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Selected and Annotated Bibliography On the Appalachian Dulcimer and Related Appalachian History
Ralph Lee Smith

This bibliography is adapted from the bibliography that appears in Mr. Smith's book, Appalachian Dulcimer Traditions (Scarecrow Press, 1997). It lists and describes publications that have been especially helpful to him in understanding the world of Appalachia and the history of the dulcimer.

Blue Ridge Folk Instruments and Their Makers: An Exhibit Organized by the Blue Ridge Institute of Ferrum College, Ferrum, Virginia. 1992. Excellent photographs and text. Contact Blue Ridge Institute, Ferrum College, Ferrum, Virginia 24088, for information on availability and price.

Boone, Hubert. De hommel in de Lage Landen (The Hommel in the Low Countries). Brussels Museum of Musical Instruments Bulletin, Vol. V, 1975. This unique publication contains scores of photographs of old European fretted zithers and their players and even includes pictures of American maker Jethro Amburgey and traditional Tennessee player Lucy Steele. Incredibly, this item was in print in 1997 and probably still is. Contact Frits Knuf Publishers, P.O. Box 720, 4116 ZJ Buren, The Netherlands, ask for their catalog of Musicology, and check under the listing for the Brussels Museum of Musical Instruments Bulletin.

England, Rhonda George. Voices From the History of Teaching: Katherine Pettit, May Stone and Elizabeth Watts at Hindman Settlement School 1899-1956. Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Kentucky, 1990. In my opinion, this thesis leaves something to be desired as a well-argued scholarly work, but it contains lots of fascinating information, including copious selections from the diary of Katherine Pettit and the correspondence of Elizabeth Watts.

Hicks, John Henry, Mattie and Barnabas B. The Hicks Families of Western North Carolina (Watauga River Lines). Boone, North Carolina, 1991. John Henry Hicks spent twenty five years compiling this 463-page work, and published it himself. He died in 1997.

Irwin, John Rice. Musical Instruments of the Southern Appalachian Mountains.
Norris, Tennessee: Museum of Appalachia Press, 1979. This charming item is subtitled, "A history of the author's collection housed in the Museum of Apppalachia." The book describes and illustrates a number of old dulcimers and pays as much attention to the owners and players as it does to the instruments. John Rice Irwin, proprietor of this privately owned museum, has been collecting mountain artifacts since the 1960s. In 1989, he received a MacArthur Foundation "genius award," and he and his museum were featured in an article entitled, "Bark Grinders and Fly Minders Tell a Tale of Appalachia," by Jeannie Ralston, in the February 1996 issue of Smithsonian Magazine.

Isbell, Robert, The Last Chivaree: The Hicks Family of Beech Mountain.
University of North Carolina Press, 1996. The great merit of this book is the fully rounded portrait that it provides of mountain life in the years before and shortly after World War II, including its ever-present hardship.

Kincaid, Robert L. The Wilderness Road. Bobbs Merrill 1947, reprinted by several other publishers and currently in print. This is the basic work. It doesn't supplant Pusey's book, listed below; nothing could.

Long, Lucy. The Negotiation of Tradition: Collectors, Community, and the Appalachian Dulcimer in Beech Mountain, North Carolina. Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Pennsylvania, 1995. Discussed in the text. Fascinating! As for "negotiation" versus "cultural imposition," my preference is for Lucy's approach. The matter is discussed in Appalachian Dulcimer Traditions, chapter 5.

Matteson, Maurice. Beech Mountain Folk-Songs and Ballads. Collected, arranged, and provided with piano accompaniments by Maurice Matteson. Texts edited and foreword written by Mellinger Edward Henry. Schirmer's American Folk-Song Series, Set 15. G. Schirmer, Inc. (1936). This important early work contains several transcriptions from the dulcimer playing of Nathan Hicks. The book is discussed in Appalachian Dulcimer Traditions, pp. 68-69.

Mullins, Mike, Geneva Smith, and Ron Daley. Coeditors, Knott County, Kentucky History and Families, 1884-1994. Paducah, Kentucky: Turner Publishing Company, 1995. Invaluable. A little over a thousand copies were printed, all but 100 of which were presold before publication. If you missed it, you missed something wonderful. See if you can borrow it from somewhere on interlibrary loan.

Pusey, William Allen, The Wilderness Road to Kentucky, Its Location and Features. George H. Doran Company, 1921. Pusey, a medical doctor, was the great-grandson of William Brown, who traveled the Wilderness Road in 1782 and kept a journal which has been preserved. In the years 1919 to 1921, Pusey determined the exact location of the Road, which was then not fully known, and published the information in this book with many photographs. The book is wonderful and rare. You will probably pay a good deal for it if you can locate a copy in the second hand trade, but you should do so with a glad heart. The frontispiece, showing the doctor's old touring car with the top down and a 1920 Virginia license, parked beside the unpaved road in the saddle of Cumberland Gap, is worth the price all by itself.

Raine, James Watt. The Land of Saddlebags: A Study of the Mountain People of Appalachia. Published jointly by Council of Women for Home Missions and Missionary Education Movement of the United States and Canada, 1924. Reprinted a number of times. Long out of print but not too hard to find in the second hand trade. Raine was head of the English Department at Berea College. The book, based on years of first hand observation, is beautifully written. It includes several songs and a photograph of a young man playing a Thomas dulcimer.

Ritchie, Jean. The Dulcimer Book. Original edition, Oak Publications, 1963, with many reprintings. The first book about the dulcimer, and still fresh and wonderful.

---. Dulcimer People. Oak Publishing Company, 1975. Additional information on Jean and on the dulcimer scene as it stood at the time of publication.

Scarborough, Dorothy. A Song Catcher in the Southern Mountains: American Folk Songs of British Ancestry. AMS Press, 1966. Original edition, Columbia University Press, 1937. Includes some transcriptions of dulcimer tunes played by a lady named Clara Callaghan of Saluda, North Carolina, about 1932. I have some doubts about this material; the tunes and text sound like standard printed British versions. The book is nevertheless charming.

Sharp, Cecil and Maud Karpeles. English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians. Oxford University Press, 1932, republished 1960. These two English folk-song collectors produced one of the greatest of all books about America. Incredibly, it has been out of print for a number of years as of this writing (1988). An article on the 1916-to-1918 collecting trips on which the book was based, entitled "A Man Who Mined Musical Gold in the Southern Hills," by Tony Scherman, appeared in the April 1985 issue of Smithsonian magazine.

---. 80 Appalachian Folk Songs, Collected by Cecil Sharp and Maud Karpeles. Faber & Faber, 1968, reprinted many times. A selection from English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians. The best you can do while the big book remains out of print.

Smith, L. Allen. A Catalog of Pre-Revival Appalachian Dulcimers. University of Missouri Press, 1983. Out of print and indispensable. The first scholarly work on the dulcimer and the seedbed of all subsequent work.

Smith, Ralph Lee. Appalachian Dulcimer Traditions. Scarecrow Press, 1997. This book examines three major design traditions of the dulcimer, each centered in its own geographical area, along with important makers in each of the three traditions--the Melton family of Galax, Virginia, Charles M. Prichard of Huntington, West Virginia, and "Uncle Ed" Thomas of Kentucky. A final chapter discusses four dulcimer makers of the folk revival transition--Homer Ledford of Winchester, Kentucky, Leonard and Clifford Glenn of Sugar Grove, North Carolina, and Edd Presnell of Banner Elk, North Carolina.

---. The Story of the Dulcimer. Crying Creek Publishers, 1986. A narrative account of the dulcimer's history from its origins on the Appalachian Frontier to the folk revival.

Warner, Anne. Traditional American Folk Songs from the Anne and Frank
Warner Collection.
Syracuse University Press, 1984. Wonderful personal recollections of the Hicks family of Western North Carolina, who the Warners visited in 1938, and careful transcriptions of many songs.

Whisnant, David E. All That is Native and Fine: The Politics of Culture in an American Region. University of North Carolina Press, 1983. I have serious doubts about the theoretical underpinnings of this book, which I discuss in detail in Appalachian Dulcimer Traditions, chapter 5.

Wilgus, D. K. Anglo-American Folksong Scholarship Since 1898. Greenwood Press, 1982. Original edition, Rutgers University Press, 1959. This was Wilgus' Ph.D. thesis. It contains more about early twentieth Century scholarly wrangling over ballads than matters to most people today, but I confess that I enjoyed all of it.

Williams, Herman K. The First Forty Years of the Old Fiddlers Convention, Galax, Virginia. n.p., n.d. A highly interesting local production.

Ralph Lee Smith is a a writer and editor living in Ohio. Do you have comments or questions about his bibliography? Contact Mr. Smith directly by e-mail. To learn more about him, see the Contributors section of Sweet Music Index.

Sweet Music Index asked participants in the Sweet Music Digest mountain dulcimer discussion list for information about their favorite non-musical notation book about music. Here's what they've had to say so far:

Making Music for the Joy of It by Stephanie Judy, Tarcher Press, Los Angeles, 1990.
This book is a guide for adult beginning and amateur musicians. Stephanie Judy conveys a huge dose of confidence and enthusiasm about every aspect of music making. From starting a new instrument to improvisation, Ms. Judy sets about erasing self-limiting beliefs. While there are no actual songs in the book every page is full of wonderful ideas for 'making music a joy.'

Singing Family of the Cumberlands by Jean Ritchie, University of Kentucky Press, 1955.
Jean Ritchie's, Singing Family of the Cumberlands best conveys the spirit of music as a part of every day life. Jean's biography is intertwined with the songs that were a part of her life in tiny Viper, KY.  The book is a great read and is now considered a classic. Jean starts her book with this opening passage: "I was born in Viper, Kentucky, in the Cumberland Mountains, on the eighth day of December 1922. I think I was a little of a surprise to my mother who had thought that if a woman had a baby in her fortieth year it would be her last."

>From the first page to the last you'll  enjoy Jean's delightful way of 'virtually' taking you to a sorghum cook-off, her wedding, a mountain Christmas celebration, and so much more. Written in a mountain dialect the book also includes over forty of Jean's favorite 'growin'-up songs.'

The Listening Book, Discovering Your Own Music by W.A. Mathieu. A favorite passage:
"Resonance, in this sense, is the very essence of musical experience. When you move with music, and sing and play in tune with it, you are feeding its energy, and it is feeding yours. This is the musician's heaven world. As you become more conscious of resonance, that heaven grows wider, more vivid, and more down to earth, where people can use it."

Robert Jourdain's Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy. His theme is how music captures our imagination, "how music captivates so completely and why we form such powerful connections to it." A couple of quotes follow:

"Human beings have always found intensely personal meanings in patterns of sound. They help us identify ourselves and reflect our personalities and our values. Attack someone's political opinions and risk being taken for a fool, but assault someone's musical tastes and you may be taken for an enemy."

"For a few moments music makes us larger than we really are, and the world more orderly than it really is. We respond not just to the beauty of the sustained deep relations that are revealed, but also to the fact of our perceiving them. As our brains are thrown into overdrive, we feel our very existence expand and realize that we can be more than we really are, and that the world is more than it seems. That is cause enough for ecstasy."

If you have a favorite book about music that is not an instructional or musical notation book, send the bibliographic information and your comments about the book to the Index and we'll add it to the list.