Appalachian Dulcimer Traditions

Overview

The Appalachian dulcimer is one of America's major contributions to world music and folk art. Handmade and played by people with no formal knowledge of music, this beautiful instrument entered the folk revival following World War II with virtually no written record. Appalachian Dulcimer Traditions tells the fascinating story of the effort to recover the instrument's lost heritage through fieldwork in the Southern mountains, finding old instruments, and listening to the tales of old folks. After reviewing the ...

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Appalachian Dulcimer Traditions

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Overview

The Appalachian dulcimer is one of America's major contributions to world music and folk art. Handmade and played by people with no formal knowledge of music, this beautiful instrument entered the folk revival following World War II with virtually no written record. Appalachian Dulcimer Traditions tells the fascinating story of the effort to recover the instrument's lost heritage through fieldwork in the Southern mountains, finding old instruments, and listening to the tales of old folks. After reviewing the dulcimer's distinctive musical features, Ralph Lee Smith presents a chronological story from the German Renaissance instrument called a Scheitholt to the dulcimer in America-describing the development of distinctive dulcimer styles in Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Kentucky. The tale continues into the twentieth century, through a final group of tradition-based Appalachian makers whose work flowed into the national scene of the folk revival.

This fully revised edition provides expanded information about the history of the Scheitholt and the dulcimer before the Civil War and discusses traditions and types still being discovered and documented. Smith also adds his personal adventures in researching the dulcimer's history. A new, final chapter describes types and styles that don't fit conveniently into the mainstream development of the instrument. The book concludes with several appendixes, including measurements of representative dulcimers and listings of dulcimer recordings in the Archive of Folk Culture at the Library of Congress.

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Editorial Reviews

American Musical Instrument Society
Ralph Lee Smith has set forth six well-illustrated chapters concerned with dulcimer traditions in the Allegheny, Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains of Southern Appalachia.
Folk Roots
Don't leave...thinking this book will interest only the hardened dulcimer fans. It is too entertainingly written for that. As befits a professional journalist, the author traces the finer points of dulcimerology, down to the various shapes of the sound holes, without losing or confusing or boring the reader. Moreover, there is a wealth of information, which anyone into Appalachian music will find extremely useful. It is profusely illustrated...the world has never been too flush for books on the Appalachian dulcimer. This is a welcome addition to a restricted market.
Folk Roots
Don't leave...thinking this book will interest only the hardened dulcimer fans. It is too entertainingly written for that. As befits a professional journalist, the author traces the finer points of dulcimerology, down to the various shapes of the sound holes, without losing or confusing or boring the reader. Moreover, there is a wealth of information which anyone into Appalachian music will find extremely useful. It is profusely illustrated...the world has never been too flush for books on the Appalachian dulcimer. This is a welcome addition to a restricted market..
Booknews
Folklorist and musician Smith follows tenuous threads to trace the evolution of this slightly mysterious instrument. A garage sale find may lead to a Library of Congress reference, then to surviving descendants of dulcimer makers of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Includes sections on regional styles and contemporary makers. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Ethnomusicology
Smith's research...has been extensive and generally well documented, and his book will be a useful resource for anyone interested in the dulcimer, Appalachian history, or folk music in general.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780810841352
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/28/1997
  • Series: American Folk Music and Musicians Series , #2
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 5.62 (w) x 8.56 (h) x 0.48 (d)

Meet the Author

Ralph Lee Smith is a leading authority on the history of the Appalachian dulcimer and is a performer and teacher of traditional American folk music. He is the author of Folk Songs of Old Virginia (2009) and Greenwich Village: The Happy Folk Singing Days, 1950s and 1960s (2008).

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Series Editor's Foreword xi

Preface: A Note about the New Edition xiii

Acknowledgments xv

Prologue: A Talk with Patrick Gainer in 1980 xvii

1 An American Heritage 1

2 Where Did the Dulcimer Come From? 15

3 Early Traces and Trails 35

4 Virginia Traditions 57

5 West Virginia and North Carolina Traditions 73

6 Dulcimers of Yesterday in the Cumberlands 93

7 Dulcimer Makers of the Folk Revival Transition 113

8 Some Interesting Types 131

Appendixes

A Library of Congress Dulcimer Recordings 147

B Measurements of Instruments 155

C The Ache Scheitholt: A Closer Look 163

D Winners of the Dulcimer Contest, Old Time Fiddlers Convention, Galax, Virginia 167

E Newspaper Story on Nineveh Presnell and His Dulcimer 171

F Ordering Dulcimers from Old-Time Makers 173

Annotated Bibliography 175

Index 179

About the Author 183

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