John F. Smith Traditional Music Collection, 1915-1940
1.6 linear ft, 4 mss boxes
Overview & Series Description
Related College Archives
Series I - Ballad and Song Texts
Series II - Tune Transcription Notebooks
Series III - Fiddle and Banjo Tunes, Musical Events, Instruments,
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:
Stephen B. Green. “The Berea Tune Lists : An Archival Resource
for the Study of Social Music in Eastern Kentucky and East Tennessee
Folklore Society Bulletin 57(1995):39-67.
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
||Ballad and Song Texts
||Boxes 1 and 2
This series consists of over 320 handwritten and typed texts, arranged alphabetically
This series consists of over 360 tune transcriptions and a few texts, recorded
mostly in notebooks and listed in their order of appearance.
||Fiddle and Banjo Tunes, Musical Events, Instruments, and
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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