Hutchins Library
Special Collections & Archives
Guide to the John F. Smith Traditional Music Collection, 1915-1940
 


photo of John F. SmithAccession Number: 5
John F. Smith Traditional Music Collection, 1915-1940
1.6 linear ft, 4 mss boxes
Online Catalog Record (BANC)

Overview & Series Description
Related College Archives
History
Series I - Ballad and Song Texts
Series II - Tune Transcription Notebooks
Series III - Fiddle and Banjo Tunes, Musical Events, Instruments, and Games

Overview of the Collection

This collection consists of traditional music collected in the early 1900s by John F. Smith from Berea College Normal School students enrolled in his English course entitled, “Composition and Rhetoric.”

Related College Archives:

Related References

Stephen B. Green. “The Berea Tune Lists : An Archival Resource for the Study of Social Music in Eastern Kentucky and East Tennessee in 1915.”Tennessee Folklore Society Bulletin 57(1995):39-67.

History

Unlike many other music scholars of his time, Smith didn’t limit his search to British Isles ballad survivals. The results are a large, varied body of material that includes ballads, songs, fiddle and banjo tunes, and games. Several students also included lists of musical instruments present in their home communities and descriptions of musical events they had taken part in, such as house dances and singing schools.

The students came from an area that has been described as being a mixed geographic region on the western edge of Appalachia. The area includes the counties of Garrard, Lincoln, Casey, Pulaski, Madison, Estill, Wolfe, Owsley, Breathitt, Magoffin, Floyd, Clay Leslie, and Knox in Kentucky and Sevier and Marshall in Tennessee. Taken as a whole, the lists offer valuable insights concerning the kind of songs being sung and the repertory of traditional musicians in this region prior to the changes in musical tastes brought about by radio and phonograph records beginning in the 1920s.

The collection was given to Berea College by Ms. John F. Smith after the death of her husband in 1940. There are no restrictions on the collection other than federal copyright regulations.

Series Description and Box Lists
4 Manuscript Boxes

Series I Ballad and Song Texts Boxes 1 and 2

This series consists of over 320 handwritten and typed texts, arranged alphabetically by title.

Series II Tune Transcription Notebooks Box 3

This series consists of over 360 tune transcriptions and a few texts, recorded mostly in notebooks and listed in their order of appearance.

Series III Fiddle and Banjo Tunes, Musical Events, Instruments, and Games Box 4

This series consists of lists of banjo and fiddle tunes, and instruments used in home communities. There are also lists of games played and descriptions of musical events such as house dances and singing schools.

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