Friends Newsletter Fall 2005
vol. 3 no. 2
Director's Column | Documentary
Discs | Wisconsin
Folksong Digital Collection | NHPRC
Regional Survey |
Narratives | Ja,
de elsker |
Online Collection Showcases Wisconsin Folksongs
From the Thirties and Forties
Mrs. Ollie Jacobs 1941,
photo taken by Helene Stratman-Thomas
and courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society. Image
A new digital collection of Wisconsin folksongs
provides a rare glimpse into the state’s cultural evolution.
Wisconsin Folksong Collection, 1937-1946 features sound recordings,
field notes, and photographs from two collectors who recorded
more than 900 songs and tunes representing more than thirty ethnic
or geographical sources. The collection’s URL is http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/WiscFolkSong.
The recordings were gathered at a time when
the state was not yet a century old. “There were many still-active
singers and musicians whose traditions were rooted in Woodland
Indian ways of life, in European village celebration, in lumber
camp entertainments, and in the festivities of preindustrialized
and small-town existence. At the same time, private and public
schooling in music, printed song books, phonograph records, radios,
and ‘opera houses’ hosting traveling professionals
were engendering vernacular syntheses of folk and popular musical
cultures” (Leary, Wisconsin Folklore, 19).
The digital collection contains documentation
made by UW-Madison faculty member Helene
Stratman-Thomas as part of the Wisconsin Folk Music Recording
Project, co-sponsored by the University of Wisconsin and the Library
of Congress during the summers of 1940, 1941, and 1946; and by
Sidney Robertson Cowell during the summer of 1937 for the
Special Skills Division of the Resettlement Administration. There
are also transcribed melodies, lyrics, performance photographs,
and critical commentary listing concordant sources for some tunes
and excerpts of the collectors’ field notes.
Listeners will hear everything from strikingly
beautiful hymns sung the members of the Oneida Methodist and Episcopal
Churches to tunes played by a Psalmodikon quartet (Psalmodikons
are one-stringed instruments originally intended to be used alone
to lead the singing in Norway schools). While vocal music predominates,
instruments such as the accordion, guitar, Hardanger fiddle, and
tamburica can also be heard.
The Center for
the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures (CSUMC) provided production
help with the project, a joint effort by the University
of Wisconsin Digital Collections Center (UWDCC) and Mills
Music Library at University of Wisconsin–Madison. CSUMC
was also involved in producing an educational websites that provides
detailed information about the collectors, performers, and recording
trips. The site highlighting the 1937 trips can be found at http://csumc.wisc.edu/src
and the site for the 1940s trips is at http://music.library.wisc.edu/hst.
Nicole Saylor is Folklorist and Archivist at the Center for the
Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures.