link digitized cultural resources across distinct cultural collections. The project employs the new possibilities inherent in a linked data (digital) resource to recontextualize musical activities in Canada in a way that will facilitate ongoing historical research across interdisciplinary, multicultural, and multifaceted cultural resources.

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The Spoken Web Project

Funded by a SSHRC Partnership Grant, The SpokenWeb is an international, interdisciplinary partnership consisting of 13 universities, 3 community partners, and a team of over 50 researchers (plus an additional 30 students and postdoctoral fellows) from a wide range of disciplines with the goal of preserving and activating archives of literary sound recordings for use in research, teaching, and artistic creation. For more information, see:

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Deep Learning for Sound Recognition

The advent of inexpensive, portable, digital recording devices of enormous capacity, combined with a growing interest in sound across the humanities, social sciences, and sciences, now produces vast collections of sound recording, thus offering an opportunity and need, for research regarding sound, recording, and “big data.” Through this project, we aim to explore opportunities for application of big data deep learning related to large sound collections for ongoing interdisciplinary research.

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Asch Collection

Moses Asch, founder of Folkways Records, developed a personal connection with Edmonton while his son Michael served as a professor of anthropology at the University of Alberta. It was during visits to the city in the 1970s and 1980s that Asch discovered Edmonton’s vibrant arts community and here, according to Michael, that he found a centre in touch with its past and willing to take risks to express itself artistically; a community with a major, diverse University; a lively folk music scene, including the Edmonton Folk Music Festival; and a radio station, CKUA, that provided a space for artistic and social expression in which he felt at home.

Learn More | Go to the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings website

Virtual Museum of Canadian Traditional Music

The Virtual Museum of Canadian Traditional Music is an online resource and interactive exhibit that explores traditional music in Canada. From Northern Alberta fiddle music, to Ukrainian and South Asian music in Canada, this exhibit traces various strands of Canada’s multicultural musical lineage. Funded by a grant from the federal Department of Canadian Heritage administered through the University of Alberta’s Museums and Collections Services (MACS), this project was conceived, designed, and directed by UAlberta ethnomusicologist Dr. Michael Frishkopf, co-produced by a team affiliated with the Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology and our former initiative, folkwaysAlive! in partnership with Smithsonian Folkways Records. The Museum forms part of the Virtual Museum of Canada.

Learn more | Go to the Virtual Museum of Canadian Traditional Music website

The Look of the Listen: The Cover Art of Folkways Records

From 1948 to 1986, Folkways Records produced over 2000 recordings of remarkable breadth and diversity. This virtual exhibition presents the look of Folkways through an exploration of the cover art and design of this extraordinary recording company. The Look of the Listen exhibit explores the rich and vast Folkways Records cover art, as well as a back story detailing the legacy and vision of Folkways Records founder, Moses Asch.This project was co-produced in 2005 in a partnership between Smithsonian Folkways Records, folkwaysAlive! and the Department of Art & Design at the University of Alberta.

Learn more  | Go to The Look of the Listen: The Cover Art of Folkways Records

South Asian Music & Culture in Canada

The story of South Asian music and culture in Canada can be traced to the mid-twentieth century. Starting with a few families finding common musical practice and growing to numerous regional and religious institutions cultivating different musical expressions, South Asian music and culture have come to form a significant component of Canada’s socio-cultural fabric. This project was initiated by preeminent UAlberta ethnomusicologist Dr. Regula Qureshi and the Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology (CCE), in collaboration with our former initiative, folkwaysAlive! in partnership with Smithsonian Folkways Records.

Learn more | Go to the South Asian Music & Culture in Canada website

The History of Gospel Music in Western Canada

The first book published in Western Canada was a song book in Cree syllabics, reproduced on a home-made press in Norway House, north of Lake Winnipeg, in 1841. A gospel song in that book is an early example of the surprisingly diverse history of gospel music in Western Canada. North American gospel music developed as more a people’s music than as church music and it retains the ethos of its remotest roots, the call-and-response traditions and singing circles of three continents. Gospel music still echoes traditional ceremonial singing, old shouts and hollers, lined out hymns, psalmody, shape-note, barbershop, blues, jazz, rap, and rock. As an exploration of Western Canadian regional development of this music, this project weaves together stories of Mennonites, African-American pioneers, preaching politicians, Bible schools, First Nations gospel singing traditions, early gospel radio, and much more.

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