The Pennsylvania State University
Cover for the book Dance to the Fiddle, March to the Fife

Dance to the Fiddle, March to the Fife

Instrumental Folk Tunes in Pennsylvania Samuel P. Bayard
  • Copyright: 1982
  • Dimensions: 7 x 10
  • Page Count: 656 pages
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-271-00299-6

The 651 tunes presented in this book represent an important segment of the musical heritage of North America and comprise what may well be the largest collection of Anglo-Celtic-American instrumental folk music. Tunes brought over by the first settlers from England, Germany, Scotland, and Ireland remained essentially unchanged—despite many variations—in the less accessible parts of Pennsylvania, thus preserving a musical tradition that stretches from colonial times to the recent past. The advent of electronic media and automotive transport brought an end to the isolation that sustained that tradition, and today its music is being diluted and homogenized through outside influences.

Professor Bayard began collecting tunes in southwestern Pennsylvania in 1928 by listening to local fiddlers and fifers and transcribing what they played into standard musical notation by ear. His later collecting was aided by the addition of a tape recorder in 1948. The tunes he collected, along with those furnished by his associates in this project, were then sorted and organized into the present collection of 651 (some with as many as twenty-five versions) and annotated with the aid of leading authorities and published sources.

The book starts with an introduction describing the general character of the tunes, the playing techniques of the fiddlers and fifers, and the circumstances in which the tunes were played. A note on the treatment of the music explains how tunes were used for different purposes (various dance and march steps, for example) through rhythmic modifications, and also details how fingering in traditional fiddling is related to key and pitch. The 651 tunes, arranged roughly by function (i.e., by the type of dance with which they are most often associated) are each labeled to show whether they were played on the fiddle, the fife, or both, and each tune version is identified by when, from whom, and by whom it was collected. An appendix connects the Pennsylvania tunes to other ones by giving transcriptions of forty-four related tunes from Missouri, Indiana, Massachusetts, Prince Edward Island, and County Cork, Ireland. Biographical sketches of the performers, a list of sources and an index of tune titles conclude the book.

The authentic tunes of the Bayard collection will be invaluable both to the folklorists and to composers, performers, or students of music who seek understanding of the American idiom. Notes following each of the transcriptions link the tunes to others of Anglo-Celtic provenance, as well as to continental European airs.

Samuel Preston Bayard began collecting folk tunes as a youth in Greene County, PA, and continued the practice during his undergraduate years at Penn State and his graduate years at Harvard. He became established as a leading folklorist during his Penn State faculty years and is still collecting and training collectors as professor emeritus of English and comparative literature. Speaking in reference to Professor Bayard's earlier volume, Hill Country Tunes, Kenneth Goldstein, head of the University of Pennsylvania's Folklore and Folklife department, has said, "Nothing that Sam Bayard has written has ever been refuted."

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