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Folklore and Ethnography Archives

Special Collections

Roger D. Abrahams Caribbean Recorded Sound and Manuscript Collection

Along with Tristram Coffin, Horace Beck, and Kenneth S. Goldstein, Roger D. Abrahams (1930-) was one of MacEdward Leach’s first graduate students in folklore. His dissertation on African American toasts and other verbal performance genres in south Philadelphia was published as Deep Down in the Jungle, one of the first serious studies of African American verbal arts. On the advice of anthropologist Melville Herskovitz, Abrahams turned to the West Indies in order to deepen his understanding of African-based styles of communication. In 1965, Abrahams began collecting in the Caribbean islands of Nevis, St. Vincent’s and Tobago, participating in some recording sessions with Alan Lomax. Writing about this work at the University of Texas in Austin, Abrahams worked together with Richard Bauman and Joel Sherzer, both students of Dell Hymes (who was at the University of Pennsylvania), to reframe the study of folklore in terms of the ethnography of communication. This Penn-Texas collaboration, as it has come to be called, incubated the performance paradigm for folklore studies. Abrahams’ publications on West Indian Tea Meetings, Christmas sports, and the shantying tradition galvanized the study of creolization in the West Indies as a cultural process arising out of historical conditions of slavery and oppression.  Black and white still photographs and color slides, along with scripts, locally-published broadsides, logs and transcriptions complement the recordings.

Roger D. Abrahams Recorded Sound on Reel (pdf)
Roger D. Abrahams Manuscripts (pdf)

Samuel P. Bayard Tape Collection of Folksong and Ballads

During the 1930s and part of the 1940s, Sam Bayard collected folksongs, tunes and ballads in Pennsylvania and Wise County, West Virginia. Although he did not always use a tape recorder, he made excellent field transcriptions of both words and music.

In 1964, Bayard recorded his own voice and instrumental music on 39 reel-to-reel tapes, including a lecture on fifing. It is Sam Bayar'd own performance of his collection held in the Archive. This collection includes Child Ballads, Broadside Ballads, and Native American Ballads, as well as an extensive collection of religious folksong. Informants include Sam Bayard's mother, herself an accomplished traditional ballad performer. Notes provided with the collection indicate that Bayard offers some commentary before many of the numbers on the tapes. To date, however, accessioning has been on a superficial level, providing access to the numbers by local and conventional title. Informants are listed under source, to distinguish them from taped performers.

Samuel P. Bayard Tape Collection (pdf)

Jane and Horace Beck West Indies Recordings Collection

Folklorists Horace and Jane Beck both received doctorates from the University of Pennsylvania. Horace, who had done fieldwork with MacEdward Leach in Jamaica and elsewhere, taught at Middlebury College from 1956-1983. He died in 2003. Jane served as the Vermont Folklorist for the Vermont Council on the Arts from 1978-1984. In 1984 she founded the Vermont Folklife Center and served as executive director until she retired in July, 2007. The West Indian fieldwork undertaken by Horace and Jane Beck was carried out between 1970 and 1976 in the Windward Islands of the Lesser Antilles. In 1970 Horace was focusing on completing his research. for Folklore and the Sea which he published in 1973 for the Marine Historical Association, completing an expanded  edition in 1996. Jane was working on a Wenner Gren Foundation grant to study the supernatural lore in the islands. During that first year Horace became interested in the shore-based whaling complex on Bequia, an island in the Grenadines. He was the first outsider ever taken in the whale boats and continued whaling with the Bequians over the next several years.  His tribute to the harpooner, Athneal Ollivierre at his death references some of his research there. This is found in “A Tribute to Athneal Ollivierre,” Caribbean Compass, August, 2000. A number of articles came out of Jane’s work: The West Indian Supernatural World: Belief Integration in a Pluralistic Society,” Journal of American Folklore vol 88, no. 349:235-244, “Dream Messages from the Dead.” The Journal of the Folklore Institute, 1975, “The Implied Obeah Man” Western Folklore, vol. 35, no. 1:23-33, and “Hilda, Woman of Dreams,” By Land and By Sea, Hatboro, PA, 1985 and a book on a St. Lucian fisherman who she and Horace first interviewed in 1970, To Windward of the Land: The Occult World of Alexander Charles, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1979.  The Vermont Folklife Center houses the original recordings. It will share half the cost for digitizing the thirty hours, and will place them online once permissions have been secured from those recorded or their next of kin.

Beck Caribbean Recordings (pdf)

Ray L. Birdwhistell Collected Articles, Manuscripts, Correspondence, Books, Journals, and Moving Images

Ray L. Birdwhistell (1918-1994) was Professor of Communications in the Annenberg School of Communications. His pioneering studies in kinesics informed the rise of the field of non-verbal communications. During his affiliation with Eastern Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute, Birdwhistell worked with Gregory Bateson, Adam Kendon, Albert Shefflin and others  to develop an interactive approach to the study of mental illness. Some of the original correspondence and writing from the famous “Natural History of An Interview” are included in the manuscript collection. Films that Birdwhistell deposited with the Folklore Archive include footage that has been germinal in the study of gesture: research footage by Adam Kendon and Shirley Wertz on greetings and tie-behavior, Birdwhistell’s famous lectures on kinesics, and the “pub film,” (TDR-009)  which grew out of his productive collaboration with film maker Jacques D. van Vlack. Birdwhistell’s contextual approach to the study of non-verbal forms of expression as culturally patterned communication, has deeply influenced several generation of folklore students at Penn during the 1970s and 80s.

Ray L. Birdwhistell Moving Images Collection (pdf)

Jacob Elder Recorded Sound and Manuscript Collection (West Indies)

Jacob Elder received his Ph.D. in the Department of Folklore and Folklife at the University of Pennsylvania. He returned to Trinidad and Tobago to become Minister of Culture and Education. The recently accessioned tapes of his collection feature, among other performers, Lord Melody and the mighty...mighty...MIGHTY...SPARROW!

Lord Melody, who calls himself the "Creature from the Black Lagoon," laments his ugly face, singing "I take plastic surgery." Political songs comment on the times: "The situation in Trinidad," and "General Election," to name but two. The collection includes a Picong--exchange of improvised sung insults--recorded live between Lord Melody and Mighty Sparrow. Sparrow sings of how he "Fell in love in January, got married in February," and received a letter from his wife a short time later saying the baby "looks like Uncle Joe." His answer, he sighs, is to give the baby to Uncle Joe. The Mighty Sparrow is still singing, and he has appeared recently in New York and Philadelphia: "They used to say AHA! The old man gone. But they realize they make a big mistake. I was only giving them young fellows a break Nineteen eighty-five, Long as I'm alive! Mussic night and day."

Other performers in this collection include The Caribbean Folksingers, Atilla the Hun, The B. Chinwai Folksingers, Lord Kitchener, Mighty Destroyer, Lord Executioner, King Pharaoh, Might Tiger, and Randolph Phipps and his Spanish Orchestra. The tapes are primarily calypso songs and music, but also include religious ceremonies, children's songs and games, and African ceremonial and slave songs.

Jacob Elder Carribean Sound Recordings (pdf)
Jacob Elder Manuscripts

Kenneth S. Goldstein Recorded Sound and Manuscript Collection

This is one of our more extensive holdings, and to date only the collections made in the years 1978-1980 have been made fully accessible through cross-indexing. Songs, ballads, and tunes (played on pennywhistle, accordion, and tinwhistle) make up the bulk of this collection. Also included are recitations, jokes, anecdotes, recollections of local history, and the occupational lore of sailors and fishermen. Many of the works are native to Newfoundland, and the songs of Frank MacArthur are of particular interest. MacArthur may be the last native Scots-Gaelic speaker in Newfoundland. Students interested in John Szwed's article on Paul E. Hall, in Folksongs And Their Makers, should note that "The Bacelor's Lament" discussed there is recorded on tape T-80-00002-114. Jerome Downey sings this and other songs by Paul E. Hall, as well as songs by other local composers.

Other works in this collection originate in England, Scotland, Ireland, and the United States. A small portion of the collection is devoted to French-Newfoundland folklore: songs, riddles and folktales in French and English.

Kenneth S. Goldstein Cassettes (pdf)
Kenneth S. Goldstein Reel-to-Reels
Duplicates of the Rinzler tapes
Mack Masters tapes

MacEdward Leach Recorded Sound and Manuscript Collection

In 1967, MacEdward Leach founded and served as first Chairman of the Department of Folklore at the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to 1967, Folklore was a subspecialty in the English Department, where Leach was a professor of Medieval literature. Leach's charismatic personality drew students to his classes: Roger Abrahams and Kenneth Goldstein were two of his proteges during this pivotal period. As early as 1949, however, Leach collected folksongs, ballads, and instrumental folk music. The Archive holds several thousand songs he collected in Newfoundland, Jamaica, and the Southern Mountains of the United States. These materials were transcribed and annotated on master cards by graduate students, and are contextualized in the correspondence and collectanea in the Leach manuscripts (199 folders). The Leach recorded sound collection consists of:
  • The Leach Jamaica Recordings, made in 1956-57, which include songs, tales, fables, riddles, chants, and religious lore. As was often the case in early collecting, contextual information about sources is inconsistent and often missing.Transcriptions of this material are included in the manuscript collection, which we are digitizing here.
  • The Leach Southern Mountain Collection, including seven reels of tape, of which the first was recorded in Deer County, Kentucky in 1965. The second was recorded in Wise County, Virginia, with an elderly woman who provided Emory Hamilton with a number of texts in 1939-41, for the WPA folklore collecting that Hamilton did.  The manuscripts include copies of all the Emory Hamilton texts, which are also deposited at the Alder Library, University of Virginia, and several unique manuscripts, including James Taylor Adams “Folklore of Southwest Virginia,” which was never published. Adams also collected folklore in southwestern Virginia for the WPA.Other reels include one made in Deer County Kentucky, and a number that are not documented.
  • Ethnic recordings on reel made in Pennsylvania.Leach, together with Henry Glassie, co-authored “A Guide for Collectors of Oral Traditions and folk Cultural Material in Pennsylvania,” published (posthumously, for Leach) in 1973 by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
  • Duplicates of the Leach Newfoundland Collection, which is stored at the Folklore Archive at Memorial University, St. John’s Newfoundland and has been digitized there. This collection includes 294 items recorded in 1949, and 323 items recorded in 1951. Leach recorded a number of informants in a variety of locations around Newfoundland, and many titles appear several times, evidence attesting to their continuing popularity among the people of Newfoundland. Some items collected a number of times include "Pretty Polly," "(St.) Patrick's Day," and the instrumental "Squid Jigging Ground." At present, entrance into the collection is limited to just a few categories, including local name.

MacEdward Leach Jamaica Recordings (pdf)
MacEdward Leach Southern Mountain Recordings (pdf)
MacEdward Leach Newfoundland Collection (pdf)
Emory Hamilton WPA Manuscripts of Texts of Songs and Stories from Southwestern Virginia 1939-1941 (pdf)
MacEdward Leach Manuscripts (pdf)

Karl Signell Music in a New World Radio Broadcast Recordings

From 1980 to 1984, ethnomusicologist Karl Signell began recorded ethnic music throughout the United States for public radio.  With support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the L.J. and Mary Skaggs Foundation, National Public Radio Performance Programs, and the Satellite Program Development Fund, Signell produced 26 half-hour programs exploring the history of 26 immigrant communities in the United States through their musical performance traditions. Recordings feature an African Senegal Griot, Basque shepherds in Elko Nevada, Persian Sufi music in New York, Fado music from the Portuguese community in East Providence, Rhode Island; Chinese bamboo mouth organ music in San Francisco, a Haitian voudon ceremony in New York, Iraqi lute and drum performance in Costa Mesa, California, Equadorian panpipes in Washington DC; and much more.  Signell, the copyright holder, has given his permission to digitize and place the recordings online.

Philadelphia Festival of the British Isles

Mick Moloney, a native of Limerick, Ireland who was prominent in the Irish folk music revival, was persuaded in the 1970s by Kenneth Goldstein to pursue his doctorate in folklore at Penn.  He became involved with the  lively community of Irish musicians in Philadelphia, and the study of the evolution of Irish-American music in communities throughout the United States became his dissertation topic. Moloney, who was a moving force in Irish American cultural scene, spent several years directing the Folklife Center at  International House in the early 1980s, during which time he produced a festival of British Folk Music.  A complete set of recordings of performances and workshops during the festival in 1981 is part of the archive, and features performers such as Lou Killen, Maggie Pierce, John Roberts and Tony Barrand, Eugene O’Donnell, etc.

Philadelphia British Festival Sound Recordings on Reel (pdf)  

Colloquium Recordings

Select talks given around the University and as part of the Folklore and Folklife Colloquium Series have been recorded, filed and are available for listening in the archive. The collection of cassettes covers a wide range of topics. Recordings from Annenberg include a talk given by Umberto Eco in 1978 entitled "Signification and Communication in a Semiotic Framework" and words from Pierre Bourdieu from 1986.

Recordings of the Folklore and Folklife Colloquium Series include Ruth Finnegan's 1981 talk entitled Orality and Variability, Isidore Okpewho's 1983 colloquium Oral Performance in Africa and words from Albert Lord. Also available is William Labov speaking on premonitions (1985), James Deetz from 1983, Sidney Mintz's talk entitled Sweetness through History (1986), Lauri Honko from 1981, and John Roberts' 1982 talk labeled Folklore and the Black Folklorist.

The recordings are catalogued in a small box labeled Penn Colloquia and are listed alphabetically by speaker. If you are interested don't hesitate to ask the 'archivist on duty' for assistance.

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