I decided to do a quick group-test of search-engines, based on an unsophisticated casual academic search for the keywords:

Mongolian folk song

I was trying to mimic what might be a typical student search. This is what I found that was free:

The main Google index:

Top result is a dubious spammy-looking link that actually leads to a clean webpage for the commercial album Mongolian Folk Songs, with embedded audio clips for each track. Nice. The next two links are YouTube videos. At the foot of the first page is a link of some use, a short English-language 2005 Xinhua press-agency story carried by the Chinese People’s Daily newspaper talking of “1100 Mongolian folk songs rescued”.

Microsoft Bing:

Not bad, not bad at all. Better than Google by far. The Wikipedia page “Music of Mongolia” is result number one, but result number 4 gets top marks – a direct link into the Mongolian-run UNESCO-accredited International Institute for the Study of Nomadic Civilizations website, detailing (in good English) a major fieldwork song-gathering project now underway, “Heritage of the Mongolian Long Folk Song” (2008-2010). Result number six is also strong – a link into the new Smithsonian Folkways magazine, recommending two albums.

Google Scholar:

Oh dear. The top result is free. But it’s a PDF of the vintage book The Souls of Black Folk (1903) by W.E.B. Du Bois, and this only seems to mention the word ‘Mongolian’ in passing. Misleadingly, the date of the book is labelled in the results as “2007″. There’s only one other free result on the page, a Google Books link to Mongolian music, dance, & oral narrative: performing diverse identities (University of Washington Press, 2001). Tucked away at the bottom of page three of the results is some free and useful full-text, the 1997 article “Mongolian Oral Epic Poetry: An Overview” from the scholarly journal Oral Tradition. Everything else on the first few pages is trapped behind a paywall.

Google Book Search:

Mongolian music, dance, & oral narrative: performing diverse identities‎ appears again, and is number one. The link for it gives a “limited preview” link that leads to a deep interior page discussing the “overhaul” of classification of different types of song under communist rule. There’s only one other “limited-preview” result on the first page, linking to the book The Horse-head Fiddle and the Cosmopolitan Reimagination of Mongolia. On page two there’s another “limited-preview” book, and it’s the 2008 Lonely Planet guide-book to Mongolia.

Google news:

A surprise. Not bad, if you’re looking for contemporary performance. Number two is a Financial Times arts report “Steppes of Dreamers, Ukrainian Pavillion, Venice [biennale]” and talks of… ‘a Mongolian folk song, deconstructed into three elements of wind instrument, voice and whistle’. Then there are various journalistic puffs for folk performances. Halfway down the page is a PSFK trend-spotting agency report on a free 50-minute “Podcast Documentary on Chinagrass – Contemporary Chinese Folk Music, performed by Hanggai … a Beijing-based Mongolian folk band composed of 5 members who feature the distinctive Morin Khuur and throat-singing.” Sounds great! The article is Creative Commons, too. Near the bottom of the results is a link to China Central Television proclaiming “Xinjiang preserves ethnic folk arts”.

Bing news search:

“We did not find any results for Mongolian folk song.” Some way to go, I think.

Findarticles.com (free):

The first four results are duplicates of a short 2005 press story “China, Mongolia to protect endangered ethnic song”, then the results default to articles on other unrelated types of folk song.

Intute Arts and Humanities:

Zero results. If the search terms are changed to Mongolia + song then I get a record for the “Music of Tuva” website. Tuva being near to Mongolia, and now in Russia.

Archive.org texts:

Zero results. If the search is limited to just ‘Mongolian’ then I get a wide range of books including an avalanche of dusty pre-1920s linguistic studies, and er… “Racial Origins of the Jews – Eugen Fischer. An article from the defunct neo-nazi magazine”. Oh dear. In amongst the avalanche there are several scanned editions of Sagas from the Far East: Or, Kalmouk and Mongolian Traditionary Tales (1873).

OAIster:

Zero results.

Intute UK repository search:

Zero results.

DOAJ search:

Zero results.

Open J-Gate:

Zero results.

IngentaConnect:

Zero results.

JISC ticTOCs: (search tables of contents from major journal publishers)

Zero results for a search in titles or subject. Even the word ‘Mongolian’ on its own found no results.

CiteSeer:

Mostly science, but I thought there might be some linguistic or ethnographic materials indexed. I used the search: Mongolian AND folk AND song, and included citations in the search. Two results, neither relevant. Using Mongolian AND song obtained more, but not better, results.

Sweet Search

Supposedly an academic search engine, the top results were from http://www.emusic.com (trying to sell me MP3s), the state-owned http://www.chinadaily.com.cn, http://www.npr.org, and bbc.co.uk. To be fair, it does a good job of clearing the web of spam, but the lack of academic articles in the results shows that it’s aimed at school children rather than those at university.

Scientific Commons:

One result, to what is now a dead ’404′ link.

EBSCO Open Science Directory

Zero results.

China Academic Journals full-text:

Just three results from a 1915-2009 search, one in English (“Mongolian Folk Song and Dance Troupe Visits China”, which was a short news report from the state-run Voice of Friendship magazine).

Scirius:

The first two results are useful, but both lead to “404 not found” messages. The first page of results show that Scirius search is confused by Chinese science authors whose surname is “Song”, and by references to the Song dynasty.

The British Library: (“search 9 million articles from 20,000 journals”)

Zero results. Did someone forget to plug the database cable in?

HathiTrust 0.2 beta

15 results for full-text items when the search was limited to: “mongolian folk” song. No result was relevant, and the results included eight instances of hits from ‘Library of Congress subject headings’ lists.

Journal TOCs

One result, an article in the commercial paywall journal Acta Orientalia, “Dsakhchin (West-Mongolian) folksongs with Buddhist content”.

BASE:

Seven results. Number one was in Hungarian, and was a description and track-list of a Hungarian world music CD. Number two was (oh dear!) our old friend Du Bois, W.E.B., The Souls of Black Folk (1903). Number three was a full-text PDF Thesis titled “What is Throat Singing?”, which is the result of fieldwork in southern Siberia. Number four was an English description of the Czech book Kazakh folksongs : from the two ends of the steppe (2001). The rest of the results were junk from Encyclopedia of World History (a spurious result, which anyway bounced to the Bartleby.com front-page), and another spurious result from an atrociously bad OCR copy of the Deseret News newspaper from 1878.

JURN:

On the first page, the full-text of:—

1. IIAS Newsletter. A long review of a 2005 CHIME Foundation conference which asked “Do performers of ritual music in East Asia address their performances primarily to the gods or to mortals?” starstarstar

2. Asian Folklore Studies. A review of two books from the late 1980s (On Huaer and Selections of Traditional Qinghai Folk Songs), which only mentions Mongolian songs in passing. star

3. Oral Tradition. “A Comparative Study of the Singing Styles of Mongolian and Tibetan Geser/Gesar Artists”. starstarstar

4. Asian Folklore Studies. English reviews of two German books on Mongol epics and epic songs. starstar

5. Ethnomusicology OnLine. A review of the commercial CD Mongolia, Living Music of the Steppes: Instrumental Music and Song of Mongolia, with three sample tracks as embedded audio. starstarstar

6 and 7. China Heritage Quarterly. Two articles, the somewhat-tangental “Cultural Heritage Properties of Qinghai, Gansu and Ningxia: Performance Items” and more usefully “A Tale of Two Lists: An Examination of the New Lists of Intangible Cultural Properties” (a very long account of the history of Chinese attempts to preserve folk cultures and later UNESCO involvement). starstarstar

8. Echo. (A tangental result in a long article about Nepali pop music, due to the titling of an album as Mongolian Heart). star

9. Oral Tradition. “Mongolian Oral Epic Poetry: An Overview.” starstarstarstar

10. Asian Folklore Studies. A fair but critical scholarly book review of Mongolian Music, Dance, and Oral Narrative: Performing Diverse Identities (2001). starstarstar

Highlights on further results pages include: “The Mechanisms of Epic Plot and the Mongolian Geseriad”; “Mongol creation stories”; “Teaching of the Silk-Road Epics: a workshop in Turku”; “Folk Ecology and Rural Epics in China” — and all found without focussing the search-terms or using any Google search modifiers.

And if the Graduate Journal of Asia-Pacific Studies didn’t use stupidly-huge dynamic scripted URLs (all hanging directly off the main university URL, durh) I daresay that the excellent full-text article “Blue Heaven, Parched Land: Mongolian Folk Song and the Chinese State” would also show up in JURN. A researcher could get to it at the hosting university via a specific Google article-title search.

My library catalogue (inc. the Birmingham Conservatoire music library):

No results on a keyword search. However, a direct title search finds one copy of the book Mongolian music, dance, & oral narrative : performing diverse identities (2001). But it would be cheaper for me to buy it on Amazon, than to pay for a train ticket to specially go and get it.

Project MUSE:

The first four results are strong (although not free full-text to the public), but then the results turn to mush — and by the bottom of the page we’re back to… W.E.B. Du Bois and his The Souls of Black Folk (1903). Very worthy, a seminal thinker, and all that… but not relevant to the search.

JSTOR:

JSTOR coverage is strong (340 results, inc. articles from the back-issues of Asian Music, Journal of the International Folk Music Council, British Journal of Ethnomusicology/Ethnomusicology Forum, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, Journal of Asian Studies, and Far Eastern Quarterly) — but you’ll only obtain them if you or your organisation have access to JSTOR.

And if you’re lucky enough to have a university that subscribes to RILM Abstracts of Music Literature and Music Index Online, you should be assured of a decent starting bibliography — even if accessing the full-text might still prove tricky.