Norm Cohen, Carson Cohen, and Anne Dhu McLucasDec 8, 2022
An American Singing Heritage
Songs from the British-Irish-American Oral Tradition as Recorded in the Early Twentieth Century
A-R Editions, Inc. 2021
The Music of the United States of America Series of musical editions is a monumental undertaking funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities with financial and organizational support from the University of Michigan, the American Musicological Society, the Society of American Music, and A-R Editions. The aim of the MUSA series, as it is called, is to provide expertly researched and edited scores of music from a wide variety of musical traditions performed in the United States. The thirty-second volume of the MUSA series is An American Singing Heritage: Songs from the British-Irish-American Oral Tradition as Recorded in the Early Twentieth Century published by A-R Editions in 2021 and edited by the Anne Dhu McLucas, Norm Cohen, and Carson Cohen. Dr. McLucas passed away before the edition was completed and Carson stepped in to complete the project with his father Norm. This collection of one hundred songs is a record of a fundamental repertoire in American music. Brought to this country by colonists, the folk songs became one of the foundations of the genre that early record executives called hillbilly music which was eventually rebranded as country music.
Each entry has extensive notes explaining the piece’s background and text, information about the recording used for the musical transcription, and a list of secondary sources that discuss the song. An American Singing Heritage required the editors to sift through thousands of recordings and songs to pick a representative sample of this large and fascinating repertoire. The editors selected sources for transcriptions in a broad range of singing styles and representing many regions of the United States. The selections attempt to avoid the biases of previous collections and provide a fresh group of examples, many heretofore unseen in print. The sources for the transcriptions are recordings of traditional musicians from the 1920s through the early 1940s drawn from commercial recordings of "hillbilly" musicians, and field recordings in the collection of the Library of Congress’s Archive of American Folk Song, now part of the Archive of Folk Culture. The American Musicological Society awarded the collection the 2022 Claude V. Palisca Award for an Outstanding Edition.
Kristen M. Turner is a lecturer in the music and honors departments at North Carolina State University. Her research centers on race and class in American popular entertainment at the turn of the twentieth century.