UPDATE: Coverage From the NY Times
The Library of Congress is celebrating its 220th birthday today with a present for music-makers and music-lovers everywhere: a chance to play with Citizen DJ, a groundbreaking project that inspires hip-hop music-making from home and opens new doors into the Library’s extensive audio collections.
Citizen DJ is an open-source web-browser application created by Library of Congress 2020 Innovator in Residence Brian Foo in partnership with LC Labs. Using some of the Library’s free-to-use audio and moving image collections, Citizen DJ enables users to select short samples to create their own beats and sound mixes. By using the tool, musicians, students, researchers and curious citizens alike can discover items in the Library’s vast collections that they likely would never have known exist.
The LC Labs team will host a virtual premiere event on the Library’s Facebook page today at 3 p.m., featuring a video introduction and demo of Citizen DJ by Foo and a live Q&A in the comments.
While the project is scheduled to officially launch in the summer of 2020, Foo believes that building a tool that is useful, educational and inspiring to everyone requires public testing early in the design process so users can help shape the final product.
“My goal is to develop a simple way to discover and use public domain audio and video material for music making so that generations of artists and producers can use it to maximize their creativity, invent new sounds, and connect listeners to materials, cultures and sonic history that might otherwise go unremembered. That’s what Citizen DJ is all about – an easy to use tool that unlocks the amazing treasures in the Library of Congress for music makers and their audiences,” Foo said. “I’m excited to say that we’ve built a tool that aspires to meet these goals. Now we need help from everyone to ensure that it does.”
The sound collections available in Citizen DJ were specially curated by Library staff, and all of them are free-to-use with no special permission needed to create songs for personal or commercial purposes. While some of the sounds are over 100 years old and others come from the past decade, all of them are unique, compelling and in many cases hold deep historical and cultural relevance. The sounds come from musical performances, theater productions, interviews, speeches, oral histories, ambient sound recordings and many other holdings in the Library’s collections. Foo is continuing to work with staff to see what other collections can be added before its summer launch.
“It’s my hope that digital projects like Citizen DJ can offer musicians ample new creative material at no cost and can continue to engage and inspire all Americans from home,” Foo said. He added that as the world navigates the COVID-19 pandemic, “it’s fitting to remember that music is something that has the power to bring all people together, even when we physically need to be apart.”