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‘Fiddlers’ Tunebooks’ - Vernacular Instrumental Manuscript Sources 1860-c1880: Paradigmatic of Folk Music Tradition?

Dellow, Rebecca (2018) ‘Fiddlers’ Tunebooks’ - Vernacular Instrumental Manuscript Sources 1860-c1880: Paradigmatic of Folk Music Tradition? PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

Available under License Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales.

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Fiddlers’ Tunebooks are handwritten manuscript books preserving remnants of a largely amateur, monophonic, instrumental practice. These sources are vastly under-explored academically, reflecting a wider omission in scholarship of instrumental music participated in by ‘ordinary’ people in nineteenth-century England. The tunebooks generate interest amongst current folk music enthusiasts, and as such can be subject to a “burden of expectation”, in the belief that they represent folk music tradition. Yet both the concepts of tradition and folk music are problematic. By considering folk music from both an inherited perspective and a modern scholarly interpretation, this thesis examines the place of the tunebooks in notions of English folk music tradition. A historical musicological methodology is applied to three post-1850 case-study manuscripts drawing specifically on source studies, archival research and quantitative analysis. The study explores compilers’ demographic traits and examines content, establishing the existence of a heterogeneous repertoire copied from contemporary textual sources directly into the tunebooks. This raises important questions regarding the role played by publishers and the concept of continuous survival in notions of tradition. A significant finding reveals the interaction between aural and literate practices, having important implications in the inward and outward transmission and in wider historical application. The function of both the manuscripts and the musical practice is explored and the compilers’ acquisition of skill and sources is examined. This results in the ‘re-discovery’ of Musical Circulating Libraries, and identifies a binary route to skill acquisition, largely defined by environment. Acknowledging the contention surrounding terms such as folk, popular and tradition, and the subtle interaction of aurality and literacy, this study concludes that the manuscripts contribute to wider historical discourse and do have a place in notions of folk music tradition, moreover that their textual nature provides a unique perspective from which to observe the process.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > Music (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.759841
Depositing User: Dr Rebecca Dellow
Date Deposited: 21 Nov 2018 09:30
Last Modified: 25 Sep 2019 20:05
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/22115

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