The Ballad Collectors of North America: How Gathering Folksongs Transformed Academic Thought and American Identity by Scott B. Spencer
Much has been written about the songs gathered in North America in the first half of the 20th century. However, there is scant information on those individuals responsible for gathering these songs. The Ballad Collectors of North America: How Gathering Folksongs Transformed Academic Thought and American Identity fills this gap, documenting the efforts of those who transcribed and recorded North American folk songs.
Both biographical and topical, this book chronicles not only the most influential of these “song catchers” but also examines the main schools of thought on the collection process, the leading proponents of those schools, and the projects that they shaped. Contributors also consider the role of technology—especially the phonograph—in the collection efforts.
Chapters organized by region cover such areas as Appalachia, the West, and Canada, while others devoted to specialized topics from the cowboy tune and occupational song to the commercialization of folk music through song collections and anthologies. Ballad Collectors investigates the larger role of the ballad in the development of American identity, from the national appreciation of cowboy songs in popular culture to the use of Appalachian song forms in radio broadcasts to the role of dustbowl ballads in the urban folk revival of the 1950s and 1960s. Finally, this collection assesses the changing role of songs and song texts in the academic fields of folklore, anthropology, musicology, and ethnomusicology.
Scholars and students of American cultural and social history, as well as fans of North American folk and popular music, will find The Ballad Collectors of North America a fascinating story of how the American folk tradition gained greater visibility, fueling the revolutions that would follow in the writing and performance of American music.
Scott Spencer has published widely on the intersections of oral cultures, new technologies, and expression of cultural identity. He received a doctorate in ethnomusicology from New York University for his project on aspects of traditional Irish music in today's media age.