: Internet Resources
: traditional song
Internet Resources: traditional song
An increasing number of books, journals and other publications relating to the folk arts are becoming available online, either in facsimile, as plain text, or coded as html pages. The major contributors are the well-funded American institutions, and these are the resources which are likely to stay put; but a significant amount of material is also provided by British universities and smaller, independent sites such as this one.
There are also a large number of websites which include collections of songs. These range from organised archive collections of field recordings, broadsides and sheet music to more fluid sites containing material copied from published or recorded sources, and reproduced in various formats, including sheet music, recordings and texts: in some cases with tunes provided in abc or midi formats. Some of these are of a high standard, while others are full of unattributed material, misinformation and errors, and should be used with caution, or avoided altogether.
Our emphasis in this section is on material relating to traditional song, but the boundaries between this and older commercial popular music are vague to say the least, so resources dealing with popular song of the 19th century and earlier are also included. Although our main emphasis is on English language material, we also include resources relating to traditions in other languages; at least where we understand sufficient of the language to be able to tell what they are. There is plenty of material still to be added; this will appear as time permits.
Note: opinions expressed in these entries are those of the compiler, and are subjective. They do not represent opinions or policy of the SRFN. While potential problems with some sites are pointed out, this is intended as a service to the reader rather than as gratuitous criticism. The effort and expense involved in making these resources available is not to be underestimated.
Song collections: websites
A number of important song collections are indexed on the web but do not at present make materials available online. For these, see Song: indexes and finding aids.
America Singing: Nineteenth-Century Song Sheets
The Rare Book and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress holds 4291 song sheets or broadsides. Much of the material is American, but the British and Irish broadside presses are also represented. The collection spans the period from the turn of the nineteenth century to the 1880s, the bulk being from the 1850s to the 1870s. The catalogue can be searched or browsed, and both images of the sheets and html transcriptions of the texts are available.
Link: America Singing
American Memory at the Library of Congress: http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/
Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads
The Bodleian Library of the University of Oxford has unparalleled holdings of over 30,000 ballads in several major collections. The original printed materials range from the 16th- to the 20th-Century. The Broadside Ballads project makes the digitised copies of the sheets and ballads available to the research community. The entire catalogue can be browsed or searched by a number of criteria. This is an invaluable resource both for the study of pre-20th century popular song and of the roots of what we call "folk" song, much of which had its origins in the theatre and the broadside press, and was transmitted through print far more than has often been thought. A full text recognition pilot scheme has recently been run, and in the future it may be possible to search the texts as well as their catalogue descriptions.
Link: Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads
The Bodleian Library: http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/
British Library Sound Archive: Ethnographic Wax Cylinders
Over 200 rare wax cylinder recordings from the World and Traditional Music collections of the British Library Sound Archive. The selection features music, songs and speech from around the world, captured on the first portable recording machines between 1898 and 1915. Of particular interest are the sound transcriptions of cylinders belonging to the English Folk Dance and Song Society, which include recordings of Scottish Gaelic song, a few in Welsh, and English songs recorded by Cecil Sharp, George Gardiner, Ralph Vaughan Williams and others. Streaming audio with brief contextual notes.
Link: British Library Sound Archive: Ethnographic Wax Cylinders
British Library Archival Sound Recordings: http://sounds.bl.uk/
A Library of Congress "American Memory" collection. The WPA California Folk Music Project is a multi-format ethnographic field collection that includes sound recordings, still photographs, drawings, and written documents from a variety of European ethnic and English- and Spanish-speaking communities in Northern California. 35 hours of folk music recorded in twelve languages representing numerous ethnic groups and 185 musicians. The collection, organized and directed by folk music collector Sidney Robertson Cowell, was a "New Deal" initiative which ran from 1938 to 1940. The online archive is searchable by various criteria, and recordings are available in mp3, RealAudio and wav formats.
Link: California Gold
American Memory: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/
The Digital Tradition / Mudcat Café
The largest online collection of folk, blues and related song lyrics. The Digital Tradition currently includes some 9,000 sets of song lyrics, an increasing number with tunes in midi format. On the same site is a discussion forum where questions can be asked and answered; this is fully archived, and contains even more material (including a lot of supplementary information and corrections which have not yet been incorporated into the main database). Both are fully searchable. A wide-ranging and valuable resource if used with caution: material is contributed and processed by volunteers; some is accurate and well documented, while some is very far from that. Not always easy to separate the wheat from the chaff, but regular visits and extensive browsing are definitely worthwhile.
Link: Digital Tradition/Mudcat Café Forum
The Mudcat Café: http://www.mudcat.org/
Folk Music of England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and America
An extensive collection of popular and traditional songs from printed sources. Attractively presented and browsable by various criteria, with a full search function. Printed sources are indicated, though without page references; source singers are not identified. Précied notes and links to related information accompany each song. Tunes are provided in midi format; these are arrangements, not simple melody lines. They are also embedded in each page, and will usually play automatically unless "pop-ups" are blocked.
The site also includes transcriptions from Child and a feature on the harper Carolan, plus Barry Taylor's Taylor's Traditional Tunebook, a collection of midi arrangements of tunes from unspecified sources.
Link: Folk Music of England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and America
Contemplations from the Marianas Trench: http://www.contemplator.com/
The Farne Archive
Folk Archive Resource North East has enviable backing from the New Opportunities Fund and, in partnership with the Sage Gateshead, Gateshead Council, the University of Newcastle upon Tyne and other regional organisations, has digitised a wide range of materials ranging from important MS tunebooks and printed song, tune and dialect collections to sound recordings of traditional musicians from the 1940s to the 1970s. The materials relate primarily to the North Eastern tradition, but have wider applications and form an invaluable and freely available resource.
Contents are too extensive to list here, but the site has a range of search and browse functions. The material is presented with a strong emphasis on visual appeal (often at the expense of efficient use), and only ten search results are displayed per page; so using it is liable to prove time-consuming.
Link: The Farne Archive
The Farne Project: http://www.asaplive.com/farne/home.cfm
A relatively small but growing collection of traditional songs transcribed mostly from printed sources. The intention is to include accurate documentation with each song. Music is included in abc format, with onsite routines for conversion to midi and staff notation (png or pdf) and for transposing to other keys. There is an accompanying discussion forum.
Glasgow Broadside Ballads
A selection of 19th century broadside ballads from the Murray Collection (Glasgow University Library Special Collections), chosen mainly for local or generally Scottish connections, though English and Irish material is also included. With supporting material and audio recordings of a few of the songs featured (from other, unspecified, sources) in windows media format.
Link: Glasgow Broadside Ballads
The University of Glasgow: http://www.cc.gla.ac.uk/
The Robert Winslow Gordon Collection
An online re-issue of the LP Folk-Songs of America: The Robert Winslow Gordon Collection, 1922-1932, originally issued in 1978 and consisting of selections from Gordon's collection of cylinder recordings. Gordon was the first Director of the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress, and an important field collector. The original liner notes, text transcriptions and photographs are included, together with the recordings in mp3 format. There is also supporting material and a list of MS and recorded collections held in the archive and related to Gordon.
Link: Folk-Songs of America: The Robert Winslow Gordon Collection
American Folklife Center (Library of Congress): http://www.loc.gov/folklife/
Unpublished bawdy and scatological material from the Robert Winslow Gordon Collection at the American Folklife Center (Library of Congress). Includes "classic" ballads as well as songs from the armed forces and parodies. Unchecked OCR made from photocopied typescript: texts and source notes only. No tunes. Available as a zipped file, pdf, or html.
Link: The Robert W. Gordon "Inferno" Collection (html)
zipped file (html)
zipped PDF: 300 dpi (5.2 MB)
zipped PDF: 600 dpi (13.2 MB)
Bawdy Songbooks: http://www.immortalia.com/html/books-OCRed/
Historic American Sheet Music
The Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library at Duke University holds a significant collection of 19th and early 20th century American sheet music. The project provides access to digital images of 3042 pieces from the collection, published in the United States between 1850 and 1920. The catalogue can be searched or browsed.
Link: Historic American Sheet Music
A joint project of
Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, Duke University: http://scriptorium.lib.duke.edu/
American Memory at the Library of Congress: http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/
The Max Hunter Folk Song Collection
An important archive of almost 1600 Ozark Mountain folk songs, recorded between 1956 and 1976 by Hunter, a travelling salesman from Springfield, Missouri. The songs are indexed by title, singer and catalogue number and, where appropriate, by Child number. Texts and staff notation are provided, with, in most cases, both midi transcriptions and copies of the original sound recordings in RealAudio and aiff formats.
Link: The Max Hunter Folk Song Collection
A joint project of
Southwest Missouri State University Department of Music: http://www.missouristate.edu/music/ and
The Springfield-Greene County Library: http://thelibrary.springfield.missouri.org/
MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada
Songs recorded by MacEdward Leach in 1949, 1950, and 1951 during three trips to Atlantic Canada; with introductory essay and extensive supporting materials including photographs and biographical details of some of the singers.
The collection falls into two groups: Cape Breton Gaelic songs, including milling songs, psalm precenting, homeland songs, love songs and village verse, and war songs; and Songs of Newfoundland, including comic songs, ballads, cumulative or enumerative songs, and shanties; together with some instrumental dance tunes. The texts are transcribed as html, and most are accompanied by short sound recordings in mp3 format made from the original tapes. Recordings are also indexed separately.
Link: MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada
Canada's Digital Collections: http://collections.ic.gc.ca/
The Lester S Levy Collection of Sheet Music
The collection is part of Special Collections at the Milton S Eisenhower Library of The Johns Hopkins University. It contains over 29,000 pieces of music and focuses on popular American music spanning the period 1780 to 1960. Catalogue descriptions are fully indexed and searchable, and images of covers and music are also available for material published before 1923 and in the public domain. Although the focus is American, there is a lot of British material included. Particularly useful where parlour and stage songs have found their way into oral currency.
Link: The Lester S Levy Collection of Sheet Music
The Sheridan Libraries of the Johns Hopkins University: http://www.library.jhu.edu/
Songs collected by Donagh MacDonagh
MacDonagh was presenter of Radio Eireann's Ireland Singing programmes during the 1940s and '50s. This collection of song texts has been put online by his son Niall MacDonagh, together with an introduction and some notes from a projected print collection which never got off the ground. Source information is scant and tunes were not recorded, but nevertheless an interesting resource.
The Pepys Ballads
An online archive of the 1,857 ballads in the Samuel Pepys collection held at the Pepys Library, Magdalene College, Cambridge. Working from microfilm photographs of the originals, optimised images of each ballad have been prepared in several sizes, together with transcriptions into modern type which retain the text layout and woodcuts. There are also background essays and other supporting material, including modern mp3 recordings of some of the songs. The archive is catalogued using a system based on Helen Weinstein's indexes of the collection, and is searchable by various criteria.
Link: The Pepys Ballads
The Early Modern Center, Department of English, University of California, Santa Barbara: http://english.ucsb.edu/
Roots of Folk: Old English, Scots and Irish Songs and Tunes
Compiled by the late Bruce Olson. A densely organised and scholarly series of indexes of early broadside ballads, ballad operas and their tunes. Includes tunes in abc format for 16th and 17th century broadsides (largely drawn from Claude M Simpson's book The British Broadside Ballad and Its Music), systems for tune comparison, song texts and examinations of the early history of various pieces.
The site is archived at
Folklore Department of California State University: http://www.csufresno.edu/folklore/Olson/
Mudcat Café: http://www.mudcat.org/olson/viewpage.cfm
Nathan D Rose Collection
Songs collected in Ireland, Scotland and New Brunswick by Nathan D Rose during 1987 and on subsequent visits. Includes material from Lizzie Higgins, Stanley Robertson, Betsy Whyte, Micho Russell, Paddy Tunney and others. Text transcriptions of some songs are available, plus the occasional soundclip. It is to be hoped that more will be added in the future.
A Library of Congress "American Memory" collection. The John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip is a multiformat ethnographic field collection that includes nearly 700 sound recordings, as well as fieldnotes, dust jackets, and other manuscripts documenting a 6,502-mile trip through the southern United States between March and June 1939. Ballads, blues, children's songs, cowboy songs, fiddle tunes, field hollers, lullabies, play-party songs, religious dramas, spirituals, and work songs. The online archive is searchable by various criteria, and recordings are available in mp3, RealAudio and wav formats.
Link: Southern Mosaic
American Memory: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/
Streetprint: Revolution and Romanticism
A private collection of street literature held in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. It comprises a wide range of types, from street ballads through chapbooks and tracts to valentines, from Britain and mostly from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The arrangement is very attractive but cumbersome to navigate and will not display correctly in older browsers. Some images are too small to read.
Link: Streetprint: Revolution and Romanticism
The Canada Research Chair Humanities Computing Studio , University of Alberta: Streetprint: http://www.crcstudio.arts.ualberta.ca/streetprintorg/
Voices from the Dust Bowl
A Library of Congress "American Memory" collection. The Charles L Todd and Robert Sonkin Migrant Worker Collection is an online presentation of a
multi-format ethnographic field collection documenting the everyday life of residents of Farm Security Administration (FSA) migrant work camps in central California in 1940 and 1941. The collection consists of audio recordings, photographs, manuscript materials, publications, and ephemera generated during two separate documentation trips supported by the Archive of American Folk Song (now the Archive of Folk Culture, American Folklife Center). The online archive is searchable by various criteria, and recordings are available in mp3, RealAudio and wav formats.
Link: Voices from the Dust Bowl
American Memory: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/
Wisconsin Folksong Collection, 1937-1946
Wisconsin field recordings, notes, and photographs made by 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 recordings collected by Sidney Robertson Cowell during the summer of 1937 for the Special Skills Division of the Resettlement Administration.
Includes over 900 performances representing more than thirty ethnic or geographical sources; principally songs but including some instrumental music. Supporting material is provided, with staff notation in some cases (pdf). The sound files are in Real Audio format. There are various browse and search functions.
Link: Wisconsin Folksong Collection
University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries: http://www.library.wisc.edu/
The John Quincy Wolf Folklore Collection
Documents, audio recordings (mp3 format), and other materials from the John Quincy Wolf Folklore Collection.
Link: John Quincy Wolf Folklore Collection
Ozark Folksongs: Wolf recorded hundreds of Ozark folksingers between 1952 and 1963, including Almeda Riddle, Neal Morris, Oscar and Ollie Gilbert, and Jimmy Driftwood. Many of these are available online as text transcriptions and audio files.
Lyon College, Arkansas: http://www.lyon.edu/
Sacred Harp: Wolf recorded over sixty Sacred Harp singings in northern Mississippi and Alabama in the 1960s. At present only one is available online, but more will be added during Spring 2004.
Memphis Blues: At present features a few recordings of Bukka White.
The Word on the Street
The National Library of Scotland's online collection of nearly 1,800 broadsides, including many songsheets. Searchable by keyword or phrase, and browseable by title or subject. Images of the broadsides are available in jpg (two sizes) or pdf formats, with commentary and text transcriptions (html). Plus supporting material, illustration and an introductory bibliography. An attractively presented site which does not, like some, sacrifice ease of use for the sake of surface gloss.
Link: The Word on the Street
National Library of Scotland: http://www.nls.uk/
The Yorkshire Garland Group
Website devoted to the Yorkshire song tradition. Currently has some 80 songs and variants, each with audio (mp3), staff notation (pdf and abc) and high quality background notes. Recordings are from traditional singers where available. A further phase, currently in preparation, will feature songs on Yorkshire subjects produced by the folk song revival.
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Built for South Riding Folk Network by Malcolm Douglas.