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Vol. 12 No. 2 (2023): Access to Waxes – The Collections from the Arab World of the Berlin Phonogramm-Archiv: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Digitization and Open Access Publication

The Collections of Music from the Arab World in the Berlin Phonogramm-Archiv

  • Susanne Ziegler


The number of collections of music from the Arab world housed in the Berlin Phonogramm-Archiv (BPhA), 30 in all, is impressive, as is the great number of wax cylinders. In the beginning, Arab music was not the main concern of the Berlin Phonogramm-Archiv; there were a small number of collections of music from the Arab world until 1918, but even then, extensive research was being done (see Hornbostel's 1906–7 article on Tunisian music). Recordings made in German prisoner-of-war camps during World War I augmented the holdings. Fieldwork in Arab countries peaked around 1930, with recordings made by Robert Lachmann as the leading figure and several other scholars associated with the Berlin School of Comparative Musicology. This article presents an overview of the BPhA's collections from the Arab world, their status and content, and highlights their specific features compared to its collections from other regions of the world. Based on the historical documents associated with the collections (correspondence, publications), information will also be given about the collectors, their backgrounds, motivations, and fieldwork.