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There has been much recent progress in the technical infrastructure necessary to continuously characterize and archive all sounds, or more precisely auditory streams, that occur within a given space or human life. Efficient and intuitive access, however, remains a considerable challenge. In specifically musical domains, i.e., melody retrieval, query-by-example (QBE) has found considerable success in accessing music that matches a specific query. We propose an extension of the QBE paradigm to the broad class of natural and environmental sounds, which occur frequently in continuous recordings. We explore several cluster-based indexing approaches, namely non-negative matrix factorization (NMF) and spectral clustering to efficiently organize and quickly retrieve archived audio using the QBE paradigm. Experiments on a test database compare the performance of the different clustering algorithms in terms of recall, precision, and computational complexity. Initial results indicate significant improvements over both exhaustive search schemes and traditional K- means clustering, and excellent overall performance in the example-based retrieval of environmental sounds.