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Centre for South Asian Studies: Research


The John Levy Sound Archive

Mark Trewin

The John Levy Archive is a primary sound archive of international importance, consisting of nearly 700 original field recordings. A significant proportion of the collection was recorded in South Asia between 1958 and 1972 (223 spools from India, 55 from Sri Lanka and 48 from Bhutan). The scope of the recordings is wide, but strongly features religious music (Vedic, Buddhist, Sufi, Jewish, and Christian), court traditions and indigenous folk music (e.g. music of the Todas).

The recordings are unique sound documents, musically, culturally and historically. John Levy (1910-1976) was a skilled, sensitive and pioneering recordist who was advised by leading scholars of his day. His recordings were mostly of complete performances in natural situations. The musicians he recorded were among the very best at the time, and for reasons of privileged access and/or historical circumstance, several recordings are the sole extant documents of musical genres or styles which have disappeared or been radically transformed. John Levy's commitment to sharing his insights through LP publication and BBC broadcasts in collaboration with experts, particularly in his later years, is widely acknowledged. Many of his published recordings are now commercially available on CD, issued by Lyrichord, Smithsonian Folkways, Topic Records, and others. All of the South Asian material has been indexed (including copies of John Levy's field notes) together with a chronological register of recordings. Proposed future work includes the development of the resource, and further research and publication programmes. The Archives are located at  29 George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9LD and can be visited from Tuesday-Fridays, 10-4 pm

Discography of Published South Asian Recordings

  • Classical Music of India . Recordings and notes by John Levy. Nonesuch H 2014 [Warner]
  • Music from South India: Kerala . Recordings and notes by John Levy. Additional notes by Peter Crossley-Holland. Folkways FR 4365 [Smithsonian Folkways F 04365]
  • Music from the Shrines of Ajmer and Mundra . Recordings and notes by John Levy. Tangent TGM 105 [CD: Topic Records TSCD911]
  • The Music of India, Vol 4: Karnatik Music . UNESCO Musical Anthology of the Orient. Recordings and notes by John Levy. Bärenreiter BM 30L2021 [Rounder Records]
  • The Four Vedas . Recordings and notes by John Levy and J.F. Staal. Asch Mankind AHM 4126 (2 LPs) [Smithsonian Folkways F 04126]
  • A Panorama of North Indian Music: Hindustani Recordings and notes by John Levy. CBS / BBC Record Enterprises 63519 [Sony]
  • A Panorama of South Indian Music: Karnatic Recordings and notes by John Levy. CBS / BBC Record Enterprises 63257 [Sony]
  • Tibetan Buddhist Rites from the Monasteries of Bhutan 3 LPs. Recordings and notes by John Levy . Lyrichord LLST 7255-7 [CD reissue Lyrichord 7255-7]
  • Tibetan and Bhutanese Instrumental and Folk Music Recordings and notes by John Levy . Lyrichord LLST 7258 [CD reissue Lyrichord 7258]
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