Arbiter of Cultural Traditions is a 401c3 non-profit arts organization founded in 2002 as a means to continue the work of the former Arbiter Recording Company by saving performances of musicians whose work embodies our classical music at its height. Our efforts are critical as the aging survivors of past  traditions are not long for this world and decaying media threatens to lose its sounds: our cultural heritage often hangs by a thread. Western classical musicians we have saved such as as Roman Totenberg, Mieczyslaw Horszowski and Ignace Tiegerman played at the highest musical level of their time, of any time. We spare no effort to locate such music-making wherever it survives.

World Arbiter seeks authentic traditional music from  cultures beyond Western European classical music. The late Teresa Sterne who created Nonesuch’s legendary Explorer series was our guiding light in the beginning. Sterne personally intervened to sharpen and define our methodology. Our vital examples document  traditions with scholarly texts to serve as a musical guide and reference work. Multimedia CD projects go beyond music with extensive PDF and video files when placed in a computer. Arbiter recently received a grant from the Mellon Foundation to restore and publish the entire known surviving recordings of Balinese music made in 1928. The resulting publication effected a repatriation of performances that had remained inaccessible since their release and subsequent destruction.

Many of our downloads contain bonus tracks, many of which were previously unpublished. All are available only as downloads; many CDs also have been completely remastered with new software provided to our studio through a grant. All discs and bonus tracks are listed below in the catalog. CD Orders within the United States are shipped gratis: foreign requests should email us for postage fees:

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Latest Arbiter Records Release

Debussy’s Traces

  • 2 cd set with many first publications. Arbiter has uncovered unknown performances by musicians who reached Debussy's inner life moreso than those accepted as his emblematic interpreters. Marius-François Gaillard played Debussy's piano music from memory, starting in 1920 when he was twenty, receiving praise from Mme. Debussy. Each work explores an enigma that reveals itself through its individuality. Horszowski heard the composer play and brings his experience into pieces that he performed for over eighty years. Marik played the composer during her entire life and had been close to Bartók, who often performed Debussy's music. Fourneau, a lost master, takes a late work to an unprecedented height. Our restorations of Debussy himself at the piano with Mary Garden capture 1904 sounds that have finally become audible. Gailliard's Debussy recordings include early works, Suite Bergamasque, Pour le Piano, Estampes, nine Préludes, and others. Marik plays two Préludes and En Blanc et Noir. Horszowski is heard in Children's Corner Suite and Fourneau in a late Étude. Most of the recordings are published for the first time and Gaillard's Debussy receives its first restoration from original shellac discs. An extensive 1910 interview is included in the notes and more material will be added to a Debussy section hosted on our website:

Latest World Arbiter Release

Japanese Traditional Music: Songs of People at Work and Play

  • First complete publication ever! The sounds and intensity of Volume Five's folk music surpasses anything heard in their classical music. With Japan's ongoing modernization and loss of its traditional music, our audio restoration removes artifacts from chronological chains to resonate in the eternal flow of sound that defies time and space to remain vital and always in the present.

Latest from the Blog

Traces of Debussy, part II: Debussy’s Ear

To the left:

now the right:

where they live:


Another post to reveal Debussy up-close and from within as part of our CD tribute Arbiter 166 Debussy’s Traces:


EVERYONE loves to point out how Debussy quoted Wagner in his Golliwog’s Cakewalk. After Gabriel Fauré and his pupil André Messager survived Wagner they paid tribute by composing a four-hand set of quadrilles Souvenirs de Bayreuth around 1888


but did not risk publishing it. Debussy was acquainted with them and nearly all on the music scene so it’s no wonder he looked back and did his own jazzier take

Some observe Debussy’s not only having been influenced by Asian music, an exploration we will dwell on in a subsequent post, but claimed Russian composers inspired him. Setting aside books or essays, we dive in naked into the historic reservoir of sound to bring ashore a few catches. One case of a composer finding himself in a singer’s throat is when Bartók set down his Improvisations, based on similar folk melodies:


About twenty years earlier (1907) he had captured a singer through his Edison recording machine preserving her unique voice onto a cylinder, one among thousands that he collected. Note how his performance retains her phrasing and tone and how he built a language around it:


complete photo of Bartók in action: nearly all images have cropped the German shepherd and two shy village girls peering over the fence at some potential risk going on for the first time in their lives

For Debussy, it was the arrival of Rimsky-Korsakov in 1889 and later to introduce Russian music. Rimsky’s Sheherazade opens thus:


It must have meant something to Debussy for we can hear it shaking inside a Prelude in  Pour le Piano:


With Mussorgsky there was a deeper impact. Rather than quote with a rhythmic stutter he now seizes an unusual harmonization found in Boris Godunov that appeared in his late Sonata for Cello and Piano:



Debussy’s Cello Sonata:


Are we giving away recipes, spoiling his secrets? So many ponder on how composers must hermetically seal themselves off to prevent any outside influences from interfering with alleged divine inspiration, actually a tormenting labor to make something that struck them into their own.

How far can this go on before we get in trouble? Last one, but if anyone out there catches more, kindly share it in the comments section.

Debussy’s Nocturnes for Orchestra: Nuages (opening)


Simpleton’s lament near the end of Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov.


©Allan Evans 2018

UPDATE:  Another fish from the Mussorgsky swamp:

La Mer excerpt:


Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov scene in an Inn near Lithuania: