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Title:"Billy in the Low Ground": History of an American insrumental folk tune
Author(s):Goertzen, Christopher Jack
Department / Program:Music
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Abstract:"Billy in the Low Ground" is the title of one of today's most popular American Fiddle tunes. This study is an extensively glossed history of the common tune by this title, with frequent digressions concerning the strikingly different history of an uncommon tune bearing the same title. Much of the study is based on the examination of over 250 manuscript, published, or recorded versions, variants, or relatives of these tunes, fully transcribed in the Appendices.
The first identifiable ancestors of the concerned tunes appear in 18th-century manuscripts and prints of Scottish and Irish fiddle music. These tunes belonged to a fashionable repertoire which flourished in both oral and written traditions. Such tunes remained popular but became less elaborate and somewhat less fashionable as they were assimilated into the English fiddle repertoire, and as they were brought to America by fiddlers from throughout the British Isles. During the course of the 19th century, fiddle tunes drifted slowly out of popular taste in the United States, despite the infusion of materials from black-face minstrelsy and again from the British Isles, in particular Ireland. The content, titles, and probably performance styles of these tunes changed in response to each change in performance forum and location.
Hillbilly recordings from the 1920s-1930s, field recordings from the late 1930s to the present, and records from recent decades of "Old Timey" music, contest fiddling, and bluegrass performances provide numerous examples of the more popular "Billy in the Low Ground." The contours of the low strains of these versions fall into six general types. The high strains are less tractable, but in most cases, contours of quarters of these strains fall similarly into a small number of groups. A combinatorial statistical treatment of the dates and locations of performances, consanguinity of contours, amounts and types of variation, and other pertinent stylistic features suggests the order in and locations where general types of low strains and types of parts of high strains first appeared. The dissertation closes with a consideration of the place of these tunes in modern performance forums.
Issue Date:1983
Description:406 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1983.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8324561
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-16
Date Deposited:1983

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